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Tips for staying home in the crisis: 1. Buy a home…

SOLD! Brianne and Angus, are looking forward to building their first home.

Brianne works in the ANZ communication team and has shared her and her partner’s journey of becoming a first home buyer – amid a pandemic.

 

“I once got some advice there is never a right time to buy property, you just need to get into the market,” Angus remembers.

 

So what happens when you’re about to take the leap, the biggest financial decision of your life, and the worst pandemic in a century hits? It can start feeling like a really bad time.

 

My partner, Angus Mills, a 22-year old full-time plumber and I currently live with our families in the north east of Melbourne. He and I have been saving for three years to buy our first home.

 

In March the property market in Melbourne “was booming”, and we didn’t want to miss out. We decided on a block of land and the nerves and excitement along with face-to-face banker conversations, contract signings in the branch and frequent visits to the property began.

 

Then suddenly everything changed. COVID-19 restrictions on travel, social distancing, total unknowns in the face of virulent new virus, the whole process upended.

 

We were going to need help.

 

First home buyer journey pre COVID-19

 

Our journey started with the ANZ First Home Buyer Seminar at ANZ’s Chadstone Home Centre in Melbourne’s famed shopping centre. These seminars are pitched at first home buyers wanting to build their knowledge before purchasing a property. You receive industry wide information and experience from your ANZ banker as well as advice from a conveyancer, builder and real estate agent.

 

The seminars are usually attended by 20 to 40 would-be buyers. However, with COVID-19 restrictions these seminars have been put on hold for the time being. The team is looking into ways to host the seminars virtually.

 

Reservations on buying property through a pandemic

 

When the crisis escalated, we began second guessing ourselves, fretting about the rapidly shifting economic situation in Australia and the world. Our minds ran through every conceivable jolt to our plans.

 

Obviously, in a time like this, concerns about job security, financial security and whether the bank will lend the money creep in. We are lucky that we still have our jobs and hopefully through this pandemic we can roll with the problems we are given and find solutions for them.

 

The worries intensified when social media rumours swirled around the willingness of banks to lend during the crisis. Alarmed, we talked to our banker.

 

We were so relieved to hear everything was okay.

 

When the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we called the branch to ask how it would impact the process. They advised they were taking a more virtual approach to meetings and consultations.

 

Despite the shock and change, we embraced the new digital transformation of the world as we knew it, and it was a relief that ANZ had as well.

 

Changing the way, we work with our customers

 

Jan Gilmore has been a part of the ANZ family for more than 20 years. She is Home Loans Manager at ANZ Chadstone Home Centre.

 

Jan has been helping us and many other first home buyers to purchase their first property.

“We are all so passionate about helping our customers into their first home,” she says.

 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Chadstone Home Centre is not able to do so quite as freely. However, the branch is still open for business and staff are in contact with their existing and new customers every day.

 

“And we’re still doing new loans and refinances,” Jan says.

 

In response to the virus, like all businesses, the branch has safety procedures in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff and customers.

 

“We are doing most interviews over the phone and on skype,” Jan says.

 

“We are also helping our pre-existing customers refinance over the phone and we’re sending out their documents via courier. They then sign them and securely post them back to us.”

 

Jan and her team are finding virtual alternatives to achieve the best outcomes for their customers.

 

“Our strategy is the more we can do over the phone, means less people coming into the branch.”

 

Jan says the new strategies are working really well and customers are benefiting. Interviews over the phone take much less time - around 45 minutes with a new customer, compared with in-branch interviews which can take anywhere up to two hours.

 

“I talked to my team and we actually feel the overall level of trust in ANZ has increased throughout this pandemic.”

 

Jan believes communication is key.

Image: ANZ Home, Chadstone.

 

The journey continues, navigating the unknown

 

We were forced to forgo their face-to-face consultations for over-the-phone conversations and Skype, something Angus has been really impressed with.

 

“The Chadstone Home Centre has been with us every step of the way, regularly calling, texting and emailing us to keep us in the loop,” Angus says.

 

We were also given the option to have the contract of sale couriered to us, rather than coming into the branch to sign the paperwork.

 

Angus says it was an “easy experience” despite the change, with no road blocks. “Over the phone meetings aren’t long at all. Jan and her team were great,” he says.

 

Angus says the regular communication was a real benefit in this situation.

 

“ANZ was empathetic in answering all our naive first-home buyer questions. It was reassuring.”

 

Supporting social distancing

 

ANZ is focused on supporting social distancing laws, limiting our customers and bankers face-to-face contact to keep everyone safe. Some of the ways we are doing this is through:

 

ANZ eSign- electronic signature and acceptance of ANZ Home Loan documents; removing the need for customers to attend branches or wait for documents to be sent in the mail.

 

ANZ eVerify - electronic verification of customer identification to support the banks AML / CTF obligations, where we must verify every customer’s identification. This requirement must be completed in person prior to a customer settling their ANZ Home Loan. This new solution also enables both biometric and electronic verification of customer photos and documents and typically takes under three minutes for a customer to complete on their mobile device.

Image: Angus at the first home buyer seminar, Chadstone.

 

Advice for any new home buyers looking to buy

 

The home buying process is not the same as buying a new pair of sneakers. I asked Angus what his one piece of advice to first home buyers in this current climate would be.

 

“Take as much advice from people you know who are already in the housing market.  People’s personal experiences will most definitely assist with your own journey.”

 

“Ask the right questions and find a bank that is willing to put in the extra effort for you even in these strange times”, he says.

 

Angus encourages first home buyers to attend seminars like we did. I wholeheartedly agree.

 

There was little difference dealing with ANZ virtually or face-to-face and we are happy with the ultimate outcome and thankful to everyone that helped along the way.

 

Having settled our property on 1 May 2020, we are very excited to start the next part of our homebuyer journey.

 

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