Don’t Believe The Hype: The Realities of Saving for Your First Home

Property isn’t that expensive. The kids are alright. They’re just complaining needlessly while they spend their money on getting more smashed than their favourite inner-city avocado breakfast treat. Sound familiar? Probably because it’s the same thing you keep hearing over and over.

Of all the soapboxes I find myself climbing, this is seemingly the most persistent. Every few months, outlets that should know better run stories about how easy it is to buy their first house.

It’s always the same formula, too: “This young person bought a house, you’ll never guess how!” Your first guess is probably spot on, however. Usually the parents are involved. The parents are at least co-signers on the mortgage, or at most they provided cash for the insurmountable 10-20% deposit. Somewhere in the middle you may find a fun detail or two like how they lived rent-free with the parents or worked for one of the parent’s companies.

We’ve heard it all before, but once again I’m back on my bullshit. These articles are bad, and despite the best of intentions, they can leave a millennial reader struggling to get into the market in despair.

I don’t want any of this to sound like sour grapes, though. If you’re a young person who’s in a position to accept any help from your olds, you should graciously accept. The property market of 2018/2019 takes no prisoners, and it doesn’t have time for your pride. If parents want to use their hard-earned to help their millennial offspring get on the first rung of the property ladder, that’s their prerogative. Count yourself blessed.

The reality, however, is that many young people just aren’t this lucky. More than you might think. Some kids are actually helping their parents get by. Some parents don’t have the means to help their kids. Some kids don’t even have parents, or know where they are to start with.

The real problem with these pieces about ‘how easy it is to buy your first home’ is the thinly veiled sentiment behind it. It’s designed to feed into a world view that there’s nothing wrong with a property market where a burned-out hovel in Redfern goes for over a million bucks. It’s designed to show that the kids are just whingers, and that you can still afford beachside property on an unskilled wage just like back in the day. The pieces largely assume privilege – something we should have called time on by now.

The reality is that saving for your first house is hard. Really. Fucking. Hard. I should know, I’m doing it myself right now with my partner. We might be lucky enough to get some help one day, but I’m not counting on it. I’ll count myself as one of the lucky ones if that’s the case.

Saving for your first house is all about small numbers adding up to big ones. Don’t spend $100 on a night out, put it away instead. Stop buying lunch at work, bring it in instead. Downscale your lifestyle as much as you can stand for the years (yes, years, plural) you’re saving up. And while you’re doing all that, make sure you’re a model citizen when it comes to your spending habits and your credit score, otherwise you might be in for a nasty shock when you sit with a lender. (There are plenty of free services to use if you want to know your credit rating and how to fix it, by the way).

I’m really happy for the lucky ones who don’t need to go through this process of scrimping and saving. It’s a nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. What I do wish, however, is that the places I go for tips, advice and real news on the property market stop talking down to my friends and I about ‘how easy it is’. It’s not.

Not by a long way.

Luke Hopewell is a tech writer and influencer. Formerly of Gizmodo, Business Insider and ZDNet, Luke now hocks his box on Instagram and Twitter, and wherever good words are written.