How Five Millennial Couples Became First-Home Owners
For a lot of millennials, the thought of owning a home one day feels too abstract, too farfetched, to even consider. We’ve resided ourselves to the fact that houses are expensive, certain suburbs are unattainable and property market conditions are constantly changing.
I also think it’s worth pointing out that we had our “formative” years during the global financial crisis – which meant we came to understand the adult world as one of immense uncertainty.
But according to these five couples, being a first-home owner is not only possible but it can also be a hugely empowering and relationship-building experience. Here is some of their best advice on how to make a daunting experience a little more bearable.
Lucy (24) and Tom (27)
“Tom had prior experience in the property market, having already purchased, renovated and then sold a house with his sister in Auckland when he was 25. The two best things we did prior to looking at houses was visit the bank to see what kind of loan we would qualify for with our current salaries – this helped us know where to look in terms of price and is something all couples should do. We then each wrote a list of the qualities we wanted in a home and the qualities we wanted to avoid. We then compared lists and discussed where we were both willing to compromise. At the time, we had been living with Tom’s parents for two years and I was ready to have some privacy and a space of our own, so I think I ultimately compromised on my list in order to get things moving. Because of this, I can envision us selling up and moving again soon.”
Hannah (25) and Jamie (27)
“We bought our first home earlier this year in Christchurch. We know it’s not our “forever home” but are keen to stay for at least another few years. Jamie and I had only been dating for 18 months when we told our families we were buying a house together, so it was a bit of shock to some and it was challenging for Jamie and I to see their reactions. We’d discussed renting as an option first, but after looking at our current finances and assessing our long-term goals we decided that purchasing was the best option. Thankfully, Jamie and I were able to contribute the exact same amount towards our deposit using a variety of sources (a mix of savings and Kiwisaver) which made things easier, and we then had our lawyer draft up a relationship agreement which sets out how things would be split if the relationship was to dissolve. For me, having that written agreement means less stress about the “what if” and I would highly recommend couples having these conversations – no matter how uncomfortable – before entering into the buying process. If a relationship breaks up, it’s important for each person to walk away with what they’ve worked so hard to contribute.”
Chavvah (23) and Nick (24)
“My fiancé and I bought our first house-and-land package in Auckland earlier this year, it was one of six other homes being proposed on a block. We found the property on Facebook! There were always ads popping up on our feeds promoting “first home buying”, and when we saw that this was a new-build within our budget we were immediately interested. I think it’s important for young couples to know that they don’t have to buy a “fixer upper” – there are plenty of new-builds within a reasonable budget. We were originally scheduled to move in December this year, but due to some neighbours opposing the build which changed the design, developers then needing to meet with the council, and a long process of getting building consent, realistically we won’t be moving in until March 2019. These setbacks, as well as challenges like not seeing a show-home prior to the purchase and not being eligible for grants due to our respective incomes, has taught us a lot about being patient and staying calm.”
Chrissy (27) and Luke (31)
“Having a good team is crucial to buying a home and our mortgage broker was the absolute star (my mother-in-law constantly chiming in with her opinion was quite challenging…). Our broker did all the hard work prior to our purchase and made things easy to understand. It’s so important to not get emotionally-invested in a house until it’s yours because you will set yourself up for heartbreak, this is something I really struggled with and Luke didn’t even let me come along to the auction in case I went rogue and tried to bid more money than we had! Luckily we got the house! We’ve kept in touch with our mortgage broker and have scheduled meetings with her every two years to renegotiate the best mortgage rate for that period. Luke and I have most of our mortgage on a fixed rate for each two year period and then allocate the rest on “floating” which we see as an extra goal for us to chip away at. We both work 60 to 70 hour weeks so we aren’t afraid to ask for help and employing a broker to handle our insurance is just another way we lighten our load. We bought our place in Hamilton (the best city in New Zealand!) five years ago when we were only 22 and 26. We love our home, we’re currently in the process of renovating it and I know we we will want to enjoy the home once the renovations are complete so we could easily be here another ten years.”
Charlotte (24) and Joel (27)
“We moved into our first home last week! We’ve never lived together before so there were lots of important conversations to be had before we made the leap. In particular we talked about money and researched what grants we were eligible for; I’m currently studying full-time and working part-time, so Joel is taking on most of the financial burden until I’ve finished at university. The buying process was made more stressful by the fact that it was a probate property (this means the former homeowner has died and we were negotiating with a representative of the estate). We would highly recommend meeting with a mortgage broker, it’s a free service (they get paid by the bank) and can be hugely helpful if you’re not well-versed in the property or loans market. The process of buying a probate property typically takes a lot longer than a regular purchase so it’s important to be patient and be prepared to put in the hard yards. There is a lot of paperwork. And remember: your first house isn’t meant to be your Barbie Dream Home, it’s a step on the ladder.”