The story of buying our first house together is best shared as a tale of “she said, he said”. Because to say we had a difference in experiences and expectations - would be an understatement. We didn’t begin our property story as a united force, though there was a lot of forceful emotions involved! So as unconventional as our story about Caleb buying a first house is, the way we started ours “together” may be just as surprising, so ladies first…
She said: “Are you kidding me Caleb? Are you telling me you still put an offer on a house, even though I told you I wouldn’t live there?” “Yeah” responded Caleb with some regret in his voice. I am sure he thought it would help by adding “It is such a low offer, we won’t get it, and if we did get it - it would be a great buy!”
My next response was slamming the door while I walked out of our small 1 bedroom unit we were renting in the centre of Auckland. The first argument of our 4 month old marriage and it was all about property. We were newlyweds, just set up home together and were enjoying living close to town - could we at least have a year to be settled? Apparently not - not when you have a husband who has been studying and working in property for the past 6 years and spends his spare hours scrolling through trademe property listings.
After many conversations (and a few tears on my part) this much was clear, we both wanted a property, though I needed to get my head around the fact that ‘one day’ may be a lot sooner than I had expected. Because of the equity in the house Caleb already owned in Te Puke (to read that story click here) the bank had pre-approved a loan and the way the market was at the time in 2010 was a good time to buy.
He said: “So you agree Alice - we will can start looking for a house to buy” I said with enthusiasm. The next few months were full of spreadsheets with property prospects and evaluations, open homes and agent phone calls. We put plenty of offers on houses but nothing got across the line. While I was in my element - Alice couldn’t help but get emotional about houses we wanted and after a couple month of house hunting decided she didn’t want to see property unless we have an offer accepted.
For me the numbers had to work, firstly within our price range which we could afford and the bank had approved, then making sure I had done my research so any offer would be a good purchase against my assessment. Finally - I found a house which was all of that. We were in a good position to purchase it, it had been vacant for 2 months with no offers and half of the renovation has already been done (well, half of the demolition…) I couldn’t wait to show Alice.
She said: “Okay - I guess we are buying this house?!” Speaking apprehensively as I stood outside the locked and empty house peering through the windows at 6pm after work. It was close to impossible get a sense of what we were about to buy, as I had only seen in a few photos and now, spying in through the windows. I was grateful I didn’t have high expectations on what it would be like to purchase my first home, because there wasn’t anything glamorous or “dreams coming true” about this situation. But I had decided to completely trust my husband's judgement when it came to property, so if he said this was the one, it was going to be our first home.
He said: “Okay maybe the ‘half-done’ renovation was more than a slight exaggeration” I said, “and the bank who had pre-approved our loan decided not to loan on the property when they saw the pictures” (above are the actual photos from when we purchased the house). Alice was yet again nervous. It didn’t help the same thing happened with the second bank we approached… but third times a charm (plus I got the photos from the online listing removed for this one).
But soon it was ours. A budget and the timeframe were set – 5 weeks and $15k. As much as I appreciated Alice’s parents helping us out with a place to stay while we made our new home liveable, I had no desire to overstay. As much as buying well was important, adapting to our new financial position was also essential. The bank had approved our loan, but we still needed to manage ourselves to pay our mortgage each month. We had just come from a shoe-box unit with affordable rent so our new home was massive in comparison. Given the new financial pressure we decided to approach some friends to see if they would come live with us, their board would help us service the mortgage and keep expenses down while giving them an affordable living option to help them save.
And here is where our story finds itself gaining one more voice to the conversation - because we asked close friends of ours to move in with us and saw our property story enable them to have one of their own. We asked them to share their story, and this is what...
...They said: “Would you consider moving in with us?” Alice asked. We never thought that we’d agree to living with others in our first year of marriage. But, if you want something different for your life you need to make sacrifices and do something different, so we said yes. When we first got married the idea of owning our own home seemed like a distant dream, an impossibility. I carried into our marriage $20K worth of debt and no plan to reduce it. At the time we were renting a 2 bedroom unit in Mt Eden, while paying off the debt and trying to save for a house. With the move to live with Alice and Caleb, our rent and living costs would be halved - and though it meant losing some of our own space, we would really be able work towards our financial goals. During this period of around 2 years we were able to pay down our debt, save for a deposit and eventually we moved into our first home - a brand new 4 bedroom house in Mt Roskill.