I became a homeowner at 23-years-old. This is the story of how I pulled it off, with no savings. (Seriously.)
How Becoming a Homeowner Even Became a Thought
I had recently graduated from UT Austin, moved to Denver, and been in a ‘real job’ for 9 months.
But I already wanted an out.
The apartment lease I got myself into that was waaaaay too expensive (at a boujee downtown apartment), making me live paycheck to paycheck. My job/workspace was also making me miserable.
I needed out of my job, so I needed out of my expensive apartment, too.
The work was fine, I was an IT Consultant and actually enjoyed programming, figuring out these problems and such… but I felt little respect in my workplace.
Granted, I was a newbie. I was the youngest person there by three years and straight out of college. I was the only one to not have worked at the headquarters in Dallas for a year before moving to a satellite branch, i.e. Denver. I was also the only other female there out of about 15 people.
From being undermined in meetings, micromanaged, and flat out treated differently than my peers, I just felt like gaining respect from my superiors was going to be an uphill battle. And frankly, I wanted nothing to do with it. (Guess you can blame being a millennial for my lack of settling with things that don’t make me happy!)
The corporate life just was not for me; My suits were always too big, I got blisters on my feet from my heels, and I always felt rushed when for lunch hour, to avoid the side-eye when I got back if I was a few minutes late. I would even nap in my car on lunch breaks because I was exhausted and had backaches. (I also definitely begged them for a couch, mind you.)
So, the first thing I had to do to get away from this job was get out of my money-sucking, ridiculous-rent apartment. I decided to look into other housing options thinking, “What is the CHEAPEST place I could possibly live in?”
Buying was cheaper than renting.
Well, in Denver, cheap rooms that aren’t in a shit-hole are hard to come by. But mortgage rates were low and mortgages were cheaper than rent, so I decided to look into homeownership (and if I could even qualify for anything). I had dated a realtor in the past, and we had actually planned on buying a whole duplex ourselves and renting out half. I basically kept that same idea, but with an open mind to the amount of space I could get and how I could rent it out or make money off the space.
To my surprise, I qualified for a mortgage after being in my job only 9 months. Being in a legit job on paper has its advantages in this category, and apparently I also qualified because of my technical degree (which I had no idea was even a thing).
Then, the hunt.
Beginning modestly, I put on offer in a tiny studio apartment that would cost a mere $600 a month (which cheap by Denver standards), had exposed brick walls and a little balcony too. I thought it was perfect, something small and manageable and I would have my own space. It was cute, charming, and had character, so I thought I could rent it out on the weekends and go up to the mountain or when I’m planning on going out of town.
Turns out there were 5 other offers on the table, and ultimately went to an all-cash buyer. And here I was planning on borrowing from my parents for whatever the minimum down would even be.
To my surprise, as I was hunting again I learned of a first-time homeowner grant, an NHF grant. The grant gave up to 5% of the home towards the down payment, and it was SO easy to qualify for! All I had to do was make under $90k in Denver county (uh, done..), take an online course for $99 on homeownership, and contribute a minimum of $1000 towards the home (i.e. inspections, closing fees, etc). THAT’S IT.
Insane, right? That’s cheaper than moving into a new apartment considering it is usually the first and last month’s rent with a deposit.
So, after that, I asked my broker what was the largest amount I could qualify for. If I could get a bigger house, I could rent out some rooms and potentially lower my portion of the mortgage even more. So, as soon as I went looking this time around, I found a gorgeous newly renovated home that had original exposed brick walls, three bedrooms, two baths, and a pretty decent sized backyard.
Before I even looked at the home, I put up an ad on craigslist for roommates. I wanted to see how much interest there was and around what price I could get. So I started on the high end of what I think I could get and posted photos of the property. Within a few days, I had quite a few responses, so I knew this could work out quite well. The demand for housing in Denver at the time made this a no-brainer.
A month later, I was a proud homeowner. I had a beautiful three-bedroom house to my name and two roommates paying most of the mortgage for me. I was able to get out of my job, and I sublet my apartment for the rest of my lease.
Since then, I put the master bedroom on Airbnb that pays twice as much as a roommate would. Becoming an Airbnb Superhost has provided a great source of passive income, and can run without me for longer periods of time.
If you yourself are now considering becoming a homeowner…
Contact a local realtor. If you’re in the Denver area, I recommend my good friend Mary Tulumovich as she is a MASTER of the real estate game. They can match you with a good brokerage, or you can your own research.
My advice? — USE YOUR RESOURCES! Research what is available to you in your area. Look online and by asking people who have made this their job/life to know these things!