40, Single and Buying a house
For women internationally, this has become a trend but I’m not sure how much of a trend it is here in the Bahamas. Usually, buying a home is stereotyped as a couples’ or family goal. I believe I would be considered as a latecomer in the market, but the goal for me always remained - individual homeownership.
It began in fall 2017 as I returned home from living abroad - and, by the way, I must mention with no savings. I devised a plan prior to returning home that my goal would be to acquire a job that paid me well, built my skills, and that could afford me my home. The road was not easy as I also was completing my Master’s Degree internationally. But, it happened by me doing these simple things:
Find a job that would pay me for my skills
Honestly, my thought on this is actually entrepreneurship. But, with no savings, I had to resort to living with my family with a 9 to 5 job to support my short-term goal (a house within two years!). I found that job and was able to ask for my salary; although there were ups and downs during and after that process. Nevertheless, I was able to save more than one year’s salary within the two years.
Budget and Know Your Priorities
By the time you are 40 hopefully school loans will no longer exist and you would have already built a portfolio of contacts surrounding your career. Whether you obtain a job with great pay or not, if your plan is to accomplish big goals, you must save and watch what you spend.
I knew what I wanted and it required discipline. Namely, discipline to spend minimally in my personal and professional life. Saving 40%, sometimes more of my salary was key at the age of 37 because my goal was short term. Here are some tips: Make your lunch. If you buy food make sure that it is enough for two meals. That outfit or that happy hour - trust me, you won’t care much about appearances once you know your priorities. I am a fashionista, however, if it wasn't on clearance or if I wasn't invited to a function during this time I didn't buy it or go to it.
Do Your Research
I know that I am a businesswoman and now a real estate agent, nevertheless, as cliched as it may sound, I encourage you to find a professional to help you with your search. On one occasion, I was permitted access to a repossessed listing that an agent was privy to first. As a result, I found my first investment. The agent also ensured that I was able to see the place prior to bid and place a bid almost as soon as it was available on the market. My preferences did not make for an easy find. On the contrary: something in the western area, a townhome or condo with low maintenance fees and sold at half the amount I was approved for was of KEY importance! (NB: Know that as a first-time home buyer you are entitled to benefits which include stamp duty exemptions. Usually, your lawyer will deal with this, but be certain that you receive this information and understand it.)
Don’t be afraid to renovate
I watched many fixer-upper shows and subscribed to a favorite (-the Houzz website-) for design inspiration. Although none of this will prepare you for the real thing, I did my research. Also through my contacts, I had an acclaimed project manager who assisted me and assured me that all of the individual contractors that worked on my project were reputable professionals. We did ‘butt heads’ frequently as my design choices were often larger than I could afford, but our compromise was always on point for my look and budget.
Things do go wrong. Of course, the pandemic occurred; but fortunately, construction workers were still allowed to work. Also, I took advantage of what was going on as the majority of my materials were purchased overseas. Many were not traveling and I was able to negotiate cheaper rates on goods bought and for shipping. (NB: My project manager also was shipping for projects, so I coordinated with him to complete some of his other projects shopping for him for combined shipping of items-resulting in cheaper rates!) I also paid the contractors and their workers by the day; my project manager helped me negotiate costs. I know that this won’t be possible for everyone but I realized the key to obtaining what I wanted was to remain positive, always ask questions, and be prepared if everything does not happen according to plan.
Here’s a look at some of my before and after photos to see what was done.