Suzanne Holohan bought her first apartment in Sydney's inner west after saving for years. Picture: realestate.com.au
Suzanne Holohan bought her first apartment in Sydney's inner west after saving for years. Picture: realestate.com.au

‘Old-school’ hack behind $600k home

Sydney woman Suzanne Holohan was "on the cusp" of buying her first home when a life-changing decision threw a spanner in the works.

At the time, Ms Holohan was earning a six-figure salary in a corporate job in the banking industry, but while she enjoyed her role, it "just didn't feel right".

Fast-forward six years, and the 48-year-old now has a fulfilling role at a not-for-profit organisation - but with it came a big pay cut, which meant her dreams of home ownership were put on hold.

Welcome to News.com.au’s regular first homebuyers column, Foot in the Door. Picture: Supplied
Welcome to News.com.au’s regular first homebuyers column, Foot in the Door. Picture: Supplied

"I was on the cusp of buying six years ago with a banking wage and lifestyle, but I knew if I had bought then, I would have potentially been trapped in that sector and role when I was ready to move on," she told news.com.au.

"Buying a home got postponed while I had that massive career change, and in some ways it was quite stressful because I'm on the other end (of the first homebuyer spectrum) at 48.

"About three or four years ago I went through a stage where I started to burn through my savings, but then I decided to recommit."

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For three years, Ms Holohan started saving "seriously" for a deposit and found a few key strategies made the process easy - and even "fun".

One of the biggest game changers was going back to "old school cash" instead of handing over a credit card "like a zombie".

Ms Holohan, who now earns less than $100,000, said keeping her card at home - and only spending the cash she had in her wallet on nights out - had helped break the "habit of impulsive buying".

Suzanne Holohan says ditching credit cards for cash helped her save a deposit. Picture: realestate.com.au
Suzanne Holohan says ditching credit cards for cash helped her save a deposit. Picture: realestate.com.au

She also helped control her love of shopping by embracing popular minimalist fashion challenge Project 333, which involves building a "capsule wardrobe" by dressing with just 33 wardrobe pieces for three months at a time.

"It was almost like a fun game to play, but it also made me realise how much wastage goes on," she said.

She also set up a direct debit system that automatically put aside money into her savings account every fortnight and any windfalls - like tax refunds - into her deposit.

Embracing the ‘minimalist fashion’ movement was another key strategy. Picture: realestate.com.au
Embracing the ‘minimalist fashion’ movement was another key strategy. Picture: realestate.com.au

Finally, she changed her mindset and stopped thinking of food as entertainment, ditching nights out at trendy, pricey restaurants for gigs at her local pub and entertaining friends at home.

She managed to save a 17 per cent deposit - and when the right home hit the market recently, she was able to snap it up.

She's now the proud owner of a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Lewisham in Sydney's inner west, which she bought for just over $600,000.

She said the challenge of adjusting to her new income and saving hadn't been as tough as she expected.

"It became kind of fun - I got a momentum going after I met my first target, but I wasn't saintly - every time I hit $5000 I went and bought something frivolous," she said.

"Initially, I never told people I was saving - that was what I struggled with, other people's opinions - but I got clever with declining invitations."

Sydney woman Suzanne Holohan has finally bought her first home — despite taking a pay cut.
Sydney woman Suzanne Holohan has finally bought her first home — despite taking a pay cut.

Ms Holohan said being an older first homebuyer was intimidating, and she urged those in a similar situation to find a mortgage broker they trusted who made them feel comfortable without judgment.

She opted for Pure Finance managing director Brendan Dixon and said he had helped guide her through the process without stress.

Ms Holohan also encouraged other wannabe first homebuyers to "ignore the noise" and misinformation about the market and the mortgage industry and to remember it was possible to enter the market at any age, no matter your circumstances.

Have you recently bought your first home, or are you about to buy? Email alexis.carey@news.com.au and share your story.


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