Please note: I am not a qualified financial adviser and the opinions offered here are purely my own. It is critical that you seek professional advice from a solicitor before embarking on any property purchase. Read: Don’t buy a home without speaking to these 5 people first
What a scary time it has become for first home buyers, especially if you started looking 12-24 months ago and have watched house prices quickly move up and out of your budget.
In light of this recent jump in values and increased investor activity (meaning more competition) would you be best to step out of the race and wait for the market to come back to a more ‘normal’ activity level?
Should you put your home buyer dreams on hold for 12 months and focus on saving instead?
Should I buy a home in a seller’s market?
It’s a tough question and one I believe many young couples are asking themselves (and probably arguing over right now). The Kiwi love affair with property is so inherently strong that a fervent market like we are seeing now breeds desperation and determination to buy ‘at all costs’. It can cause extreme stress for young people who should be having the time of their lives planning weddings, starting careers and possibly travelling the world. Instead, the pressure comes on to keep up with your peers and get on the property ladder as quickly as possible, forsaking all other interests.
Pressure can come on parents too who are now required/expected to contribute to their kid’s deposits to make up the 10-20% required by most banks.
If I was looking to buy my first home in this market, this is what I would do…
Firstly, have a frank discussion about your wants / needs / goals.
Ask questions like:
Do we value freedom or security? (eg. renting vs owning your own home)
Are we likely to want to do extensive travelling in the next 5 years?
Are we planning to stay living where we are for the next 5-10 years?
When are we hoping to have kids? Where do we want them to grow up?
How long will the type of home we are looking at suit our needs? (eg. 3 years, 5 years, 10 years)
If our plans change will this home make a good rental property?
Once you have a clear understanding of each others goals. You have 3 options to consider:
Option 1: Buy a home to live in right now.
Put your shoulders back and pay what you have to. If you can’t afford anything decent in the area you like, think one step further out. Eg. Can’t afford Brooklyn? Buy in Johnsonville. Can’t afford Newlands? Buy in Tawa. Tawa too expensive? Buy in Titahi Bay. The keys to success are buying a home that you plan to keep for at least 5-10 years. People lose money on real estate when they need to sell quickly. If you keep it for a decent amount of time you should be ok. Look at 20/30+ properties before you buy so you can learn the local market and avoid paying too much.
The next key is to take on a level of debt that you can afford even if interest rates go up, because sure as eggs, rates will go up again at some point. Just a few short years ago many of my friends were locking in for 5 years at 9.5% (bugger). A $400k mortgage at 4.25% will give you an interest bill of $327 per week. At 8% (the floating rate 5 years ago) the weekly interest bill goes up to $615, and that’s just the interest!
Option 2: Buy an investment property somewhere else (my choice)
If the idea of taking on a big mortgage right now scares you and you want to keep your options open – the alternative is to buy a home in an up and coming area that you can easily afford so you can get into the market and have someone else pay the mortgage, even if it means you have to keep renting yourselves. It might seem crazy to buy an investment property when you are still renting somewhere else (paying someone else’s mortgage) but it really makes so much sense for young people and in my opinion not enough people take this approach.
This option allows you to be in the market, so you can benefit from further price increases without all the risk of being burdened by a big mortgage. It also gives you flexibility if you want to travel in the future or work in a different City for a period of time. Let someone else pay off the mortgage while you have total freedom to live the life you want to.
All things going well, before you know it your investment property will have gone up in value and you can use the equity to help secure finance for your own home at a later date (wherever that might be).
Where to buy?
I would personally look in areas like Newlands, Paparangi, Tawa, Titahi Bay, Lower and Upper Hutt and Palmerston North. I might consider Kapiti Coast with Transmission Gully coming in but nothing too close to the water (global warming sea level rises are no joke). Buy a 2-3 bedroom home in the nicest area you can and if at all possible go for a multi income stream situation (eg. 2 x 2 bedroom properties side by side).
Not so fast buddy!
At the risk of sounding sexist, most Female’s aren’t so keen on this plan (my Wife wasn’t). I think there is a natural tendency to lean towards the security of owning your own home to live in, and an inherent need to start nesting and setting up a home where you can plan to have a family. These are perfectly natural feelings and it’s important that with any property decision you are both on the same page, and that you are both prepared to compromise. In other words – Guys, take it as read that if you want to buy an investment property first, you may a hard road ahead of you and chances are you will probably lose this argument.
However if you do take option 2, you can set a goal to buy an investment property this year, but still buy your own home in 2 or 3 years time (or better yet, a 2nd investment property). At least in the meantime, you get to enjoy being property tycoons and winning your own little game of monopoly! If however during that time you decide to travel, move to another City or get married, an investment property won’t stop you from doing that, but a massive mortgage on your own home and a sudden rise in interest rates forcing you to eat baked beans every night might certainly hold you back.
Don’t be a slave to your mortgage…
If you are in your 20’s or 30’s, this is the prime of your life. Should you really be living like a pauper fighting to pay a massive mortgage without any hope of taking a holiday? Wouldn’t you enjoy having the freedom to quit your job (if you want to) or be a stay at home Mum / Dad when you have kids?
Option 3: Don’t buy a home or investment property.
Keep renting (or living with family) and saving up money.
I can understand if you feel the market is over-heated and everyone out there is paying crazy exorbitant prices that don’t make sense. I can understand wanting to wait for the market to drop so you can pick up a bargain. My thoughts instantly go to the poor young couples who saw what was happening in Auckland in the mid-2010’s and decided to wait till for the market to turn. The houses they were looking at back then have probably doubled in price now and while the market has started cooling off in 2019 and prices appear to have dropped a little, they are unlikely to ever drop 50%.
Note: When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, prices dropped around 5-10% in Wellington.
Investing in real estate is not for everyone but in my mind, it’s a good forced savings plan for young people (whether you live in the property or not) and can provide you with added security later in life.
Always be considerate and compromise with each other. Try and understand each other’s feelings and remember, life is a journey better shared with someone you love and fighting about money is such a dangerous waste of your precious time.
Stay safe out there!
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Please note: I am not a qualified financial adviser and the opinions offered here are purely my own. It is critical that you seek professional advice from a solicitor before embarking on any property purchase.