Six months ago, to the day, my wife, baby and I moved into our first home.
“Mrs In Frame” and I had been renting for around ten years and while we had some of the nicest landlords you could hope for, the houses we lived in just never felt like “a home” to me. I always had a nagging thought in the back of my mind telling me “This house isn’t YOURS”.
Last year my work folded up the superannuation programme they had been running for as long as I had been working there, resulting in a handsome little pay-out of the savings I had accumulated over the past decade. We knew exactly what we were going to do with it – buy our own home!
Our aspirations were modest. We didn’t want a massive 12 bedroom mansion with integral garage, dishwasher and swimming pool, as some people would have you believe first home buyers expect.
All we wanted was a solid, warm and dry, preferably 2-3 bedroom home, hopefully with a garage and a bit of a yard.
So we started looking around – gauging the market, seeing what we could afford versus what we wanted and figured we would be looking to spend around $250,000 for “our house”.
With around $30,000 (12%) as a deposit safely stashed away and a secure, long-term income just shy of the national average, we went along to our bank and asked about the chances of getting a mortgage.
Their answer was a straight “No”.
“Loan to Value Ratios” (LVRs), aimed at slowing the Auckland housing bubble, had been in place for a few months by then. Instead of slowing Auckland’s “surreal estate” market, they had merely quashed the dreams of many young first home buyers, like us, across the country where housing prices are far more realistic.
Banks were deterred from accepting deposits of less than 20% (meaning we would have needed to amass another $20,000 from somewhere – hardly likely in Hawke’s Bay’s current economic climate).
We were told, however, there might still be a way to get a loan and our first home – by going through a mortgage broker.
We were recommended by our personal banker and a couple real estate agents to talk to a lady called Judy Steiner at Mortgagelink Hawke’s Bay.
The process of mortgage brokering seemed a bit too complex for me – I’ve always been more of an English exponent than a Maths whizz, so things fuzzed out a bit quickly in my limited area of knowledge. But from what I discerned mortgage brokers appear to have an almost magical knowledge of the inner workings of banks and the home loan trade.
While restrictive, it was still possible to get a loan under the LVR level – you just had to know when. Each bank appeared to have an allotment of under-LVR mortgages they could grant – two on this Monday, three on that Wednesday – that sort of thing. I guess if you applied on Tuesday you were just shit out of luck. I may have that all completely wrong, though, as by then we had a four month old daughter and my attention span was becoming a thing of the past.
So we met with Judy, she went through our financial situation, discussed what we wanted and the rest was an unbelievably quick and easy, stress-free piece of (carrot) cake!
We ended up with a home loan from our own bank – despite the initial rejection when we tried to go it alone – allowing us to look for a home priced up to our $250,000 ballpark value.
We were due to start seriously looking at open homes the day my Dad died. My wife and in-laws ended up taking me out to look at houses anyway, just to get me out of the house and get my mind off things.
One thing I noticed while looking at open homes was that for every young couple looking for their first home, there were around two to three sets of “Baby-boomers” looking to buy the same house as another investment property for their portfolio.
How many houses do you need??
We only wanted one.
Very fortunately we found it at the first open home we went to, which also happened to be just around the corner from our rental of 8 years.
It was a compact, two bedroom, stucco house with a garage, yard, roses and citrus trees – it was all I wanted and it was just like the home I grew up in.
More importantly, it FELT like home.
To the uninitiated, the following few weeks were quite stressful. With legal paperwork to go through, checks to do, finances to be finalised, it was all a bit of a blur, especially having to tie up Dad’s things at the same time. But we got there in the end.
Six months later and it feels even more like our home. When I mow the lawns, it’s OUR lawns I’m mowing. We eat oranges from OUR tree and smell OUR roses. We recently dug up a 20 square meter vegetable garden, as my wife loves growing her own veges – we are living off OUR own land.
We have things to fix, alter and renovate. We removed part of the houses deck, but reused the timber to give the remaining deck walls so we can fence off the back yard. I’m not overly capable when it comes to woodwork and the like, so while my father-in-law did most of the work, I happily helped out as a hammer-hand – applying and removing nails as and when required.
My building input may have been minimal, but to me it was wonderful. I can happily say in years to come “I did that!” – It solidifies our connection to the house by making it even more so OUR HOME.
Our home, sweet (first) home!