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A Home of Their Own

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by Nadia Laws

U.S. figures show that more young people are delaying homeownership. RG Mags spoke to two young Bermudians on their decision to rent or own – neither has regrets.

Hoping to plan wisely for the future, Chelsea Robinson bought her first home on her 28th birthday, choosing a property she could “grow into” and possibly pass down to her children. According to recent stats, Ms Robinson is actually the exception, not the rule. The latest Urban Institute study showed that only 37 percent of people ages 25 to 34 (aka Millennials) owned homes as of the end of 2015. “My decision to purchase a house was solely based on my financial situation,” Ms Robinson explained. “I had some savings from working, plus help from my mom, and decided it was time to purchase a house. It was an easy decision. A very stressful process, but equally as rewarding.”

Being able to pay money each month towards something that’s her own is one of the biggest perks to homeownership. Not having to answer to a landlord and the freedom to decorate at her choosing were two other benefits. “One of the biggest downsides has been having to take sole responsibility when things are broken or need attention,” she said. “There’s always something that needs doing. Also, owning a house has impacted my ability to travel, mostly because I have sunk all my savings into it. I’m still able to take trips, just not as often or on such short notice as before. I have to be smarter about my trips and plan further ahead, but it’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make to secure my future.”

Panzy Olander, on the flip side, is an avid renter. She moved out of her parents’ home after getting her first real job and has been renting ever since. “My parents live in St David’s, which is a ways from town. They were ready to use my bedroom for something else, and I didn’t want to be a burden on them anymore.” Ms Olander admits she loves the freedom of coming and going as she pleases, as well as having friends over to entertain. Still, it can get very expensive to rent. “I’ve moved four times in the space of two years, either because my landlord wasn’t good or because I rented a hole in the wall for $1,600 dollars and it wasn’t worth it. Between rent, electricity, phone and gas, I spend a big chunk of my paycheque, but I just love having my own space. That’s the biggest reward.”

Ms Robinson, as a first-timer, said there were several unexpected issues that came up during the home buying process, including expenses she hadn’t prepared for. She reminds young people that whatever you think your home is going to cost “expect another $25k to $30k on top of that”. “Take things in your stride, it’s a long process, so patience is key,” she advised. “Also, pick a property you can grow into, not just one that suits you for the moment.”

She admits there was no greater feeling than the one she got when turning the key to her new home for the first time. “In the end, it was all worth it. I’m very happy I made the choice I did, as for me, life is about balance. Now, I’m able to think and plan for the long term, but still, enjoy vacations and travel in the short term too.”

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