Keeping up with the Jessicas

Jessica Agland bought her home in a location that suits her work and lifestyle.

Jessica Agland bought her home in a location that suits her work and lifestyle.

At 9pm on a Monday when she had expected to be completing a question-and-answer session for this article about her home ownership experience, 24-year-old Jessica Agland was instead standing in the flooded bathroom of her Sydney apartment.

It was only a few days later that she would be able to finish the interview and recount how she tried (in ascending order of desperation) to fix the shower using various cleaning products, a big plunger, yelling at her boyfriend, calling her mum, and – that classic approach – shutting the door and hoping the problem would go away!

By 20 years of age, Ms Agland had become frustrated with the negatives of renting, but standing in that flooded bathroom she found herself wishing for a landlord to handle the problem for her.

21-year-old Rockhampton resident Jessica Rogers can empathise. One of IBA’s youngest home owners to date, Ms Rogers purchased a piece of land on which she built her own home at just 18-years of age. She remembers too clearly when, during construction of her home, an inadequately sealed bathtub nearly got the better of her.

Over the years, an increasing number of Indigenous Australians have embraced the rewards and the responsibilities that come with home ownership. Motivated by the desire to build a stable environment in which to raise and nurture their families, and create a source of financial security and independence for themselves and future generations, their decision can also pave the way for the next generation to take that same step[1].

Ms Rogers attributes her decision to get into home ownership at a young age to some good old fashioned sibling rivalry (her brother had already bought a home at 21-years of age) and her parents, who bought their family home in Rockhampton when she was a baby.

My mum and dad taught us the value of money, saving and working hard from an early age. And they also taught us the value of having a place to call your own, a roof to lay your head under. They did it pretty tough when they were young, and I think they wanted something different for us’, she said.

‘‘I know that my house is a safe place to come home to every day. It’s somewhere to make my own rules, decorate it the way I like, and there’s no-one to tell me to move. And if everything in life goes pear-shaped, the house can be a source of security.

While the two Jessicas acknowledge their parents own experience of home ownership gave them a positive approach towards entering the market themselves, they were equally motivated by a desire to escape the uncertainty of renting, and to achieve personal and financial independence.

I had been renting since leaving home, and worked out I was paying $16,000 a year in rent; that’s a lot of money going to someone else’, said Ms Agland.

A national survey by RAMS Home Loans[2] reveals that securing a ‘steady income’ has taken over from ‘moving in with a partner’ as the primary catalyst for many buyers deciding to enter the housing market. For Ms Agland the time was right for her to take up home ownership when she secured a promotion at work, while for Ms Rogers it was a combination of her early savings habits along with securing a steady job.

Many mortgagees will testify that the home ownership experience brings with it the need for ongoing lifestyle adjustments.

Under construction: Jessica Rogers sitting within the framework of her new bathroom.

Under construction: Jessica Rogers sitting within the framework of her new bathroom.

Ms Rogers said: ‘I had intended to buy an existing house, but couldn’t find anything in my price range within the location I wanted. So when some land came up for sale in that area I made the decision to build instead. It was a big learning curve, and there were a number of unexpected costs that came up afterwards.’After a recent budget ‘blow out’ and some unexpected costs, Ms Agland was glad she had made an effort to keep ahead of her required loan repayments.

She said: ‘I was going on holiday and wanted some spending money so I stopped paying a couple of other bills before I went. When I came back I didn’t know how I was going to pay for everything. It took a while to get back on track with my repayments, and I even cut my credit card in half. I have learned that if I don’t have the money, then I can’t afford it, that’s the trade-off. And it’s not the mortgage payments that cause problems – it’s the council rates, the electricity, the water, and other costs that keep going up.’

Those ‘other costs’ can also include unexpected home maintenance and repairs, such as flooded bathrooms.

Despite the sacrifices and responsibilities that come with home ownership, both women are happy they made the decision to buy.

The people downstairs have a unit exactly like mine and they just sold theirs for a considerable profit. So when the going gets tough, that makes me very happy’, Ms Agland said.

Both women say they feel a great sense of achievement in having bought their own homes. Ms Rogers said:

It gives you a great sense of security and a feeling you are working towards something for yourself. So once you’ve done the research, have a secure job, and have proven to yourself you can save and meet the demands of repayments and the other bills, then don’t hold back.’

[1] Perceptions of Home Ownership Among IBA Home Loan Clients 2008, Anna Szava and Mark Moran, Centre for Appropriate Technology.
[2] RAMS First Home Buyers Pulse Check, October 2009.