First time homebuyer: Couple bought a fixer-upper, then regretted it

A couple chose a super cheap first home to fix up in Queensland to save money, but later regretted their decision.

A young couple who bought their first home for just $165,000 have opened up about how they did it, with one admitting they “absolutely hated it at first.”

In 2019, Sophie moved from her home country of Germany to Home Hill, about an hour from Townsville, to be with her Australian boyfriend, Clinton, in their new home.

The couple met two years earlier, when Sophie was working at a local pub.

“In the last few months of my stay in Australia, we met and fell in love,” said Sophie.

“At first I didn’t think it was going to lead anywhere, but we decided to give it a try. At first we didn’t see each other for almost six months, then in April 2018 I decided to move, as long as my dog ​​could come with me.”

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Though she had never expected to own a home so young, buying a home made sense for the couple considering that rents in the area would be the same as, if not higher than, weekly mortgage payments.

“Our house was really cheap, everyone is going to be jealous. It was $165,000, there is no comparison [to big cities],” She explained.

“There are a lot of places around here that are $200 a week just to rent, and we’re paying rebates of $350 a fortnight.

“Of course we have to pay fees and electricity, but in general we are not paying much more to end up with a house in the end.”

While their relationship story is off the charts, so is the way they managed to afford a house in their 20s.

“Clinton paid the deposit while I saved my money to move to Australia,” said Sophie.

“When we met, he was an apprentice diesel fitter in the mining industry, doing fly in/fly out. If they manage to complete their four-year apprenticeship, they get their four-year bonus. If they didn’t finish, they wouldn’t get the bonuses.

“So it worked out well that he finished his apprenticeship while I was still abroad and was able to look for houses for us to move in together.”

Clinton had been lucky enough to live at home with her parents on her days off from work, which made it easy for her to save money to visit Sophie in German.

Sophie also lived with her parents while she saved up to move to Australia.

“I paid them €200 a month, I felt I had to. And I paid for all my own food and pet expenses,” she shared.

While Sophie was planning her move, Clinton went to about three open houses and sent Sophie pictures before she found her home.

“He walked into our house and knew it was the house he wanted to buy,” he said. Though it wasn’t a sentiment she shared.

“Honestly, I absolutely hated it at first,” he admitted. “But now it is different, we have removed the carpets and we have updated it. I would have liked something that required less work.”

Although the couple had decided to go for something cheaper that required more renovation, Sophie warned others to think long and hard before doing the same.

“We forget that all of these things require experience: changing walls, floors, all these things, it’s a little bit more difficult than expected,” he said.

“If you’re really hands-on and willing to put a little work and time into renovations, go for it if you want a superior repair.

“But if you’re a person who has a lot of other priorities, maybe you’re better off paying a little more money to have a house you’re happy to live in and worry about.”

It was lucky that Clinton had finished her apprenticeship and was drawing a full-time salary, because Covid hit shortly after Sophie moved to Australia, and they had to rely on her only income.

“I had a bridging visa, but I wasn’t a permanent resident yet, so I wasn’t entitled to any Centrelink,” he explained. “It didn’t matter that I had lost all my income being a personal trainer and working in hospitality. I was lucky that the pub I worked at had a bottle shop that was still in business.”

However, the couple had it very easy when it came to the Australian real estate market.

“As a trainee, Clinton was making $90,000, when you’re single, just out of high school, you have no living expenses and you stay with your parents, well, he never felt restricted,” Sophie said. “Now he’s coming to terms with the fact that that’s not the norm.”

“He complains about having less to spend on fun things now, but obviously in a joking way.”

The only other advice Sophie would give to people starting out on their home buying journey is to consider their own personality and that it is something they really want.

“Being locked up in a house makes me feel a bit claustrophobic and tied down, I don’t like that feeling,” she said.

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