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Friday, 1 June 2018

The Reality of Becoming a Homeowner at 23

I have been a homeowner for two and a half months and have lived in the house I own for almost two of those months.

Although it's a big sense of achievement to me personally, that statement is unlikely to be anything particularly special to those who don't know me. However, when you consider my age, things seem to change.

Yes, that's right, I became a legal homeowner at the age of just 23.

homeowner, property-ladder, the-writing-greyhound

These days, it seems like there is always something in the news about rising house prices, the proportion of people renting versus buying and, perhaps most worryingly, the statistics which suggest that increasing numbers of young people will never be able to afford the deposit for a house.

In amongst all the doom and gloom spun by the media, I am here to tell you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although everyone's personal circumstances are different, there is no reason why young people cannot work hard to get their foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

Of course, there is no denying that access to affordable starter homes is more difficult for 'Generation Rent' than it was for our parents and grandparents. This isn't the time or the place to get into the politics of the matter, but it is clear to see just how difficult many young people find the prospect of becoming a homeowner.

How Did I Do It?

So, how did I manage to overcome the hurdles I faced in order to sign the documentation and collect the keys?

Short answer - dedication and unwavering belief.

Throughout the process, ups and downs alike, I believed in the idea of becoming a homeowner and proving all the naysayers wrong. I had a picture in my mind of what life as a property owner would be like, and although the two are not the same, I am proud that I can sit back and know that reality isn't too far from that dream I harboured.

I was also lucky enough to have generous support from close family and friends throughout the process. In particular, living with my parents gave me the opportunity to boost my savings and avoid the pitfall of rent and bills eating away at my house deposit fund. When we did get the keys, our incredible team of family and friends were amazing, helping us move in and get settled, donating furniture and household items and helping us decorate. An extra special shout-out to the three friends who were down here painting and doing DIY almost every night after work for weeks on end!

Similarly, feeling secure and confident enough to co-sign the mortgage paperwork with my partner was another big step and an even bigger help. Cards on the table, I simply could not have even considered owning a property on my own. Finding someone willing to sign away years of their life to live with me was a real testament to the strength of our relationship.

Of course, it is undeniable that luck played a big role in getting this house. What would have happened if my partner hadn't walked into that particular estate agent on that particular day? What if the estate agent had chosen to showcase a different property? What if another buyer had placed a more attractive offer on the house before we even had a chance to view it? The entire process is riddled with 'what ifs,' but it is the course of action which led to me sitting here penning this post in this house right now.

Difficult Truths

As a younger homeowner, I noticed several things during the buying process (and I am still discovering things now) which I feel are worth sharing. Here are just a few:

  • People will not take you seriously. Telling someone that you are buying a house is met with the same response as "I'm going to the shop" and even when you do collect the keys, people will still ask if you really bought it yourself
  • You will frequently get patronised. When we were still looking at houses and exploring our options, one property sales representative, in particular, was incredibly patronising, verging on downright rude. Although we didn't have any further dealings with the lady in question, she was far from the only person to talk down to us throughout the process
  • The strength of your relationship will get questioned a lot. No matter whether you have been together for six months or six years, be prepared for people to question your commitment to one another. The line, "but you're still so young," will be frequently over-used and it will be incredibly difficult to convince people that you are ready to spend your life with your partner. Even after you do buy your home, very few people actually believe you!
  • You will learn who your true friends are and you will come to value them even more. I know I've already mentioned this, but there is nothing more important than having the right people around you in a time as stressful as when you are in the middle of buying a house. Fake friends will be jealous or will try to capitalise on your success; real friends will support you and, most of all, be genuinely happy for you
  • People expect you to survive off pot noodles and baked beans and live in a pig-sty. Cooking? Cleaning? Surely a young person doesn't know how to do that properly! Although we may not be fastidious neat-freaks or the next Jamie Oliver, our house is clean and tidy and we enjoy a balanced diet, thank you very much
  • You will regularly be told that you are doing everything wrong. Older homeowners love nothing more than telling younger homeowners that they are doing things wrong. Whether it is choosing the 'wrong' shade of paint for the walls or spending too much money eating out, "this isn't how they did things in my day" will become your new quote of the week

While I think it is important to share an honest, realistic account of my own home-buying experience, the last thing that I want to do is dissuade my fellow Generation Rent-ers from buying a house. Although it can be scary, there is honestly no better feeling than getting that long-awaited phone call and heading down to pick up the keys to your brand new home.

I strongly believe that age should never be a barrier to success. Whether you are 23 or 73, I hope my story will be an inspiration for you to go forth and chase your dreams!

Are you a homeowner, or do you have hopes of owning a property in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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