18 September 2019

Tips for first-home buyers 

| home.byholly and ashcostello
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Ash Costello

home.byholly’s Ash Costello. Photo: home.byholly.

The shoe is on the other foot! I’m a real estate agent trying to buy my first home.

Now I fully appreciate how stressful it can be to buy a property. There are so many hoops to jump through just to get finance. Then it’s overwhelming trying to decide if “this is the one” during a 30-minute inspection with 30 other bodies crowded inside. And it can be emotionally draining!

I am currently pursuing my dream home, which will be sold at auction. Eek! I’m sharing top tips I’ve learnt along the way which might help you through your journey.

Keep your bank account clean

If you’re thinking of buying a property in the near future, start making changes to your lifestyle now. Trust me! This will help you when the time comes to apply for a home loan.

My mortgage broker had me cancel one of my gym memberships (turns out you don’t need to go to the gym and Crossfit, one is fine!), limit how much I ate out, spend roughly the same amount on groceries each week, limit buying coffee to once a day and take $30 cash out when paying for groceries to use in an emergency (aka, a friend wants to go out for lunch with you). The bank needs to see that you can live well within your means.

Be smart with your spending

Every cent counts! Short-term sacrifice makes for long-term gains. The larger your deposit, the more competitive you can be when it comes to buying a property and lower your lender’s mortgage insurance (more money for smashed avos!) I highly recommend buying Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredient recipe book. It’s been my saviour!

I am a foodie at heart and simply can’t sustain living off two-minute noodles and canned tuna. At the same time, I can’t continue to spend my life-savings on organic nuts and premium meat cuts. Be realistic. Six-to-12 months is a long time (yes, that is how far back the banks will be checking your spending). Set a budget you can actually stick to.

Find the right mortgage broker for you

It is a lifelong relationship, not just a one-off transaction. Your mortgage broker will do the majority of the legwork and guide you through the loan application process. Talk to different brokers. Find someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about their job. I can guarantee you the right broker will make a huge difference with your stress levels.

What are your non-negotiables?

Decide what your non-negotiables are and stick to them. When buying your first home, you want to be in there for at least 5-7 years before you think about selling. Too often I come across young couples who sacrificed the double garage, ensuite or second living area wanting to sell 2-3 years later because they realised they REALLY needed the one thing they had wanted but sacrificed it so they could buy the prettier home in the nicer suburb. It is hard to make your money back (stamp duty, bank fees, selling fees, renovation costs and the list goes on) plus make a profit to help you buy your stage-two home if you don’t allow enough time for the market to appreciate.

Think about your future, where you want to live and work backwards from there. Be realistic and stay strong on your non-negotiables.

Spend time in the areas you’re looking to buy into

Once you know what your budget is, look at areas you know you can afford to buy into without sacrificing your non-negotiables.

Spend a considerable amount of time in these areas. The community you live in is just as important as the house you choose.

Change up your usual routine and start shopping at the (hopefully) new grocery store; meet friends at cafes in the area rather than your regular; drive through the streets at different times of the day and, if you have kids, hang out at the local parks. Consider the local amenities for ‘future you’.

If you’re planning on having kids, research the schools the suburbs feed into. Are the bus or light rail services within walking distance? Does it have a local shop? It’s not just about what you need right now. Remember the 5-7 year plan!

Set your budget carefully

It is really important to have a clear idea of what you’re prepared to spend. The banks will lend you a scary amount of money, so make sure you calculate your income versus expenses carefully.

Talk to friends and family who own property to find out exactly what you have to pay (electricity, water, insurance, internet, emergency fund, etc). You need to factor these costs into your budget and then set a realistic mortgage amount that you can repay. You don’t want to be a slave to your mortgage.

It’s not much fun going to work every day and just paying off your house. Life is meant to be lived, and you want to have the funds to enjoy breakfast with the gals, a holiday with your partner each year or an item of clothing that you know will look #amazeballs on you.

Attend auctions

Auctions can be intimidating. Chances are most properties on your wishlist will be sold at auction, so it is important to watch a couple before you decide to register and stick up your bidding paddle.

Watch the auctioneer and the agents, see who they talk to and what they say. You’ll start to recognise when the property is at a level that it could sell, but the auctioneer is still going to ask you for another $5,000. Watch the registered bidders to see how they respond to the momentum of the auction.

My advice: don’t sit back and wait to place a bid. Auctions are a game of confidence. Start the bidding. The first bid is always the scariest, and I can assure you it will be the cheapest bid you place on the property!

You’ll start to feel the rhythm of the auction, and your heart rate will settle back down after you place a couple of bids which means you will be capable of thinking straight at the pointy end of the auction when the agent asks you to increase again. You don’t want to have an adrenaline rush and foggy brain because you decided to place your bid once the property has been called “on the market” (that’s the moment you’ll most likely end up blowing your budget or getting stage fright and missing out).

Enjoy the process

Buying a property can be stressful and emotionally draining. Try to enjoy the process and trust that if you miss out on what you thought was your dream home, it just means the right property for you is still out there!

It can be devastating when you miss out and if this happens to you, have a cry in the car (we’ve all been there), fix your makeup, head out to the city to enjoy a nice meal and look at properties you might want to inspect next weekend.

Treat it as a step in your journey and talk about what you learnt from that process. Perfect your poker face for the next auction and how you’d place a competitive offer so that when the right property does come along, there will be no stopping you! When you finally buy your first home, celebrate! On the floor of your lounge room amidst the chaos of packing boxes enjoy some pizza and wine because you’re officially #adulting and that is something worth celebrating!

I hope these tips have been some help to you. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the process of buying in more depth, give me a call! I’d love to help you.

Watch the video below to see if I bought my dream home …

Ash Costello is a residential real estate sales agent with boutique agency, home.byholly, which focuses on selling houses throughout the established Canberra suburbs. Contact Ash on 0402 718 359.

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This is what I did when I bought my first home. When I was looking position was more important to me than the house or unit. My home had to be within walking or cycling distance to work, or on a bus route that got me close enough. The house I finally bought wasn’t within walking distance, but was within cycling distance, just. The bus route wasn’t two bad either, taking me to within two kms of work, so on wet days I could bus and walk to work rather than cycle. To get this though I had to lower my expectations of what I wanted for a house. Being able to cycle to work saved the cost of petrol and reduced car maintenance; money I could then put into paying off my mortgage.

I also then planted a vegetable garden and high percentage of my vegetables came from my garden, saving more money. For the first five years of my mortgage I didn’t buy any new clothing (except some cheap underwear), eat out and only rarely bought coffee, and rarely went to movies, etc; the money saved I ploughed into my mortgage. Holidays were very cheap, often staying with relatives or friends; otherwise a bunk in a backpackers. I also rented out spare bedrooms.

The result is that I paid off my mortgage years early. And then I could go on a spending spree 🙂

A lot of good advice here and thank you for the effort in putting it all down. Especially people need to set their own budget and establish what you can afford on mortgage payments even if the banks are prepared to lend more. With interest rates at a record low, you need to factor in a rise. Be super cautious and assume interest rates could rise to 10%. Put the extra savings into paying off the mortgage early.

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