‘Plan and then go for it’: how Sang found her family a home

Your first family home is a huge (maybe the hugest?) moment in your and your kids’ lives. And it can be a long and bumpy journey. But despite the challenges, Sang and her family made the decision to buy – and learnt plenty of lessons along the way before they found the right home for them. We asked Sang about how she came to the decision to buy, and the lifestyle adjustments she and her family made on their way to moving into their own first family home.

Hey, Sang. So, how did you know your family was ready to buy a home? And what was your motivation?

We were living overseas and I wanted to come back to be close to my parents. At first, I rented an apartment in Sydney. My son was three years old and my daughter was seven, so it was ‘cosy’ in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. Plus, we lived above elderly neighbours – and you can imagine what it’s like with a three-year-old and a seven-year-old running around everywhere.

We did get some complaints. So the main reason to look for a home was that our growing family needed space, where the kids could be independent, jump around without getting in anyone’s way and just grow. For my children, I just wanted that space.

With your whole family influencing the vision of what home should be like, how did you come to choose a place?

I started by looking at schools. My thought was that with good-quality schools, there’s more of a chance that people are like-minded, and more family oriented.

Budget was also a criteria. I was tossing up between renting and buying, but I worked out that buying was something I could afford. Initially I was looking for a house, but at that time I didn’t have enough for a house, so I changed our plans to an apartment or a townhouse.

I was also looking for green space. We ended up in an area with tree-lined streets, wide roads and a lot of parks. Here, it felt like a place where we could bring up the kids in suburbia and have a good quality of life.

Were there any major sticking points in the journey to buying? And if so, how did you get unstuck?

Knowledge. I’d never done any of this before. I’ve been a renter all my life. But Google was there. I talked to friends. And I actually got a reference from someone else who’d recently bought a house and used the same conveyancer to help me.

Another thing was working out how much money I needed for a deposit. And, beyond first finding the house, you have to pay all these fees. Like, if you like a place and you want to bid on it, then you have to pay for getting your conveyancer to review the contract. Then if you really like it and you want to bid on it, then you need to do your pest inspection and things like that. It all adds up. On top of the purchase price, and those fees, there’s stamp duty too. I didn’t expect it to be as much as it was. So that’s a big thing – be prepared for stamp duty.

At what point did you need the most advice? What would you say was the trickiest part to navigate?

I would say knowing what location I wanted to focus my search on to find the place I wanted. Second was knowing how much I will need to pay out of my pocket every month based on fixed or variable rates for the home loan, including how much I would need to pay on a monthly home loan payment, and factoring in strata fees.

I actually used my bank a lot because I didn’t have a clue about the process. So I asked a lot of questions. The bank did help me a lot, and then when I got a conveyancer, I relied on them too.

Is there anything you think your kids might have picked up about managing money from this journey, or anything you might have learnt that you could pass along to them down the track?

One of the things that I’d say is planning. If you want something, then you need to plan for it so you’re aware of what you can afford and what you can’t. When they do ask me for things, I am very open about it. I’ll say, “This is what I can afford. This is what we can buy and this is what we can’t.” I’m quite open and honest about it. I’m quite pragmatic.

So I think that’s something that they’ve picked up: to be aware of how much things cost, and if you really want it, then you need to plan and then you can go for it.

Did you feel like you had to adjust your budget dramatically to meet your savings goal? And with that, did your lifestyle change a lot?

In terms of lifestyle, my husband and I have relatives overseas, but we didn’t go on an overseas trip while saving. We were also mindful about our purchases and what they cost. It became more about being aware of where our spending was going and asking ourselves whether it was worth it. Because we had the goal, if there were things that we could pass up or alternate, then we would.

So it might mean hiring a movie for movie night at home rather than going to the cinema. Eating in and getting better at cooking, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out if you’re not going to a restaurant. Things like that. Little things. How does the saying go? “Little drops make a mighty ocean.”

So jumping to the moment where you got the keys and you stepped through the door of your new family home for the first time, how did that feel? Did it all feel worth it?

I was so keen I actually went to see the papers being filed. I asked them, “Can I come and just watch you guys do it?” So I witnessed the conveyancers swapping the documents. That was my ‘It’s happened!’ moment. It was just a two-minute thing, but it was huge.

Then getting the keys was validation. Once we had the keys, we were together at home, and the kids ran into the backyard, running around, looking at the garden. This moment felt like all the check boxes had been marked ‘complete’. I was like, “We’re done.” I felt satisfied.

Now that you’re settled in, what do you feel you did right in the process of buying your home?

Planning. I was quite diligent in terms of researching location. And I was aware of our budget and what we could and couldn’t do, what we could afford or not.

And we were organised. We visited so many places on some days. I used to have a spreadsheet with all the properties in that suburb that we wanted to look at, and we used to bring our kids along with us, so being organised helped. And last, getting my head around financial products. There are so many products out there – fixed and variable home loans, half fixed, half variables – and then there’s loan features like redraw and offset accounts. So getting to understand those was important.

Sang’s three first-home buying tips
  1. Plan your ideal home. Know what kind of home you’re looking for your family.
  2. Organise your inspection days. These can be very busy, so make a plan for the day.
  3. Understand your financial products. As best you can, get your head around all the options.

Important information
Any advice in this article does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs, and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you. This does not constitute tax advice. Please seek your own independent tax advice accordingly. Before making a decision in relation to our home loan products, you should read the Terms and Conditions booklet and Fees and Limits schedule, available at or by calling 133 464. All applications for credit are subject to ING’s credit approval criteria. Fees and charges apply. ING is a business name of ING Bank (Australia) Limited ABN 24 000 893 292, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 229823.

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