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Riding the wave

HOUSING talks to HIA member Hotondo Goulburn about what first home buyers today are looking for when building a new home and the impact of the federal government’s HomeBuilder stimulus.

Riding the wave

HOUSING talks to HIA member Hotondo Goulburn about what first home buyers today are looking for when building a new home and the impact of the federal government’s HomeBuilder stimulus.

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A bustling rural hub in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, Goulburn is home to a burgeoning art and entertainment scene, and is growing a reputation for its food and delicious cool-climate wines. It’s also a favourite amongst outdoor adventurers, given its proximity to Bungonia National Park, and is situated less than an hour’s drive from our nation’s capital. For these reasons, it’s unsurprising then that this historic township has also become a destination for savvy first-time home buyers. 

The combination of record-low interest rates, and both federal and state stimulus packages, has only spurred on first home buyers to the area. The rise of remote work means that they can widen their search for their first home purchase. Regional cities are luring in millennials and young families with the promise of more space, flexibility and an idyllic lifestyle. 

HIA Economist, Angela Lillicrap, says the figures speak for themselves. ‘We are seeing first home buyers across Australia being incredibly active in the market at the moment. In December 2020, they accounted for 43 per cent of the total number of owner-occupier loans issued – which is the highest number in a decade.’

New orders in the house building sector remained at a record high in January. The figures showed Australia’s construction industry is growing at its strongest in more than three years. In the Goulburn area, detached building approvals increased by 21.7 per cent in the 12 months to November 2020 compared to the previous 12 months. 

Philip Meares and wife Trish, owners of Hotondo Goulburn, an award-winning project home builder, have seen a surge in enquiries since the second round of federal government stimulus was announced. ‘We had some enquiries with the first round, but we are seeing so many more with the second round,’ Philip says. ‘People realise it’s not going be available much longer and need to take advantage. The last few weeks have been pretty hectic!’ 

However, it is unclear if this flurry of activity will change with the HomeBuilder grant coming to an end on 31 March 2021. In comparison to NSW, other states offer a larger incentive for first home buyers, which may help to prolong – while it is available – the intensity of new home building. For example, Tasmania offers $20,000 for this cohort, South Australia offers $15,000 and Victoria offers $20,000 for those building in regional Victoria. The NSW First Home Owner’s Grant (FHOG) however is capped at $10,000.

Philip is hopeful he will see something similar introduced in NSW. ‘An increase to the FHOG would certainly generate a lot more interest.’ 

Typically, Philip says while many first-time purchasers just want to get into their new home, they do come with a checklist of requirements. ‘Generally, the preference is for a four-bedroom house with a double garage. Depending on their budget though, they may have to compromise,’ he explains.

Buyers are also keen to put their stamp on things. ‘I have been with Hotondo for the past 20 years, and I have never built a home to the original plan and specifications. Many things gets changed because owners [like to] make it their own home.’

‘Even though we’re a small team, everybody works hard to give our clients the best experience’ 

Philip and Trish Meares, owners of Hotondo Goulburn

Navigating a first home purchase can have its challenges, and Philip advises that buyers should do their homework and be realistic when they set out to buy their first property. 

‘For us, we spend a lot of time with first home buyers, discussing their requirements, budget and what they can really afford,’ he says. ‘Some come with spreadsheets and everything mapped out, having done their research. But more often we see that [preparedness] with second or third home buyers who have had more experience and understand the building process.’

To help first homeowners get a foot on the ladder, Hotondo offers a range of affordable solutions and packages. Buyers can adjust inclusions to fit in with budget restrictions but without compromising on quality and execution. To adapt to occupants’ changing needs, Hotondo created new home designs to include a home office space. 
At the height of the pandemic, Philip’s team were understandably concerned about the future. However, it seems that shifting to meet the challenges of the new normal and the addition of this stimulus has boosted business.

‘In March, we hardly had anyone through the door. We had a few jobs that didn’t proceed because people lost their jobs or were uncertain about taking the plunge,’ he recalls. ‘But we adapted, doing lots of Zoom calls with clients, helping them make their selections remotely. Now we’re looking pretty good and are about to get really busy again.’

As the winner of the 2020 HIA ACT/Southern NSW Project Home award, and now a finalist for the 2021 HIA Australian Project Home award, Philip and his team have gone from strength to strength, despite the global pandemic. ‘Winning the award has brought us business. People can see that we produce really high-quality, award-winning homes.’

While the year ahead brings some uncertainty, Philip wants to make sure that the processes and procedures that helped during 2020 are refined and put in place, focusing on marketing and brand awareness.

Philip is confident these measures will only add to the business’ core strengths. ‘We’re fortunate, we’ve got a good team,’ he says. ‘Even though we’re a small team, everybody works hard to give our clients the best experience. We care about our customers, and we are dedicated to making sure they get their dream home.’