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How To Get KiwiSaver First Home Buyer Benefits For Non First Time Buyers?

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Mary Holm
Mary Holm


Home-buying tests

I've just separated at age 60. I have a job and will end up with only about $30,000. I have work super and will join KiwiSaver.

My thinking is to flat for a year and save enough money to buy a house and then get a couple of students, or rent a place and get some students. Would appreciate your thoughts.


Mary Holm: You're in an unenviable situation. But you sound like someone who is prepared to do what it takes to set yourself up for retirement. I bet you'll succeed.

Your first step should be signing up for KiwiSaver, which will give you thousands more dollars to put into your home. This does mean that you may have to wait three to five years before you buy. But it will place you in a stronger financial position for retirement.

There are two ways you may be able to use KiwiSaver. Let's look first at getting the maximum out of the scheme - if you are eligible.

Many people don't realise that KiwiSaver offers considerable help to not only first-home buyers but people in a similar financial situation to first-home buyers, even if they have previously owned a home.

If that sounds like you, you'll need to check with Housing New Zealand to make sure you qualify. There are two tests of this:

* You must be able to get a mortgage from a commercial lender.

* Your "realisable assets" must total less than 20 per cent of the house price cap for the KiwiSaver first-home subsidy. There's more on the price cap below, but 20 per cent of it comes to $60,000 or $80,000, depending on where you buy.

"Realisable assets are belongings that you can sell to help pay for your house," says Housing New Zealand, which runs the subsidy.

It gives the following as examples: "Money in bank accounts (including fixed and term deposits); shares, stocks and bonds; investments in banks or financial institutions; building society shares; net equity in property or land (not being used as your home); boat or caravan (if the value is over $5000); other vehicles (such as classic motorbikes or cars - not being used as your usual method of transport); other assets valued over $5000." Net equity is the value of a property minus any mortgage on it.

If you qualify, you may be able to withdraw money for your home and also receive a subsidy.

The withdrawal can be made regardless of your income, the house price and how much you have contributed to KiwiSaver. After three years in the scheme, you can include in your home deposit all the money you and your employer have contributed to KiwiSaver, plus all the returns - interest, dividends and so on - earned on the whole account.

The government's $1000 kick-start and annual tax credits will stay in your account until you can access the money in retirement. At your age - over 60 - that will be five years after you join KiwiSaver.

The subsidy - which is added to your deposit - is $3000 after three years, $4000 after four years or $5000 after five or more years. To receive the subsidy, an employee joining KiwiSaver must:

* Earn income of less than $100,000 - and if two people buy the home, their total income must be less than $100,000.

* Contribute at least 2 per cent of pay for at least three years. (Before April 2009, the minimum contribution was 4 per cent.)

* Buy a house costing less than the house price caps, currently $400,000 in Auckland City, North Shore City, Rodney District, Wellington City or Queenstown Lakes District, and $300,000 in all other areas.

For more details see Housing NZ's brochure "Buying your first home with KiwiSaver". It's available at or by ringing 0508 935 266.

What if you're not eligible for the withdrawal and subsidy? All is not lost. Because you'll join KiwiSaver when you are over 60, you will be able to take part fully - receiving compulsory employer contributions and government contributions - for five years, even though by then you will have passed your 65th birthday.

After that, you can take out all your money and do anything with it - including using it as a deposit on your home, or as an extra mortgage repayment if you have already bought.

Whichever way you go - with or without the subsidy - make sure you contribute at least $1043 a year to KiwiSaver, to get the maximum matching tax credit. Top up your contributions, if necessary, before June 30 each year.

In the meantime, I like your idea of sharing your home - whether owned or rented - with students or other boarders. It might be worth living close to a tertiary institution to attract people.


Mary Holm is the author of bestselling books on KiwiSaver and personal finance. She is also a highly praised seminar presenter. Her written advice is of a general nature, and she is not responsible for any loss that any reader may suffer from following that advice. 

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