Buying in the Gong 'our best move ever'

The Higgins family, Adam, Bernadette and Tasha, at their Lake Heights home.

The Higgins family, Adam, Bernadette and Tasha, at their Lake Heights home.

First home buyers across the Illawarra have scored more than $9 million in NSW government grants and concessions in just 12 months, according to state revenue data.

Wollongong topped the region's list of first home buyer hot spots in the year to June 30, with its new apartment buildings proving a tempting investment.

In the 2500 postcode alone, 68 first home owner grants were awarded, while 112 first home stamp duty exemptions and concessions were granted.

The total benefit to Wollongong first home buyers for the year exceeded $2.6 million.

Dapto was the region's next big winner, with buyers benefiting to the tune of $1.6 million, closely followed by Flinders.

Real Estate Institute Illawarra chairman Trever Molenaar said the figures showed first home buyers were chasing value for money.

"If you look at Wollongong, there are a lot of apartments there, first home buyers go straight to apartments," he said.

"For Dapto and surrounding suburbs, it's just the affordability factor, if buyers are looking for a house they're generally going out to the suburbs and affordability is the most important thing for them."

Although some buyers snapping up homes and units in hot spot suburbs were from Sydney, the majority were Illawarra residents entering the property market, Mr Molenaar said.

"Sydney people are generally taking the northern suburbs," he said.

Grants of $15,000 are only available to first home buyers purchasing or building a brand new property.

Previously, the scheme was capped at properties worth under $650,000, however, from July 1 the threshold was increased to $750,000.

There are no longer grants available for purchasing established houses.

In the last financial year, first home owner grants alone excluding duty concessions totalled just over $1 million in Wollongong, compared with $769,000 the previous year.

For Dapto, last year yielded $1.13 million in grants, up from $695,000.

Across NSW, total benefits received by first home owners grant recipients was more than $224 million last financial year, including stamp duty concessions.

Wollongong took out 20th place on a statewide list of NSW first home buyer hotspots.

The total for grants and concessions received across Kiama, Shellharbour and Wollongong LGAs in 2013-14 was $9,147,847.

Coastal living worth the drive

Buying their first home also marked the start of a new life for the Higgins family.

Keen to get out of the Sydney rental scene, the former Greenacres residents soon took their search for a home southwards when they realised buying in the big smoke was beyond their reach.

"We're definitely very happy down here, it's probably been the best move I've ever made," Adam Higgins said.

They managed to find a reasonably priced three-bedroom home on the high side of the street in Lake Heights, not far from bike tracks and wide open spaces.

"We were looking all around Lake Illawarra. We liked the idea of being near the lake and doing a bit of fishing and that sort of thing," Mr Higgins said.

Although he still commutes to Kirrawee for work, the extra drive was worth it for the benefits of coastal living.

Mr Higgins said they did not qualify for any government grants or concessions to help buy the home, having purchased an existing home rather than a brand new property, but he was still extremely happy with the price tag.

He and fiancee Bernadette have since put in countless hours renovating to create their ideal family home.

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