Never too old to buy a home

When one thinks of a ‘first homebuyer’, they typically assume that the person is young. But that’s not always the case, as Mortgage Choice Parkside owner and broker Belinda Sugars knows well.

She’s started seeing more 40-and 50-year-old first homebuyers engage her services. In one such case, the client, a 54-year-old woman, didn’t realise that she was in a position to qualify for a loan. She’d been renting her entire life, yet had enough savings to buy a property in the outer suburbs of Adelaide. She was also eligible for the first homebuyer’s grant through the South Australian government.

Sugars looked at her circumstances, reviewed her income and expenses, and after a long conversation, they worked out that the client could afford it. The mortgage repayments would actually be similar to the rent she was paying.

Helping this woman get into her own home at 54 was one of those “lightbulb moments” for Sugars, where she realised that she can and does have a positive influence on people’s lives. It broadened her outlook on the scope of people she can help and gave her more confidence about the value she provides her clients.

“You just go, ‘Wow that’s really satisfying to get someone into their own home that didn’t think they could’,” she told MPA. “It’s so much more than just finance.”

It also marked the beginning of her helping older first homebuyers. She’s since helped a handful of others, including a 53-year-old and a 51-year-old married couple who will soon settle into a brand new home.

They became clients five years ago, but didn’t have enough to buy a home at the time. Sugars educated them about budgeting and saving so they could get their finances in order.

“This was five years in the making to get their savings up and to keep in touch and say, ‘You can do this’. And they settle in 14 days’ time,” she said.

In the process of helping older first home buyers, she’s learned that no matter what age, everyone needs careful guidance.

“Just because they’re 55 doesn’t mean they know more than a 21-year-old in regards to the process and what’s involved, so they need proper guidance and lots of care,” she said. “With anyone coming in for the first time, you are seen as the expert. You are like a mentor to them.”

Brokers also need to be mindful of their clients’ exit strategies. If they’re older, the term of the loan will probably be shorter than usual. The strategy needs to be carefully worked out to take into account how many more years they plan to work and what their career trajectory is, what their superannuation and retirement plan looks like, and how much extra they might want to contribute to their mortgage per month.

“Give them the time, be very patient with all their questions, and they’ll come back ten-fold with their friends. And the older ones generally have children, so the children will be referred back. It’s a real opportunity to help every age group,” she said.

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