Applying For Your First Home Loan? Here's What You Need To Know.

So, you’re ready to apply for your first home loan. But how does it work? And where do you start? Let’s find out.

Posted February 2023 by Tineke Madgwick

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Applying for your first home loan may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. From deposits to financial assistance, we’re here to help you understand the ins and outs of first home loans.

There will be a bit of paperwork and a lot of number-crunching, but a first home loan application shouldn’t be daunting. People do it every day! We know how to make it a seamless process and ensure everyone who is eligible has access to financial assistance.

Today we’ll be helping you get your foot on the property ladder, covering topics like:

What is a first home loan?

A first home loan is your first mortgage. The amount of the loan is the property price and any fees, less your deposit.

Your first home loan may be the most challenging loan of all. As you’ve never done this before, it will be a whole new experience. There’ll be a lot to learn as you go along, but you should be able to rely on your lender or mortgage broker for guidance.

Once you’ve tackled your first home loan application, subsequent applications will be a breeze.

Why is it called a “first home loan”?

If we were to simply call it a home loan, you wouldn’t have access to first-home buyer benefits.

You can only be a first home buyer once. And while you’re in this exclusive club, you’ll have access to financial support.

First home buyers are put into their own category to give them the best chance at entering the property market. Nice!

How much deposit do I need to get a first home loan?

This is where you’ll learn why it’s so great to be a first home buyer. Coming up with the deposit on your first home is not easy. Most lenders require a 20% deposit.

With the way house prices are right now, 20% is an eye-watering figure. Fortunately, we’re not like ‘most lenders’. Helping Kiwis into their first home is our purpose! By applying with Unity you may qualify for a First Home Loan,* supported by Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities. A First Home Loan is designed to make getting your foot in the door even easier, from as little as 5% deposit. Keep reading to find out if you meet the First Home Loan eligibility criteria.

Who is eligible for a First Home Loan?

To be eligible for a First Home Loan, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a New Zealand Citizen, Permanent Resident Visa Holder, or Resident Visa holder who is ‘ordinarily a resident in New Zealand’.
  • Be a first-home buyer, or a previous homeowner in a similar financial position to a first home buyer
  • Have a before-tax income from the last 12 months of:
    • $95,000 or less for an individual buyer without dependants; or
    • $150,000 or less for an individual buyer with one or more dependants; or
    • $150,000 or less (combined) for two or more buyers, regardless of the number of dependants
  • Have a minimum deposit that is at least 5% of the purchase price of the home you are interested in buying (inclusive of all savings, grants, first-home withdrawals, and gifts)
  • Be purchasing a home for you to live in as your primary place of residence
  • Not own any other property or land, this does not include ownership of Māori land
  • Be purchasing a property of less than 1 hectare
  • Pay a 1% Lender’s Mortgage Insurance premium (if applied by your chosen First Home Loan lender)

You will also need to meet Unity’s lending criteria.  For more information visit

How do I apply for a First Home loan?

Applying for a First Home Loan starts with choosing a participating lender, like Unity. Not all financial providers participate in the First Home Loan scheme, so it pays to do your homework.

Once you’ve chosen a lender and checked your eligibility, you will need to ensure you have the full 5% deposit. From there, you can complete a loan application form.

You can apply for a First Home Loan with Unity as a pre-approval, which lets you check if you meet all loan criteria before you start looking for a property. Once pre-approved, your lender will provide documentation advising the amount you’re eligible to borrow. With that, you can start looking for a property in that price range. Let your lender know when you’ve found your dream home to gain final loan approval.

Is there help to get my deposit together?

Still struggling to get your deposit together? Even a 5% deposit is a substantial amount of money.

Don’t give up! There are more options for you!

First Home Grant

Purchasing an existing home: Eligible first-home buyers can access up to $1,000 for each year you have paid into KiwiSaver. You must have contributed to KiwiSaver for three years or more. The most you can get is $5,000 per person.

Purchasing a new build or land: Eligible first-home buyers can access up to $2,000 for each year you have paid into KiwiSaver. You must have contributed to KiwiSaver for three years or more. The most you can get is $10,000 per person.

Whether purchasing an existing property or buying land to build on, your property must meet specific criteria. For more information on the First Home Grant, visit the Kāinga Ora website.

Can I use my KiwiSaver towards my deposit?

Have you been contributing to KiwiSaver for three years or more and have a KiwiSaver provider that allows saving withdrawals? Then we have good news for you! You can use your KiwiSaver towards your first-home deposit.

You must leave at least $1,000 in your KiwiSaver account and intend to live at the property for at least six months. KiwiSaver withdrawals cannot be used towards investment properties.

You will need to contact your KiwiSaver provider to apply to withdraw funds, too.

So, do you qualify as a first home buyer? If so, we’re here to help

Being a first-home buyer is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s not easy to conjure up that first deposit. But once you do, it will be all systems go!

At Unity, we love helping Kiwis turn their dreams of homeownership into reality. Call us for a chat and let’s get the ball rolling, together.


This material is for information purposes only. We recommend seeking financial advice about your situation and goals before getting a financial product. To talk to one of our team, please call 0800 229 943, or for more information about Unity’s financial advice services, read our Financial Advice Disclosure Statement at

*Special eligibility and lending criteria apply for First Home Loans. T&Cs, a $350 approval fee + a one-off lenders mortgage insurance premium of 0.5% of total amount borrowed will apply. View rates, fees and T&C’s here.

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The article published on this page is not financial advice and should not be relied upon as such. The opinions published in this article is not those of Unity Credit Union.