First home buyers are a hot topic amongst pretty much everyone at the moment – from politicians to shock-jocks. With the abolition of stamp duty for first home buyers just around the corner – and a demand/supply ratio that’s seriously off-kilter – many would-be home property owners wonder if they’ll ever get into the market. In this article, 25-year-old Emma Edwards provides insight into approaching the market as a first home buyer, and why she thinks her generation are over sacrificing in order to save.
“Dinner’s ready”, I hear from down the hall, instantly transporting me back to my teenage years. No, I haven’t moved back in with my parents – I’ve moved in with my in-laws. Please reserve your looks of shock and horror. I’ve seen them all before. Don’t get me wrong; at 25, if I were to move in with any parents, it would be them. In every version of reality, in every universe, I would choose them. But no matter how wonderful they may be, how much they may care for me, and how damn good the risotto is, they will always be my in laws – which makes living with them for a long period of time pretty low on my bucket list. Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I have joined camp first home buyer, and moved in with his parents to save some cash for that all-important deposit. So, while our bank balance grows at a rate we can’t ignore (now that we’re not forking out $400 a week for our stereotypically millennial inner-city apartment with infinity pool) I’d say it’s one hell of a compromise. I’ve given up my lifestyle, my freedom and my independence – which, as an only child is valuable to me – to save for our first home from a 3x3m childhood bedroom.
Jumping into the property market has been eye opening. Despite having a background in real estate myself, I must admit a tiny part of my soul died when it dawned on me that properties rarely sold at their advertised price. I think when you first start looking to buy a property, you think it’s going to be easy. A quick search on realestate.com.au with your rough maximum budget, a 200-strong list of search results and before you know it you get ‘comfortable’. You think ‘yep, I can afford a property in today’s market’, and migrate your research from your laptop to real auctions and inspections, getting smugger with each Section 32 that hits your inbox. Then reality hits. Of those 200 results for 2 bedroom properties under $450,000, over half will sell for well over $550,000. A quarter of these properties will be newly built paper maché stock with flashy facilities and an owners corp fee to match, and the other quarter will be incompatible with your lender’s requirements, incompatible with lifestyle requirements, too small, or in need of renovations more complex than the Chadstone expansion. Before we knew it, we were spending our Saturday mornings at auctions, being wiped out within the third or fourth bid.
Now, I’m not trying to add to the growing number of articles on the internet telling tales of woe on behalf of the poor, hard-done-by first home buyers of today. That would only forge more excuses for people in their twenties to continue to live with – and at the expense of – their parents. Yes, the market is tougher than it was 30 years ago, but it’s not impossible.
I find that every article I read on first home buyers falls into one of two categories. One minute we should be giving up our avocado on toast and knuckling down to save, and the next we’re being ‘forced out’ of the market by monster investors and the unspeakable – underquoting. I contest both. When are we supposed to live our lives, outside of being swallowed up and spat out by the real estate market? Owning a property is a privilege. It commands hard work, hard saving and yes – hard sacrifices. But where do we draw the line? As a first home buyer, I feel guilt every time I come scuttling out of Sportsgirl with a new top for the weekend, every time I lazily slither into an Uber because it cuts my journey time by more than half, or every time I’m seen with a takeaway coffee. Yes, I’m meant to be saving. But to what end? I’ve given up my inner-city apartment, my independence, and I’ve cut back on unnecessary expenditure. We’re also saving on things like food, water and bills in exchange for a small weekly board payable to the in-laws. When are the sacrifices supposed to stop?
I’ve honestly thought to myself, ‘am I doing this wrong?’. Should I seriously be spending nothing more than my $40 a week myki pass and my $60 a week board payment? Am I just a typical, self-indulgent millennial?
My answer? No. It’s very difficult for our generation to draw the line with saving behaviours. I’m not a savvy saver by nature – I never have been. I’m proud of the $10,000 I’ve saved this year, and I’ve done it despite having a $4.50 coffee almost every day. So shoot me. I love coffee. Yes, it adds up to almost $2000 a year, but by cutting back on other things like lifestyle, store-bought lunches and a few less Uber Eats orders, I’m still stashing a pretty good little pile each month. Why can’t I enjoy a coffee?
Many FHBs are saving their butts off, making sacrifices in areas perhaps invisible to the untrained eye. Aside from the unpredictable property market, fierce demand, lender restrictions and escalating prices, it’s knowing when to stop sacrificing that we’re struggling with. Did I defiantly sip an almond mylk latte while writing this? Perhaps. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the sacrifices made in other areas of my life afford me this one pleasure. We will buy our first home soon. It is possible, and we have earned it – despite the avo on toast.