On the ladder, part 4: First home at 21, now they have 3 at 25
Buying your first home has never been tougher. In this On the ladder series, Stuff talks to Kiwis who've made it onto the property ladder and others who, by choice or not, are still renting.
Auckland couple Yolanda O'Neil and Kyle Brown, both 25, bought their first home four years ago and have added two more properties to their portfolio since.
With two young kids and one income, the couple say their amazing success is due to a combination of starting early, a supportive family - and a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice. They have no wi-fi, no clothes dryer, no Sky TV or Netflix; they choose to meet friends for coffee at home rather than going to a cafe.
The couple bought their first house together in 2012 after dating for 18 months.
*On the ladder: Good fortune, a great first home - and a bit of a trade-off
*On the ladder part 3: First-home owner house-sits while Airbnb pays off her mortgage
*On the ladder, part 1: Kristi Atkins bought her first home at 21
"Everyone else was saving up for their OEs, but neither of us really wanted to do that. We both wanted to get into the property market early and we were confident in our relationship lasting, we liked each other enough to buy a house," says O'Neil.
The couple at the time were both on $17 an hour, O'Neil was a qualified dental assistant and Brown a builder, who also worked a couple of extra weekends to save a little bit extra they needed for the deposit. Together they contributed half each, and bought a three-bedroom home on Stanmore Bay on the Hibiscus coast for $330,000.
"We looked everywhere and this was the only house we could afford," says O'Neil.
Are you on the first rung of the property ladder? How did you do it? Or maybe you've tried and failed? Send your story, video and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
They never moved into the house. After touching up the interior they rented it out straight away and moved into O'Neil's parents' house where they paid $100 board each week. O'Neil is aware that the cheap rent was a big factor in saving for their second home.
A brief stint in Australia to earn more money was cut short when O'Neil fell pregnant and suffered 20 weeks of terrible morning sickness. They returned to New Zealand and O'Neil's parents' home.
"It was really hard, Kyle worked his butt off and I hardly saw him but after a couple of months we bought our second section in Huia for $110,000," she says.
The 817 square metre sloping site was the cheapest in the area, "there was no house, no services, just full native bush, it was quite a mission." The young family lived in their restored caravan while Brown worked on building the house.
"We've got a friend who's an electrician and Kyle's grandfather is a painter so we were lucky enough to get good rates with them. Kyle also did labour swaps with our sparky and plumber, so he'd do a job for them and they'd do a job for us and all we would need to buy were the materials," O'Neil explains.
Brown managed to build the kitchen for $5,000, constructing the polished concrete benches himself. O'Neil's obsession with op-shopping, retro furniture and bargain buys also came in handy when furnishing their second home.
But other sacrifices had to be made in order to make this happen; "we don't have wi-fi," says O'Neil, "we just use the data off our phones, we also don't have Sky or Netflix just basic Freeview." Meeting friends at home for coffee rather than out at a cafe, accepting hand me down clothes for her girls, not having a clothes dryer (a drying rack does the trick) and always making food at home instead of buying takeaways all added up to extra savings.
"Cake decorating and selling my cakes basically bought all of our furniture, which is second hand and from Kmart," she says.
One of the biggest savings they have made, O'Neil says, is leaving their wedding until they could afford it. Even then it will be done on a budget. The couple got engaged last October. "Why would you spend thousands on a wedding when it can go toward a house?" she questions.
At the end of last year O'Neil and Brown bought their third section in Maungaturoto for $162,050. O'Neil says, "This was our plan all along: to live rurally. Kyle's from the country and he really wanted to go back to his roots. We're actually really lucky that we got in at the right time because prices in that area are now going up."
Brown has just completed the excavation and is hoping to put in the slab in October, "that's when he thinks he'll have enough money saved up for it," says O'Neil.
O'NEIL'S TIPS FOR STYLE ON A BUDGET
When looking for retro furniture on Trade Me: Save your favourite searches and get emailed listings as soon as they are up. Or just go op-shopping as much as I have.
Mix modern Kmart pieces with retro pieces: Kmart actually has a modern retro style of furniture. I went with the 70s style outward leg furniture and boomerang tables that were also a hit in the 60s and 70s.
Even the ceramic swans are Kmart, and they're a much cheaper alternative to Crown Lynn ones.
Favourite piece of furniture: Our Sebel dining suite. I have always wanted a Jetsons inspired table and chairs set. It's from the 1960s and was in excellent condition, not to mention an amazing bargain off Trade Me.
Best bargain buy: Our American retro bar stools. I bought them off Trade Me for $25 each and they were only a year old imported from America. The previous owner paid $250 each for them but they were too high for their breakfast bar. The original 1970s wallpaper in Charlies room was another steal off Trade Me for just $10.
We chose blue for the kitchen because... I've been obsessed with American retro diners for ages. We went with the pastel aqua to achieve that modern diner feel. All I need now is the black and white checked lino.
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