Frankie speaks with our financial coach

December 7, 2019

As featured in Frankie Magazine.

Is home ownership on your lifetime to-do list? Nathania Gilson picked up a few tips to help you on your way from Assemble’s financial coach, Sarah Matzouranis.

MANAGE YOUR MOOLAH It’s time to put the kibosh on that fear of doing the maths behind your day-to-day expenses, and dig into where you’re sending your hard-earned dosh. Before you even begin to think about buying a house, you need a crystal-clear idea of your financial situation: your earnings and biggest expenses, including non-negotiables like gas, electricity, phone, internet and insurance, plus things you could cut back on (like eating out or subscriptions you don’t really use). Sarah recommends reviewing your fixed expenses at least once a year to make sure you’re getting the best possible deals.

DREAM BIG BUT SET GOALS Picture your future home – whether it’s a cabin in the woods, a swish Mid-century pad or an inner-city apartment – and design a budget around it. This includes projected rent or mortgage repayments, utilities, supermarket essentials, and public transport or petrol costs. (Spreadsheets aren’t so bad when you get the hang of them, we swear.) Your budget should show you how much money you need to afford the dream, and how to get there. Sarah says a fellow budget-tracking buddy is great to have on hand for pep talks or whinge sessions, so enlist a mate to keep you accountable. Keep tweaking your goals and celebrate what you accomplish along the way. Every little victory will count towards your sweet new digs.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED Start a buffer fund of three months’ worth of living expenses for financial emergencies, such as medical bills or sudden job loss. It helps to set up an automatic transfer of funds into a bank account that’s separate from your everyday account. That way, it’ll be harder to access when you’re tempted to use the money for spur-of-the-moment splurges, and you won’t have to dip into your housing deposit to pay for SOS moments.

BE IN IT FOR THE LONG RUN Don’t be fooled by the happy house-flippers on the telly. Experts largely agree that staying put in a house for at least five years means you’re more likely to see that all-important ROI (that’s fancy finance talk for ‘return on investment’). If you move out or sell the house too soon, the cost of buying and selling could set you back, so take it slow and plan ahead. There are heaps of expenses involved in buying a home: stamp duty, legal fees, loan set-up and application fees. If you need help dealing with all those numbers, a mortgage broker can help you work out the best options for your situation.

BE A DISCOUNT DETECTIVE Though it can feel like young people are getting a bum deal when it comes to home ownership, there are some government concessions and financial programs that could help you save. After all, every little bit counts! The State Revenue Office website is a great resource for learning the ins and outs of property essentials like stamp duty exemptions, first home owner grants, and other random taxes and fees. Look into alternative housing pathways, such as the Assemble Model, which allows you to rent your future home for five years before choosing to buy. During that time you have fixed rent, and your future purchase price is also fixed, which gives you a set goal to save towards, while having housing security.

ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS Everyone’s got an opinion, but don’t rely on secondhand anecdotes or news narratives to tell you what you can and should do on your path to home ownership. Instead, seek out people who know their stuff and are happy to work with you on your specific journey. Sarah recommends building a squad of experts to help you sort through all the jargon, paperwork and uncertainty. It could include a mentor figure who has experience buying property, a financial coach who can help with the maths, and a property solicitor who can break things down into plain ol’ English.

EMBRACE MACGYVER-LIKE PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS One of the biggest differences between renting and owning your home is taking on the responsibility of fixing your own problems. Leaky tap? Broken dishwasher? Figure out if you can afford to outsource those situations, or if you’ve got the know-how to DIY (there’s no shame in hitting up a YouTube video tutorial). If you’ve been a responsible renter, being a homeowner isn’t all that different. Resourcefulness can make even the biggest life challenges seem a little more manageable. You’ve got this.