Saving for a first home is hard. According to 2015 Reserve Bank inflation figures, house prices (especially in Auckland and Christchurch) are rising faster than wages. For many saving for a deposit, it can feel like the finish line never gets any closer. All is not lost, however – if you’re a member of a KiwiSaver scheme, you might actually be eligible to withdraw almost all of your KiwiSaver savings. In fact, as of April 1 2015, the Government has opened the first home buyer benefits up even further, making it just that little bit easier for new buyers to get on the property ladder.
Who is eligible?
First things first, you must have been a member of a KiwiSaver scheme for three or more years in order to apply for a first home withdrawal. Not only that, it needs to be your first home and must be for you to live in — if you’re intending to rent the house out, then the KiwiSaver first home withdrawal isn’t for you.
How much can I withdraw?
Happily, as of April 1 2015, you can withdraw more than previously. Up until then, first home buyers were only able to withdraw their own contributions, any returns on their investment and any employer contributions — the Government contributions (member tax credits and $1,000 kick start) were out of bounds. As of right now, however, you are able to withdraw all the Government member tax credit contributions, too. So that means if you qualify, you can now withdraw everything in your KiwiSaver account except for the $1,000 kick start — a welcome change for first home buyers.
KiwiSaver HomeStart grant
In addition to accessing your KiwiSaver savings, you might also qualify for a grant to help you into your first home. The Government has replaced the old KiwiSaver first home deposit subsidy with a new KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. It’s a little more complex than it used to be when it comes to figuring out how much money you might receive, but it is also more generous.
If you’re purchasing an existing home (as opposed to building or buying a brand new one), the grant is between $3,000 and up to $5,000 — depending on how long you’ve been a member of and contributing to a KiwiSaver scheme ($1,000 per year of membership and contribution).
If you’re purchasing a new home, a property off the plans or land to build a new home on, the grant is doubled to between $6,000 and $10,000 ($2,000 per year of membership and contribution).
These amounts are per person, so if there are two of you and you both meet all the criteria, you can, in effect, double the maximum amounts.
House price caps
Because the Government’s aim with this scheme is to help first home buyers into home ownership, they figure you won’t be buying million dollar houses, so they’ve put maximum house price caps in place. These caps vary depending on where you are in the country, and, as part of the recent changes, have been increased slightly.
In Auckland, the maximum purchase price is $550,000. In Hamilton, Tauranga, the Western Bay of Plenty, Kapiti, Porirua, Hutt City, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Tasman, Nelson, Christchurch, Selwyn, Waimakariri and Queenstown, the maximum purchase price is $450,000. For everywhere else, the maximum purchase price is $350,000.
To get the grant, there are a few boxes to tick. You must be 18 or over, have been a member of and contributing to a KiwiSaver scheme for at least three years, have an annual household income less than $80,000 for one person, or $120,000 for two or more people. You also need a deposit of at least 10%, which a home purchase withdrawal from a KiwiSaver account counts towards, and plan to live in the house for at least six months. Phew! Still, it’s a great help if you qualify.
How do I get it?
When it comes to the first home withdrawal, you should talk to your KiwiSaver provider as they will handle the application process and the release of the funds.
The HomeStart grant, on the other hand, is run by Housing New Zealand, so if you think you’re eligible, get in touch with them to begin the application process.
One last chance
Last of all, even if you’ve previously owned a home it may be possible that you’re still able to access your KiwiSaver savings and qualify for the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. If you no longer own a home and can prove that you’re in the same financial position as a first home buyer, you might just be in luck. To find out if you are, you should again contact Housing New Zealand for help.
The BNZ Kiwsaver Scheme has a First Home Buyer Fund designed for people planning to buy their first home in the next three to five years and want to use their Kiwisaver to help save for it. Find out more.
This article is solely for information purposes and is not personalised financial advice. We recommend that you seek advice specific to your circumstances and contact Housing New Zealand for full details of the KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made or provided as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement in this article. None of BNZ Investment Services Limited, Bank of New Zealand or any other person accept any liability for any loss or damage arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any information in this article.