We entered the Auckland property market by first buying in the regions

When Sophie Mills and her partner became hardcore at their home in Bayview, Auckland, late last year, she immediately started looking for puppies to adopt.

And within three weeks of moving last December, Labrador cross puppy Zoe had joined the family.

Being able to have a dog was a huge driver for Mills, and her partner Christopher Mills, in buying their own home.

They came to live in their own home by a circuitous route: three years earlier, Sophie bought a rental property in her home town of Napier. (At the time, she thought her partner couldn’t shop with her because he was a recent immigrant.)

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The pair work in Auckland – Sophie says as a research chemist that’s where she needs to be – but had thought they were price out of the market there.

So, in 2018, Sophie paid $550,000 for the three-bedroom, 180m² house. She had to borrow, especially from her parents, to make the 40% down payment needed for a rental property.

“We borrowed a quarter of what we needed from my parents and paid them back in a year and a half, just under $60,000.

The Napier house that Sophie Mills bought as a rental to enter the real estate market.

Provided

The Napier house that Sophie Mills bought as a rental to enter the real estate market.

“If we had waited these 18 months to save (this amount), we would have struggled with the way property prices have risen.”

She says her mum, a real estate agent, was a big help, as was their NZHL adviser, Dave Reay.

“Mom found us a good, solid home,” Sophie says. “And then (Reay) had the patience of a saint for a new homebuyer who had never done this before. I have absolutely no idea. He would take as long as necessary.

Sophie Mills and Christopher Mills purchased this home in Bayview, Auckland, using Sophie's Napier rental equity.

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Sophie Mills and Christopher Mills purchased this home in Bayview, Auckland, using Sophie’s Napier rental equity.

Last year, they discovered they could borrow $1 million, using the equity in the Napier home, which had grown significantly.

“We couldn’t have done this without Napier House. It has almost doubled in value since we bought it.

The couple, who had been renting in St Heliers for two years (paying $585 a week for a two-bedroom unit) thought they should get a ‘full superior’, but instead ‘somehow another, managed to secure a four-bedroom at Bayview’ for $1.185 million.

Sophie, 31, says it’s amazing to have her own home. “It’s so nice to be able to do whatever you want from home. We would like to develop the terrace, make the garden much more pleasant. But the house itself we are quite satisfied.

She says they like the idea that their payments are now “money that goes back into your own pocket rather than someone else’s”.

Sophie Mills and her partner Christopher Mills love knowing that their house payments go back into their own pockets.

Provided

Sophie Mills and her partner Christopher Mills love knowing that their house payments go back into their own pockets.

Her commute to work takes just 10 minutes, as her new job – which helps her pay off Auckland’s roughly $6,000-a-month loan – is also on the North Bank.

Christopher’s sister and family live “just down the street.”

The rent in Napier “just” covers the mortgage repayments there, and the couple see it as a safety net.

“We try to stick to it if we can,” says Sophie. “It’s a good solid house, thanks to my mother’s advice. It works and it pays for itself. »

She says others could do as they have, using a home in the provinces as a “stepping stone”, although having to find a larger deposit for an investment property makes it difficult.

She and Christopher, who works for a windshield repair company, have to watch their spending, but are “well practiced” at it, as they repaid Sophie’s parents so quickly at $500 a week.

“It’s not that there was pressure to pay them,” Sophie says. “But I didn’t want to be beholden to them out of respect.”

Budgeting comes naturally to Sophie, and she doesn’t find it very difficult to give up things to pay off loans.

“We don’t make completely life-altering sacrifices (to pay the payments). But we avoided going to lunch every day,” she says.

Andy MacDonald / Stuff

It was their first home and a dream come true. Then their backyard started to disappear.

“If friends want to go to brunch every Sunday, we go once a month instead of every week. We do not buy coffee. We got a coffee machine instead. It saves time.

“Our biggest sacrifice is not going on holiday every year, but Covid has imposed it anyway. We always go on summer camping with friends. We’re still doing stuff, but not high end, Thailand or whatever.

“Worth it for us.”

As for Zoe, now nine months old, Sophie says having a dog is “awesome”.

“I love how goofy she is and how much she makes people laugh. But also I go out more and walk around with her, even just in the local reserves. She’s been really good to me.

Penny D. Jackson