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Ruby’s Real Money Diaries: One couple’s experience of buying a home

24 September 2021

Buying a home is an exciting time. There’s the legwork and due diligence to be done and decisions to be made. We ask first-home buyers for their tips, the hidden costs that tripped them up, and how they opted to each pay off their half of the home.

About Kylie and Nathan

Age: Early 30s

Location: Sydney

Occupation: IT consultant; data analyst.

Income: 80-85K and 90-95K

HECS / HELP debt? No

Any other debt? No

Do you have any savings? Yes

Are you actively saving? Yes

RUBY: Thanks for talking to us about your home-owning journey. How long was the process?

It took about six months from when we started looking to making the purchase – it took over our weekends. That was really the hardest bit. So much time goes into visiting all these great homes, getting pest, and building inspections, attending the auctions. Then you’re completely out-bid and the entire process starts again. It’s exhausting and an emotional rollercoaster.

RUBY: What were you looking for in a home?

We wanted something centrally located and close to the city, with access to amenities, shops, public transport, and entertainment options. We wanted 2 bedrooms with a car space and ideally a bit of a backyard, but you don’t always get that in the inner city. We knew we had to be prepared to make sacrifices on our wish list.

RUBY: Talk us through how you applied for your loan.

We decided on using two separate loans – one for each of us. We split the cost of the home down the middle and we’re paying off each of our loans individually.

Also, we opted to use a mortgage broker who held our hand through the process. They worked in with our schedule and made the whole loan application process quick and easy.

RUBY: Were there any government grants you could use?

Yes, we applied for the First Home Owner (New Homes) Grant.

RUBY: What were the hidden costs of owning a home that you weren’t expecting?

You can’t really plan for wear and tear in a home and it helps to have an emergency fund in case something goes wrong and you’re strapped for cash. Also, insurance costs came as a surprise – as first-home buyers, we didn’t realise it would cost that much to insure our home.

RUBY: Any other surprises?

Not really, but I will say that pest and building inspections are essential and not something you should skip. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a home, only to find out it has all these issues that you need to spend even more money to fix them. It helps to have some money put aside in an emergency fund for moments like this.

RUBY: Do you have any homeowners’ insurance and if so, what was the process of selecting the right plan for your budget and the coverage you needed?

We do. The experience was straightforward. We allocated time over the weekend (when we weren’t at inspections) and would look for the best insurance which suited us and our budget.

There are websites where you can compare a bunch of different insurance options. It would generate results based on a similar home to the one you are looking to buy and itemise the costs. It was tedious, but absolutely worth the effort.

RUBY: Number one tip for readers who may be looking to buy their own home?

Conveyancing is a really important step in the process of buying a home. We didn’t really know much about it. A good conveyancer will save you a lot of time and stress. Also, do your own research on any development applications that might be submitted around the neighbourhoods you’re looking at. Local council sites can help with this and check state government developments.

A good conveyancer should do due diligence and identify that there’s a DA (Development Application) right next door to where you want to buy – and should tell you about it. Better safe than sorry.

RUBY: What is the most important financial advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t spend money you don’t have. Credit cards can be very tempting, but at the end of the day that’s not your money.

“We bought a home together but opted for a home loan each.”

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