I’ve always wanted to own a home, but every time I read a ‘Here’s how I bought a home as a twenty-something’ article, there was always a catch buried deep at the bottom: their parents helped. They either helped with the deposit, or their parents let them live at home rent free so they could save for that deposit.
And that’s great! If you have family members in your life who are able to help you financially, then that’s genuinely wonderful. Take help if it’s there, I definitely would’ve. But the reality is that a lot of people don’t have access to that help, and a lot of people, like me, don’t have a relationship with their biological parents.
So I’m not going to bury any potential catch here: I bought a house at 27. I’ve been renting since I was 18, but I bought in Adelaide which meant I wasn’t dealing with Sydney prices. I didn’t use any government grants or schemes, I didn’t buy with a friend or partner, and I didn’t receive any financial help from family. This lifelong debt is all mine, baby.
I want to stress that I’m not a money expert, not even close. At all. But I can tell you the things I did:
I bought in Adelaide
House prices in South Australia’s capital are typically lower compared to Sydney or Melbourne. My house is a three-bedroom home in a suburb 15 minutes from the CBD. When I was living in Sydney, I was looking at one-bedroom apartments 30-40 minutes from the CBD for the same price as my current home. I didn’t move to Adelaide for the house, I moved for a job, but once I was in Adelaide and noticed that cost of living was lower than Sydney, it seemed like the right time for me.
I didn’t use any government grants or schemes
In South Australia we have the HomeBuilder grant, which is available for first home buyers who build a new home. But I didn’t want to build, so it wasn’t a good fit for me. I also didn’t use the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSS) because I didn’t want to touch my super.
I paid for my deposit using my savings
This is probably the biggest factor: I’m a money hoarder. I saved whatever money I made at McDonald’s, Subway and Video Ezy (RIP) over the years. When I was studying at university and paying accommodation fees, I would always work as much as I could at bars to keep those savings going. When I eventually got my first full-time role in media, it paid a $40,000 salary. At that time, I was also paying rent in Sydney, which wasn’t cheap.
So I gave up a few things
There’s no polite way to put it: I was a cheap bitch for a long time. I commuted four hours to work each day by train because rent was cheaper further out. I didn’t drink alcohol or go out for a long time because of the prices. I didn’t get my licence until I was 26 because driving lessons were too expensive. For a really long time I just went to work, went home, and that was it.
I now have a job that pays well
I’m 28 and this helped with my overall loan. I’ve been working full time in the media industry (I’m a Social Media Adviser) since I was 19, but it wasn’t until I was 27 that I secured a permanent government job with a good salary.
I have no past or existing debts
I’ve never had Afterpay, a car loan or anything like that, except for my HECS debt. This helped with getting loan approval really quickly. A few people ask whether HECS impacts getting a loan: it didn’t impact my approval at all, but that might not be the case for everyone.
I bugged everyone for advice
I asked (hassled) every single friend I knew who worked in real estate and/or had bought property. I had no idea how to structure a loan. I still don’t really know how it all works, so I spoke to anyone who would let me talk. I also turned to Facebook groups, Reddit and podcasts.
I spoke to the bank, not a broker
I went straight to my bank to talk to a home lending specialist about a potential home loan. Most banks offer free appointments with a home lending specialist or financial advisor, and my specialist was able to go over my finances on the spot and give me a ballpark figure of what I could buy, and if I was even able to buy at all. It was a genuinely helpful way to of seeing what I could actually afford rather than just guessing.
Long story short: There’s no quick fix. I saved a lot of money over a long period, I bought in an affordable city and I waited almost a decade until I had a job that paid well so I’d be confident with my repayments.
But the best part about owning a house is that I was finally able get a dog, which was the first thing I did. My puppy Norma now lives rent-free with me while I work to pay off my big scary™ debt.
Everybody say “hello” to Norma. Photo: Supplied.
It’s been absolutely worth it.
Caitlin Jinks is a social media and communications specialist based in Adelaide. She’s previously worked for WIN News, BuzzFeed and the SA Police media team. She also used to run the NSW Police Force social media accounts before making the move to South Australia, where she lives with her dog Norma and spends too much time online. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.