What I learned about trying to buy a home in 2017

OPINION: "I wonder how much it would cost if I built my own house in Huntly?" is something I genuinely asked myself while going crazy, trying to get a house! I can’t build a house; I can’t even hang a clock back on the wall after I've taken it down to change the batteries.

Like a lot of people turning 30 this year, and almost everyone who still lives at home with their parents (cool people), I wanted to buy a house. And like a lot of people turning 30 and still living at home with their parents, I found it much harder than I first thought. 

After a heck of a lot of work, a few auctions where I didn’t even place a bid, and a bit of luck I can proudly say that I have bought my first home. It’s a small two-bedroom apartment and I love it. 

Guy's 'flimsy' comedy career made him choose an apartment over a huge mortgage.
Guy's 'flimsy' comedy career made him choose an apartment over a huge mortgage. Photo credit: Guy Williams

The most frustrating experience was initially not being aware about some of the most obvious 'pratfalls' involved. I’ve compiled this mildly helpful list to help pass on some of the good tips that people gave me.

1. Have realistic expectations.

One of the best things I learned in the home buying process is to lower my expectations. It took me looking at homes at the very upper reaches of my limits and stressing over the financial pressure that it could put on my (let's be honest) flimsy comedy career, to realise that an apartment or unit is a much more comfortable option. 

I need to be close to town for my job, I have no interest in gardening, and I'm not always super mature with money (I recently blew my retirement fund to stay in the same LA hotel where John Belushi died, so a huge mortgage and a backyard was not a great option).

2. Do a minimum level of research. 

I’m a big fan of learning from mistakes, which is lucky because I make a boat tonne of mistakes! (Is boat tonne an expression? Did I make it up? Am I a creative genius? No, no and no.) One of the first things you do when you want to buy a house is to start looking! I did this and it stuffed me up because when I found a house I wasn’t properly prepared to buy it and I missed out on it. 

It was the one that got away! People say "there are plenty more fish in the sea", but I don't want to live in a fish! I want to live on the land! In a house! That was a very poor joke and I apologise.

I retract my apology. That was great, I'm a creative genius!

3. Get someone who can help.

When I missed out on my first house I got in touch with Westpac and their 'Bank Nerd system'. (Editor's note: 'Mobile Mortgage Manager'.) Christian was a great help walking me through the entire process because if I’m honest with you guys, I had no idea what I was doing! He told me about the some options to help me with my deposit and what I needed to do to be prepared. He also threw in travel tips for Peru (which was where he was from).

I also had the help of my partner's dad who is a real estate agent and he had good property tips: "Buy low… sell high".

4. Trust no one.  (Well, trust some people but be wary of sellers' agents.)

I like to believe I'm a fairly honest person, which is why this election has been so interesting to watch. I learned that politicians know how to put a positive spin on things while leaving out some of the finer, more important details.

This is kind of how real estate agents operate. Some are great, some are very hard to believe. House photos are often taken from the very, very corner of the room, even from outside in a tree with a lens that's so wide it makes a one bedroom studio apartment look like a 'roomy inner-city escape' to raise a family of five and a dog. That's why having people who can help advise you or even a buyer's agent can be very helpful.


Guy and his new mate Christian, his Mobile Mortgage Manager.
Guy and his new mate Christian, his Mobile Mortgage Manager. Photo credit: Supplied

5. Be patient.

Some people look for two years before they buy. It took me coming close to making some silly decisions a few months in, to realise that it’s important to be careful and controlled. 

If only I could apply these rules to every other aspect of my life! Thanks to everyone who helped me on my "amazing" journey, and check out the final instalment to see the thrilling conclusion.

This Newshub opinion piece was created for Westpac NZThe opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Westpac.