Anabel from Cuba, on beating the odds to home ownership
Anabel shared how tough putting aside enough money each month towards a first home is, making it feel more and more out of reach. She longs for a more streamlined and accessible pathway.
By Yasmine Ganley
When Anabel and her husband arrived in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland in 2016 buying a home in Aotearoa was “nowhere in the plan.” Originally from Cuba, the pair moved due to a scholarship opportunity allowing Anabel to finish her PhD. However, seven years later, the couple holds permanent residency and is keen to purchase a home someday.
Now with permanent residency, Anabel has switched roles with her husband; while he completes his PhD she is working in a job tied to her sociology studies. Intending to start a family eventually, Anabel views homeownership as an essential foundation for family life. Yet the lack of government support in saving toward a deposit and changing house prices has made the buying process tricky. We spoke with Anabel to hear about her experience of looking at purchasing a home in Aotearoa and hear about what the stability of homeownership would mean for her.
There was a moment of reckoning when Anabel and her husband began looking at the housing market and they thought, “this is going to be a whole challenge.” Anabel describes one of the main issues they face is the changing goalposts of a shifting market, “it’s not a linear journey… it goes up and down and here and there.”
Anabel says after years of struggling to save a deposit due to rising costs of living, they’re proud of the savings accumulated and are pretty close to their goal. It’s been tough putting aside enough money each month to reach this goal, making home owning feel “more and more out of reach.”
Unable to establish a KiwiSaver for many years, Anabel and her husband ensured money wasn’t packed in the bank and instead invested in many conservative funds to save a decent deposit. As well as their investing, monthly budgeting and financial planning tools like Sorted NZ also helped create a bit of a nest egg.
Anabel describes their funds as being “pretty fragmented” and views having their investments consolidated in one place working toward equity would be a dream situation.
The couple has embedded discipline into their finances and adopted saving habits, knowing they’re without the family help and long-term KiwiSaver funds used by many Kiwis to enter the market. Anabel speaks of the lack of government help for immigrants buying in Aotearoa. She points out how counterintuitive this is for a country so reliant on skilled migrants and with such an open-door approach. She says it’s surprising how “the system doesn’t go where the policies go.”
Anabel mentions a homeownership model that could be an option, where residents deposit 5%, and the government co-owns the house until the remaining 15% is paid. This model could be helpful for the couple, although with only one salary, the couple has paused approaching a bank. Anabel states simply “we know that they’re going to say no.”
The Aera First Home Accelerator program seems another, more promising, alternative to the traditional saving-up-a-deposit approach. Annabel states the idea of owning a home from day one, with a deposit as low as 2.5% of the property value, is very appealing. The agreed price Aera provides would also be highly reassuring and remove the worry of house prices increasing out of control.
The additional support provided by Aera means the couple is keeping a keen eye on the program for when they’re reading to start their homeownership journey. Annabel states the model is “especially useful for first-time homebuyers” due to the guidance of the organisation, too.
Describing their rental in Mount Roskill as being well-suited to their life Annable says, “it's central, it's easy to get to work, you have a great environment, great neighbourhood, great kind of community around you.” Their private landlord lives downstairs and grants the couple lots of freedom with the space. As Anabel puts it, “we have a pretty dreamy renters situation.”
Although her past experience of shifting quickly from a beloved rental when the homeowner decided to sell, took an emotional toll. Anabel describes this event as a “grieving experience” and now feels as though the small things that make one feel at home like “becoming friends with neighbours…connecting with the community” can be taken away at any time.
Anabel tells us if homeownership were more accessible, their idea of starting a family would become more attainable. The dream is to secure a home where they can welcome family and raise children knowing there will be no shifting due to a landlord's decision. Anabel suggests organisations recognise the emotional importance of homeowning and take a human-centric approach to manage finances. Something streamlined, easier, and more accessible to the public.
Anabel states that for her buying isn’t so much of an investment but a crucial part of well-being and peace of mind. The couple aims to be able to reach retirement age and think, “no matter how bad this is, we're going to have a roof on our heads, and our family is going to have a place to be.”
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