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A first-time homeowner’s journey to living the dream

5Eight years ago, Steven* did not own a home. His dreams were valid though. He planned and pursued his dream and last year, he moved his family into a new neighbourhood – to his own house.

What’s more, the home was acquired outright. In his words, the homeownership journey is treacherous – at one point you are sure, and in another moment the dream seems to slip through.

Steven is a graphic designer. He allowed us a peep into his experience as a first-time homeowner, which he hopes will encourage many tenants to aspire to own homes. In his journey, he that had to take a detour to learn about a few other investment options besides real estate.

So, does one need to have the knowhow before embarking on the homeownership journey? Steven says “no”. All you need is the idea and the will to find ways to actualise it.

“I thought of owning a home way back; eight years ago. But, it was just a wish. I did not have the know how of the process,” he says.

A lot younger then, he couldn’t quite visualise what kind of house he would settle on, or the location. The sure thing was, he says, he was tired of constant upward rent reviews for his two-bedroom unit.

“I did not lose my dream even as years went by. It took about eight years, but the real hard work took about four years,” says Steven.

When he was about to start a family five years ago, he had decided exactly what he wanted in a home. Planning beforehand helped.

Having settled on the specifications of the house, Steven had to choose whether to take the self-build route – buying land and building later, or acquiring a finished home.

“With the nature of my job, I felt I did not have time to follow up with construction works and most importantly, getting a piece of land in the best location – for such would be very expensive to acquire,” he says.

“The first step I took was to research a lot on homeownership; what’s in the market and locations that could interest me. I read a lot of property stories and visited construction sites.”

When he married three years ago, the quest was more urgent and the couple visited many homes expos and tens of construction sites. It was like a ritual, according to Steven.

“I must say that I got a lot of support from my wife in realising this dream,” he says.

His wife fit into his plans and the couple decided they would buy a house outright. They therefore had to accumulate cash faster to see their dream come true.

Steven already had a property, which he would later sell to meet half of the house price. The other half came from the stock market – you heard right; trading in stocks. A professional stockbroker guided them to ride the waves at the securities exchange.

“We invested a lot in the stock market; buying and selling shares. We did not keep our savings in the bank, investing accumulated more,” he says.

The couple had decided to buy a three-bedroom house priced at between Sh6 million and Sh8 million.

At times though, the quest for homeownership seemed out of reach, particularly when their stock investments were not thriving.

“There was a time the stock market was not doing very well as we had hoped, since that was one source of our funding. Finding someone to buy the first property was also quite a challenge too,” Steven says.

Their stockbroker advised them to invest more when the stock market seemed bearish. They would then sell the stocks when on the upside, and eventually top up the gains with sales of piece of land.

Steven’s research had informed him of the different payments they would need to make – including the purchase price and various closing costs. So, the couple was quite particular when marshalling finances.

Nonetheless, having the money at hand would make them spoilt for choice. Largely though, this tilted the odds into their favour.

“Definitely we were spoilt for choice. The thing that did not qualify most houses was the environment, security of the surrounding areas and general convenience,” says Steven.

“Having ready cash really does change the whole game in the favour of the buyer. Not many homebuyers are able to do this, but if you can, you save a lot of money and the burden of paying for the house for 20 years of your life.”

Last year, the couple identified a suitable house in a convenient neighbourhood on Thika Road. Steven says their new home met the budget range, it is close to the highway and security is tight, hence why they settled on the one.

“What impressed us most about the house is that the rooms are spacious. There’s lots of parking space too, and the apartment blocks are adequately spaced, something you don’t find in many developments these days.”

Their three-bedroom house a laundry area and the master bedroom is ensuite. Steven says the only thing he pays for today are the collective services such as security and gardening – which are incomparable to monthly rent.

*The homeowner requested anonymity hence his real name has been substituted.

Eight tips for aspiring homeowners

Buying a home is never easy. However, here are a few tips from Steven’s experience:

1.Dream and work towards it
2.Choose the kind of a house you wish to own
3.Based on your funding sources, decide whether to build or buy
4.Research thoroughly on good locations, security, amenities, conveniences and availability of land or houses
5.It helps to talk to homeowners who have gone down the path you are taking; whether self-build or outright purchase
6.Save and find other means to increase your funds
7.Be open-minded and visit as many locations and construction sites to help you make a richly informed choice
8.Be a go-getter and focus on achieving your dream; you will

 

-The Star

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