The thought of buying a home is daunting and completely overwhelming. It is something that we are often told creates the best investment and is a necessary step in our efforts to improve our financial futures.
Oftentimes home ownership seems completely out of reach and the idea of the responsibility that comes with it is scary. I already did the whole “financially responsible” thing back in my late twenties when I lived in the UK. I bought my first home aged 27 with my ex-husband through the generous help of my in-laws. I guess I was lucky. I had a decent job, a retirement fund and was working on building a sound financial foundation with my then-spouse.
The home we bought at the end of the housing crash in 2013 created a good profit for us when we sold it three years later following our decision to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona.
The equity funded our relocation in January 2017 and, if everything had gone as planned, we would have had enough money left for a healthy down payment on a new home here. My financial security was destroyed when my marriage ended, and soon enough I was facing a whole new reality.
Dealing with the chaos of divorce led me to make some questionable life choices, namely signing a 13-month lease on a one bedroom apartment with a rent of $1300 a month. I hadn’t quite got my head around the reality of a single-person income working as a case manager in the non-profit sector didn’t provide me with the healthiest of income sources.
I was spending over half of my income on rent and racking up student loan debt to pay my bills and expenses. My previously sensible money management skills went out of the window for a short while. My share of the equity from the home we had owned in the UK was soon gone.
It wasn't until the day I checked my bank balance to see my total worth of $0.43 that I got the reality check I needed. I tried to come out of my lease, but would have been charged $2500 to do so. It didn’t make sense. So I sucked it up and made a vow to become financially smart in 2019.
Divorce rocked my world and gave me the fire in my heart to forge my financial future independently. I learnt the hard way that I was part of the statistic of 56% of married women leaving major investing and financial planning decisions to their spouses.
On the flip side, I became part of the statistic of the 91% of women who see divorce as an opportunity to focus on their career and take better control of their finances (Financial Fresh Start study, 2018). I made goals to increase income, start saving again for retirement and buy a home. This meant taking some hard steps backwards in the hope of rocketing forward.
I left my one bedroom apartment at the end of my lease and moved into a room share situation, reducing my rent by over a half. It is becoming a reality of my generation of single person households for co-living to be the norm. High rents make saving and investment almost impossible otherwise.
According to a study by Trulia in 2017, millennials are most affected by increasing housing costs, with more than 20% living with roommates and an astonishing 60% living with either roommates or families.
My career focus paid off and with an increase in income from a new position plus the savings in my budget from the lower rent, I was able to start 2019 by moving forward towards my financial goals.
Communicating my confusion about home buying opportunities, a co-worker suggested I contacted Trellis, a non-profit organization that provides home ownership counseling and financial access to individuals and families wanting to purchase a home.
I set up an account online and called to speak to Gloria; a client services representative. I explained my situation and that I am starting to rebuild my financial stability from scratch. I told Gloria that I struggle to understand the home buying process here in the US and how it seems an impossible task to save the funds needed for a down payment.
Gloria was comforting and explained I will be assigned a housing counsellor who will go through the process with me, talk through my budget, help me to improve my credit and see what financial assistance I may qualify for, all at zero cost. Gloria explained Trellis is a one stop shop of home buying counseling, lending, realtor and financial assistance resources.
Knowing I have the option of working with a counsellor to help me navigate this daunting process is reassuring.
I am at the initial stages of the process with Trellis, working on uploading all of my financial documentation needed for my counsellor to start working with me. I’m excited to be able to share my journey on how Trellis may help me to meet my home purchasing goals. If I can get there, I will feel proud to be embracing the opportunities available to me and continuing my journey towards financial independence.