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Being a first-home buyer gets you sympathy by the truckload, but what about being a first-home owner?

Finally on the ladder and dealing with more debt than ever before encountered – the struggle is real.

Here are nine things to expect when you take the plunge. Debt will be scary

At some point, the debt will legitimately make you freak out. Even if the fear is completely unfounded and you’ve ‘done the numbers’ over and over. There’s something about a mortgage that makes you feel simultaneously like both an adult and a child play-acting as a grown-up.

It’s the fear of knowing you can’t quit your job at a moment’s notice – even if you weren’t planning to anyway – because you have a financial commitment that won’t relent. The trick is ensuring you don’t end up resenting your job, your partner or other factors in your life. If you thought you were a real estate aficionado now, wait until you have actual skin in the game.

This is normal, relax and realise that we all feel the same.

Opening your letterbox becomes an ordeal

There used to be a time when receiving a letter was exciting. What could it be … A pen pal from overseas? A love letter? Uh … no. Now it’s just bills, rates, more bills and the occasional pile of junk mail to keep the front of your fridge full of depressing bills that you can’t halve or blame on someone else.

This may even include a whole bunch of insurances that, let’s be frank, you probably didn’t even know existed before. Life insurance, income protection and home/contents insurance are just some of the necessities that may soon pour through your door. Get a filing cabinet and save yourself some angst.

You’ll feel like a social pariah

In a time when first-home buyer numbers are at record lows and more people buy in their 30s than their 20s, you’re bucking the social trend. And you’ll know about it every single time you hang out with your besties.

Your friends will want to complain about their share-house disasters, whinge about their landlords and talk about being forced to move every year to a new home. On some level, you’ll actually be jealous. On another level, you’ll sit there feeling a little smug. All of your 20-something friends will think you have it a lot easier than them and when you see their inner-city digs, in pristine condition, that they’re renting for something similar to the cost of your 50-minutes-from-the-CBD mortgage – you’ll be gritting your teeth. Just try to remember the long-term benefits.

Baked beans – otherwise known as ‘making sacrifices’

It’s a rite of passage to eat every single pantry item until the next pay day. So goodbye artichokes and quinoa and hello baked beans and sriracha. You’ll not only start eating like a university student again, you’ll also become one of those people who gets excited by $2 coupons for ketchup and does regular visits to Costco.

But the sacrifices won’t just be to do with your grocery spend. Evenings out with friends will have to be carefully timed to match the budget, you may need to cancel that gym subscription and sometimes having Foxtel isn’t going to happen.

DIY fails

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a pipe bursts in your home, your first port of call is going to be YouTube and not a plumber. Even if you end up taking four trips to the hardware store, spending a fortune and still not fixing the pipe two months later.

If you’ve bought a doer-upper (read: anything in ‘original condition’) then expect a lot of familiarity with socially inappropriate behaviour, such as having to brush your teeth in the kitchen sink, using superglue as a remedy for various household ailments (broken wall panels, cracked tiles, toilet roll holders) and powering your entire house with one extension cable.

Just beware that some of this activity isn’t just dangerous (a certified electrician is always recommended), it will sometimes cost you more to try and miserably fail than if you’d just brought in the professionals in the first place.

Your neighbourhood becomes your identity

If you thought you were proud of where you grew up, wait until you own a home where you live. Be ready to jump on forums to defend your area, fighting off claims about its unsavoury characters.

You’ll quickly learn to love the quirky aspects of your suburb, whether it be that it’s home to the only drive-thru Starbucks in Sydney (Mount Druitt) or that the local busker once starred on Australia’s Got Talent (Byron Bay).

But the pride you have in your area will also manifest itself in not-so friendly ways. Others’ messy front yards and disregard for trash cans will quickly peeve you off and conversations with friends and family may actually involve the ‘house down the road’ that ‘never mows their front lawn’.

Everything is your responsibility. And your choice

With great power comes great responsibility. Or … with no one inspecting your home to ensure you shouldn’t be evicted, there’s every temptation to let your home go to hell and live like the dirty adolescents we all secretly are. Although it is acceptable to be a slob some of the time, the novelty quickly wears off for anyone who isn’t you.

Without a landlord nagging to keep things clean, it’s your responsibility to keep up appearances and make sure your home isn’t turning into a toxic wasteland. And, yes, this includes keeping the yard tidy, facilities working and calling council to cut the trees at the front that are sagging into the power line.

And whereas it can seem stressful and time consuming to be in charge of so many different things, it also provides you the ultimate freedom. You can make improvements, choose to replace whatever you like and install a dishwasher when you can afford it – without having to bargain with a landlord. It’s up to you.

Overnight, you will become an ‘expert’ on house prices

If you thought you were a real estate aficionado now, wait until you have actual skin in the game. Astute home owners are acutely aware of what they think their home is worth and what other properties around them are selling for. If you’ve ever been to an auction, you’d have noticed that at least a couple of the attendees were neighbours. Don’t be surprised if you end up sticky-beaking at your neighbour’s auction – after all, you may just realise that house prices have gone up in the area.

And get ready to end up in heated ‘debates’ about house prices and where they’re headed – even with close family members and anonymous strangers online. Everyone has an opinion about just what the market is about to do and you’re going to hear them all.

You’ll be expected to play host

Family and friends may expect to visit … but they may not expect they’ll be sitting on a bean bag, a sofa bed and a scratched up massage chair. You may not be able to wow them with your interior decorating skills quite yet, so try showing off your movie collection, culinary creations or, if all else fails, conversational skills.

It’s your first home, not necessarily your last, so don’t feel embarrassed inviting your loved ones over to celebrate.


Posted by Jennifer Duke – Domain (Fairfax) on 17th September, 2015