On the ladder, part 1: Meet Kristi Atkins, who has bought her first house at 21

Working and saving right through university helped Kristi Atkins get into her first home when she was just 21.
DAVID UNWIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Working and saving right through university helped Kristi Atkins get into her first home when she was just 21.

It's tough but it's not impossible. Our new On The Ladder series looks at young Kiwis who have managed to get into their first home.

Kristi Atkins has an answer to anyone who says owning a home in Feilding is all very well, but it's not Auckland or Wellington: "Move to Manawatu – it's do-able for everybody."

Fifteen months ago, at the age of 21, Atkins became a first-home owner, buying a three-bedroom weatherboard house in Feilding for $240,000.

Getting on the property ladder

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But how do you save enough to buy a house at such a young age? Atkins' solution was to work while at university in Wellington.

"I worked right through university and saved," she says. "I was probably working about 20 to 24 hours a week. I was only friends with students, so no-one else had any money, either. After uni I moved back with my parents in Feilding for a year, so I wasn't paying rent for 12 months prior to the purchase, which helped."

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A sunny deck off a closed-in veranda is much appreciated by Atkins and her two flatmates.
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

A sunny deck off a closed-in veranda is much appreciated by Atkins and her two flatmates.

 

"I have really smart parents who put me on KiwiSaver at a very young age, and I was able to get a $5000 KiwiSaver HomeStart grant. And my parents were my guarantors, so I didn't have to meet all the usual bank requirements."

Atkins, who is an events and communications executive at the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) in Palmerston North, says she initially looked for a house to rent, but found that rents were "pretty expensive".

Atkins suggests young people consider a lifestyle in the Manawatu. She commutes between Feilding and Palmerston North - ...
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Atkins suggests young people consider a lifestyle in the Manawatu. She commutes between Feilding and Palmerston North - a 20-minute drive.

"Renting was going to be almost as much as paying a mortgage. I worked out that with a couple of flatmates helping to cover costs, it made a lot more sense to buy."

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Atkins says the house was a private sale, which helped to keep the price down. But while a house in Feilding is far cheaper than a big city, the rates bills are higher.

"I have set up a whole lot of automatic payments, so I don't really see the money – it comes in, it goes out," she says.

There's an easy flow from the kitchen to the dining area and lounge.
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

There's an easy flow from the kitchen to the dining area and lounge.

Atkins' house sits on a typical section, with a small front yard, but a lot of land and fruit trees at the rear. And she doesn't need to work on the house. "The person I bought it off was a builder who had recently renovated, so it is fine as it is."

In addition to the three bedrooms, the house features an open-plan kitchen-dining-living area, single bathroom, separate toilet and separate laundry. A closed-in veranda and deck at the rear catch all the afternoon sun.

"Manawatu may be the middle of middle earth, but I think it is probably underestimated," Atkins says. "It's a great lifestyle – it's all here."

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 - Stuff

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