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Photo: Getty Images
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MediaMarch 16, 2017

The Spinoff guide to becoming a young home owner

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Having analysed the spate of uplifting stories about millennial strugglers buying homes, Don Rowe reveals how you, too, can lift your foot above your head and on to the lowest rung of the property ladder. It’s not impossible, it just takes a few little tricks – like not paying rent. 

Sometimes it can feel like owning a house is impossible. No matter what you do, the place you call home will forever belong to someone else, subject to the whims of a faceless landlord or anonymous housing conglomerate. As if at any moment the roof under which you feed your family, wash your children and wax your legs could be ripped away, your cold and shivering body turfed onto the streets.

Fear not, young wastrel! While recent media articles mostly read like a giant Fuck You to those of us for whom owning a house is about as likely as owning a superyacht, they do contain some invaluable advice for getting a roof over your head.

I have examined the case studies provided by Stuff and the NZ Herald, absorbed the lessons of these young landlords, and distilled it all into an indispensable user manual. We present: The Spinoff Guide to Becoming a Young Home Owner in 2017.

First you’re going to need a job. Make sure you’re employed in a full-time position on above minimum wage. This will be easier with a degree so get one of those. If you’re looking to buy in Auckland, consider acquiring a spouse who is similarly employed.

Then you’re going to need a budget. Figure out your wants and need. Set your priorities. Be strict now. A well-rounded diet? Obviously don’t want a house that bad. As one young property owner told the Herald:

First you work out what it costs for all your needs – a place to live, power and water. Notice that I didn’t put food? This is the most variable need we have as people and it always comes into my budget second to savings. Once you have calculated your basic needs, you decide how much you ideally want or need to save. Then whatever is left over after that is left for food. Cereal bread and milk don’t cost the world, and neither does a can of tuna or a bag of rice.

All that stands between you and a house.

Hear that? No fucking avocados, all right? Stone fruit is out altogether. Actually so is fruit in general, as well as meat and vegetables. You want a house or not? Scurvy ain’t a thing.

Now that you’ve cut nutrition from your life, it’s time to assess your other expenses. Run through the basics. Flat whites, Sky TV, BMWs and trips to Bali are all out of the question entirely. Forget going out to bars: you drink wine from a box now. Cut out Netflix for the next decade and you will save yourself almost $1,500.

You don’t own a home yet, so a significant chunk of your pay each week most likely goes directly to your landlord – that benevolent and savvy figure who managed to get a house through no luck or good timing or anything like that, just pure hard graft. But why are you paying off someone else’s mortgage instead of your own, dummy? That’s serf thinking. The key is just to stop paying that shit!

Kristi, for example, moved to Manawatu to live rent-free with her parents. A year later, once those same parents guaranteed her home-loan, she could buy a house through a private sale in booming Feilding. “Manawatu may be the middle of middle earth, but I think it is probably underestimated,” she told Stuff. “It’s a great lifestyle – it’s all here.”

All except jobs.

You can do it in Auckland too, though! After dating for six months, yo-ho couple Jake and Ella moved in with Ella’s folks to save for a deposit. Two years later, they bought a house in Westmere, miraculously coming in under the listing price of $1.4 million. Success! And they only have to move back home half the year for the foreseeable future to make it affordable. Fortunately, like most folks, Ella’s parents spend six months of the year with their other daughter in America, so the family manage to make it work.

Jake told Stuff it’s all about clear goals, and knowing your price.

“I wouldn’t have been comfortable paying anything more [than approximately a million dollars]. There needed to be enough money in the kitty that we could still do those things that give you a bit of sanity.”

Definitely important to keep a little in the pocket for when you wanna get out of your million dollar manor, right? They’re so claustrophobic after all.

“After 3000 years without Netflix, we saved a deposit!”

Further north, fellow Aucklanders Yolanda and Kyle bought their first house at 21. They never moved in, though, just gave it a lick of paint, rented it out and moved in with Yolanda’s parents – why not, when the board is only $100 each? You could use that money to buy another house after all. And they did.

For some people, moving home just isn’t an option. No stress! You still don’t need to pay rent, just do what this Hamilton woman did: leave the country and live in other people’s houses for six years. House sitting in London meant Francie lived rent free, and was able to put away enough for a deposit, guaranteed by her parents, on a $435,000 house – plus a few little extras:

“That still left me enough to travel, pay bills and enjoy my OE.”

Ordinary young Kiwis, getting on the ladder with nothing but hard work, smart saving, a spartan lifestyle bereft of nutrients and some exceptional circumstances wholly reliant on the support of other people.

What’s your excuse?

Keep going!