What to do when you can’t afford your first home

There’s so much talk of people buying their first homes, but for many of us, it’s out of reach right now.

Maybe you’re not earning enough, or you’re priced out of the market. Or maybe you can’t come up with a big enough deposit.

If all your friends have bought already, it can feel as though you’re the only one left renting.

So, how can you turn your situation into something positive?

1. Make sure you have done all the figures

There’s no point giving up on your first home dream before you’ve seriously looked at the numbers. A financial adviser or other expert can help you do the sums. Maybe a house in your area of the country is cheaper than you think? Do a budget and seek expert advice.

2. Lower your expectations

Your first home likely won’t be your dream home. So, if you’re wanting your first buy to be a four-bedroom family home in a good area, you might need to get realistic.

For many, your first home is your first step on the property ladder. It doesn’t have to be a house you’re forced to stay in for the rest of your life. You can easily use your first home as a stepping stone to buy a more suitable place later on. If you wait until you can afford your dream home, you might never be able to buy.

3. Set yourself a goal

OK, so maybe you can’t afford to buy a house this year. But what about in the next five years? Or 10? Many Kiwis are in the same boat as you and it will take them longer to buy their first home, due to rising property prices and incomes that haven’t kept pace. And some people never will be able to afford to buy. 

Setting goals for when you might be able to afford your own place is a great idea if you’re serious about buying. A financial adviser can help you with this.

4. Think outside the box

Many people are considering other options to help them get into their first home. Could you look at building? Maybe it’s cheaper. Stay with family or friends while you save up a deposit, or consider living in a tiny house.

It might be tempting to stay living in the location you love, but if you move to a cheaper regional town for a couple of years, that might fast-track your goals.

Could you join forces with family or friends to buy? It might be easier to bridge the financial gap for a deposit between a few of you. Just make sure you get legal advice on any arrangements you make.

5. Make sacrifices

It’s easy to get despondent and think previous generations had it easier. But, in fact, buying a house requires sacrifices, no matter how old you are and when you bought. Have you made some sacrifices in your plans to buy your first home? Maybe you could give up eating out and buying takeaway coffee for a year, and see how much you’ll save. Create a tight budget. Change your living situation. Consider sharing a flat instead of renting your own. All the dollars add up, and the way to your own first home requires sacrifice and effort.

6. Have you accessed all the money you can?

Did you know you can use your KiwiSaver money to help you buy your first home? If you’re not enrolled in KiwiSaver and plan to buy your first house at some stage, contributing to KiwiSaver is a good decision. You’ll get free money from the government and from your employer to help you reach your first-home deposit.

You also might qualify for more money from the government – called the KiwiSaver First Home Grant. This could be up to NZ$5,000 if you’re buying a house, and up to NZ$10,000 if you’re building. 

There’s also the First Home Loan which you might qualify for if you’re struggling to come up with a deposit. With a First Home Loan, you only need a 5 per cent deposit, not the 20 per cent that most lenders require. 

7. Don’t give up!

Try to keep a positive attitude. This can be hard when it feels like you’re the only one not able to get into your first home. But you never know what the future might hold. You could get a new job where you earn more, the market could change, you could take on a side job, come into some family money or, if you’re single you could end up meeting someone and combining your deposit money.

Or you might find a perfect property at a steal.

Published January 2019

This article is general in nature only and has not taken into account any particular person’s objectives or circumstances. We recommend you speak with a financial adviser. All content is correct at time of publication date.