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How to use your KiwiSaver to save faster and buy your first home

Published on 07/11/2016

Homeownership is a cherished goal for most New Zealanders.

While that dream may seem out of reach for many these days given sky high housing prices in some parts of the country, it's not impossible. Sound planning, preparation and determination will bring you much closer than you think. 

KiwiSaver is a brilliant tool to help get you there.

Most people struggle with saving, spending what they earn from month to month then wondering why they can't get ahead.

Through KiwiSaver, you can protect yourself from your bad habits by diverting the money from your pay pack before you get a chance to spend it.

As salaried and or waged employees, you get the added benefit of receiving employer contributions which will accelerate your savings programme. The minimum contribution for employers is 3% but some do pay more so make sure you explore that option at the outset of negotiations or at your annual review.

For your part, if you want to fasttrack your savings, you can dial up your workplace contributions to 4% or the maximum of 8%. On top of that you can make voluntary contributions outside of the workplace. If you are self employed, you can contribute any amount you desire.  Keep in mind that for those over the age of 18, contributions over $1,043 a year will trigger a member tax credit of $521 annually.

Once you've been invested in KiwiSaver for a minimum of three years, you're eligible to draw down those savings towards your first home. The proviso is that you leave $1,000 in the account so you can restart your retirement savings via KiwiSaver when you are ready and able.

Full details explained on the IRD's KiwiSaver website here. You can also check your eligibility on the Housing New Zealand website here.

But wait there's more 

The HomeStart Grant is another bonus for first time home owner. It works alongside KiwiSaver. 

If you have been in KiwiSaver for at least three years, and you meet the income criteria and housing price requirements, you could be eligible for between $3,000-$5,000 extra when buying an existing home. If you are buying a house with a partner, and they also qualify, then it's possible you could have between the pair of you, an extra $6,000 to $10,000.

The grants are capped at $5,000 per person and based on an invested amount of the same. If there are more than two people purchasing the home the cap is also capped at $10,000.

For building or purchasing a new home, or land to build on, the amounts are doubled to $2,000 per year of membership, up to a maximum of $10,0000 for five years for each member.

There are qualifiers and this is from the IRD's KiwiSaver website. 

  • have been contributing the required minimum amount to KiwiSaver for at least three years 
  • be 18 years or over
  • be purchasing or building your first home (see \"Note\" below)
  • have a household income (before tax) of less than $85,000 per year (for one person), or less than $130,000 per year (for two or more people)
  • have a deposit that is 10% or more of the purchase price, including the addition of the grant
  • be planning to live in the house for at least 6 months from the settlement/completion of the property.

KiwiSaver and the HomeStart grant combined could make a huge difference to your home saving plan and put you into your first home much quicker. Factor in your fee savings through Simplicity, and you'll be that much further ahead. 

Today's house prices can be very discouraging but as with most things in life, a little preparation and forward thinking, can go a long way. %)