Each fortnight, The Australian Financial Review chats to a recent home buyer about where they bought and why – and the practical details, such as the cost, whether they got what they wanted, and just how hard (or easy) the process was.
Meet Ben De Laroche. Tell us about yourself.
I am a 33-year-old policeman, who has been in the force for 13 years. Since starting work, I had amassed $300,000 in savings before moving into my recently purchased home. Before that, I was living with my mother in Penrith.
What did you initially want?
I started looking seriously for a house in Sydney’s inner west last year – somewhere where I could raise a family. But at the time it was just really hard to find a house I could afford despite having a fairly large down payment as a single borrower.
It’s just unfortunate that the past 10 years have had the highest house price gain in frickin’ history. The money I could actually borrow was not enough to get me a house close to where I work (in the inner west). This is despite being a textbook saver, not doing anything silly – I don’t smoke or drink.
What was the process like?
At that point, I realised I was going to have to go further west or get a shoebox kind of apartment.
But then my girlfriend, Maighan, who was studying an MBA degree at the time, told me about a non-profit organisation called Hope Housing that helps essential-service workers buy housing closer to where they work.
So I reached out to Hope last year – they weren’t set up yet but added me to their mailing list. Then earlier this year, they reached out and said they were happy to pay for half of my home.
On paper, I still own the house fully even though they pay for half of my repayments. But there’s a lien on the house that triggers when I sell the house where I would owe an amount that is 50 per cent of the house. If I never sell the house, I don’t have to pay them back.
My understanding is they want the capital gains from the property with none of the risk from renting it to people. They instead have someone taking care of the house who is interested in maintaining it.
And since it’s only for people who are police officers or nurses, they’re decent people. (Hope has an advisory board consisting of Pacific Equity Partner managing directors Tim Sims and Sam Kong, former First State Super chief executive Michael Dwyer, and former Cromwell boss Philip Levinson, among others.)
I honestly thought it was going to be a scam. It just seemed too good to be true as they offered to pay for half the house and did not require any money from me nor any input in the process. But it really was true, and I bought my first home.
What did you end up buying (and how)?
I ended up getting a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Petersham for $1.6 million three months ago. Maighan has since moved in too.
One of the bedrooms and bathrooms are quite disconnected, so it’s almost like a granny flat. I really love that because it means if my partner and me one day start having kids, the parents can come over and be in the separated granny flat area.
That’s great as we can have our parents help us out but also have some privacy, which is amazing in Petersham.
It was completely outside the scope of what I could look at without help – otherwise I would have bought a two bedroom apartment.
Give us a snapshot of the market?
It is ridiculous because prices are still going upwards. Last December, house prices started going down slightly through to about May and, luckily, I bought in June.
So it was right after that dip as prices were getting back up.
But since June, house prices have gone up about 10 per cent, so I was lucky in that regard. It just shows that there was no real reprieve, which means that people who aren’t rich can’t actually get a chance to buy a house somewhere convenient.
Article originally published in the Australian Financial Review– Thursday 21 September 2023. Photo: Oscar Colman.