Then vs now: Remembering buying our first home in the 70s 134



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It was and always has been the Australian dream to buy a home for your family. A nice brick or a plywood house with a picket fence and a big backyard with a Hills Hoist. We didn’t need much but our house was our pride and joy – we worked hard to buy and keep our first homes.

Do you remember your first home you bought in the 70s and 80s? It typically had three bedrooms, one bathroom and an open kitchen/meals with a separate lounge. There were the A-frame houses; the ghastly avocado green, dark orange and mustard yellow; exposed wood, popcorn ceilings, linoleum floors and laminate cabinetry.

There was a major housing boom after WWII, not to mention a baby boom, which was also fuelled by more immigration and the pursuit of a new Aussie dream: to own a home in the suburbs. The rate of home ownership increased from around 40 per cent in 1947 to over 70 per cent in 1960 and sparked a massive phase of building and construction in Australia.

Living rooms were very groovy in the 70s

Houses got bigger as Australians continue to become more affluent and second bathrooms and extensions were added.

Back then, the bank would loan 2.5 times the husband’s income plus the wife’s income. It seems everything was different back then compared to now, but that way of doing things made it easier to handle any changes on interest rates if one person stopping work. Nowadays, there is no room for anything to go wrong with that amount of debt.

In the early 70s, we had to have 33 per cent deposit. We also had to have a minimum amount in an approved savings account for at least 12 months, and couldn’t commit more than 25 per cent of disposable income to mortgage repayments. In those times, you could lock in a mortgage for 25 years so you knew exactly what your commitments were. And interest rates were a lot higher so there was a lot more incentive to pay off the home earlier. Interest rates in the 70s were highest in mid 1975 at 10.38 per cent. Today, our variable home interest rates are around 5.65 per cent.

Do you remember these toilets?

Fast forward to today, financially we couldn’t do that. The difference between income and housing prices is massive compared to what it was in the 70s and 80s, before the big crash. Now, it is much easier for overseas buyers to buy and hold property in Australia than in the 70s. The first buyers’ home grant was means tested in the 70s and only the lowest income earners were eligible. The housing market wasn’t being used to finance people’s retirements to the extent it is today and the population wasn’t as large.

So why has the housing system and property prices changed so much in the last 40-50 years? According to CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) Amanda Lynch, there are a myriad factors, including an undersupply of housing, land-development processes and policies, the cost of construction and property-related taxes, as well as outside factors such as comprehensive taxation reform.

As a comparison, here are the median house prices in Australian capital cities in 1973:

  • Sydney – $27,400
  • Melbourne – $19,800
  • Brisbane – $17,500
  • Adelaide – $16,250
  • Perth – $18,850
  • Canberra – $26,850
  • Hobart – $15,200

Data via Domain

And now, these are the median house prices in Australian capital cities as of September 2014:

  • Sydney – $843,994
  • Melbourne – $615,068
  • Brisbane – $473,924
  • Adelaide – $459,258
  • Perth – $604,822
  • Canberra – $573,326
  • Hobart – $322,274
  • Darwin – $667,115

Data via Domain Group’s House Price Report

With this all considered, the average weekly wage in 1973 was $111.80 and now the average full time worker makes $1453.90 weekly. How did we do it? Well, the average house used to be approximately three times our average income and now it’s about six and half times. No wonder our children struggling to pay their mortgages.


So let’s talk today: What did you buy your first home for and was it affordable for you? Have you noticed how much more difficult it is to pay off or purchase houses now? What issues have you had in regards to buying a home?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. we built our first home in 1964. It was a very modest little 3 bedroom high set timber house with room underneath for later development. We grew a lovely garden and enjoyed living there. The block of land cost the equivalent of $300 and the house cost $6000 to build. Shame the young folk of today can’t have the same start in ife that we got.

  2. Yes we built ours on the farm in 1972 for $15000 fully painted inside and out With a cement slab underneath to put the car. Of course the only floor coverings were tiles in the kitchen , bathroom and toilet. As the years went by and the family increased we gradually got carpet and built in underneath but only as we could afford it.

  3. It’s crazy to think how much wages and the cost of living have gone up over the years too.
    On a take home pay of $12 a week, a $15,000 mortgage was hard to service. That house was only a 3 bed 10 square home with no floor coverings. One second hand car in the driveway. And furniture only as we could afford it.

    Joan, the young folk of today don’t want a start like you had. They earn more on the dole than we ever got in wages. The ones that work get more per annum than our houses cost.

  4. First home. We were both 20 and had been married 6 months. Paid $8050 for land and house. Very modest 3 bedroom 1 bathroom chamfer board house with a carport. We sold that one and bought 1/2 acre for $3250 5 years later. Built the house to a lock up stage for $8500. Been in this house for 43 years. Yes we moved in with cement floors, sheets at windows, no kitchen, the top story wasn’t even started internally. Unpainted, no built in robes. Paid the mortgage out in our late 20s and with by then 2 children, finished the house. Yes we did it tough! No dinners out, no movies, but we had the picnics, the beach and we had TV lol.

    1 REPLY
    • same thing here we bought land and paid that off then we were owner builders moved in at lock up stage and cement floors got the bathroom tiles first then the kitchen a friend built the kitchen cupboards for us at a good price the linen press doors came later because we wanted western red cedar louvre doors, we were very happy with what we had -carpet in the lounge came later and the bedrooms last of all after all you only slept in there , grew vegetables and fruit I loved gardening which was a mixture of mostly edible things with some flowers here and there, life was good and finally came the car ports driveways and lastly patio pergola and table,

  5. Our first block of land was $4000 dollars quite expensive for husband worked two jobs to pay for it we only had furniture given to us and sheets at the windows for years it was not easy but rewarding. it is different today I notice. Beautiful things in young ones homes I don’t think they go without too much..I guess they have the big is only ow we have the the beautiful home and nice furniture,a life time of work..would not change it very gratifying

  6. Some as everyone, started off doing it hard, husband had two jobs. I went to work to help out. We own everything now. But what will happen when interest rates hit the roof and the young have huge mortgages for their huge homes. Big trouble I think.

  7. The problem today is that young couples starting off want everything. Media rooms, 4 bedrooms etc. Where as our generations only bought what they could afford at the time. ” First home , stepping stone” to the future !

    1 REPLY
    • It’s not the young people wanting it. The council wants certain size homes on the estates to keep the value of the properties up. In 2005 I wanted to downsize 2 a 3 bed 2 bath house and I had to put in a study as well to meet minimum house size requirements for the area.

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