Your first home is one you will never forget and making the purchase and leap into home ownership is undoubtedly one of life’s biggest milestones.
For the next instalment in P&N Bank's My First Home series, we caught up with the CEO of one of our community partners Lifeline WA, Lorna MacGregor, to hear all about her first home purchase. For Lorna, this home became much more than just a milestone and, although she has since moved, memories of her first home remain a significant part of her life.
Beyond just an investment or a house to live in, it was the home she loved and renovated for 24 years.
Hi Lorna, tell us about buying your first home - when did you make the move?
I bought my first home around 1990, as a newly married couple. This was the case for a lot of people back then – you thought about buying a house once you were married.
How did you find ‘the one’?
When we started looking, we had just come out of a time of very high interest rates so, in deciding how much to spend, we didn’t look at what we could afford then and there – we considered what would we could afford if rates ever got to that level again.
We remembered 18% rates all too well so we set ourselves a very tight budget of $100K.
We saw some horrible houses for that! We also found ourselves in competition with developers. We wanted a bit of land around us and to live not too far from the city. At this time, property developers were looking as well, wanting to subdivide. We quickly became despondent.
My husband at the time then suggested we look around the Lathlain area where he had grown up. That’s when we found ‘the one’ in St James with big art deco windows. It wasn’t until afterwards that we realised that it only had one bedroom!
Did your first home have any special features or characteristics you remember?
It had this giant art deco round verandah at the front which made a really big statement. The front doors had flamingos on them - which I actually kept! There was a lot of flamingo glass throughout the place, but we didn’t keep it all – there really are only so many flamingos you can have in your home!
It had all the original features from when it was built around 1939. Yellow lino, an original electric stove… we made do with the original kitchen for a while.
We ended up investing heavily in renovating the house and building it into exactly what we wanted.
Over time, in making it ours, we added some really unique features with special memories attached to them. For example, in the backyard there was a waterfall created by my brother and we had wallpaper inside hung by my dad.
I had a cathedral ceiling in my bedroom and one day I remember coming home and thinking ‘someone has been in my house’. To my surprise, there was a gorgeous chandelier hanging in the room, which my brother and sister-in-law had bought and installed.
Lots of memories throughout the house.
What was your favourite thing about the house?
I love, love, LOVED that house. From the big garden to the great neighbours, it was a really special place to live.
It was such a warm and mixed street, there was the lady across the road who had been there for decades, a neighbour who had lived there as a child and moved back, also a real mix of tradies, working mothers, stay at home mums. Many of us were in our first homes and renovating so we had a lot to talk about and liked seeing the changes everyone was making. I am still friends with these neighbours to this day. You could never quite replicate that street.
Did you enjoy renovating?
Renovating was a chance to be able to create the house we wanted but it was a long process – it took a full 24 years to realise the vision.
I remember watching the Barcelona Olympics in the bedroom as we were renovating the lounge and kitchen at the time. We were living on those microwave dinners and our bedroom was used for eating, relaxing and sleeping.
Do you still have the house?
I actually didn’t move out until 2015 so I lived there for over 24 years! Although my then-husband and I ended up separating in 2005, I bought out the house myself and continued to renovate it.
By chance, I actually know the person who has it now – someone from my swim squad ended up buying it. I have even been back to it, just the once, although it is a strange feeling to see the changes people make to the home you created.
Was it hard to part with?
It was really, really hard to put it up for sale but this was based on a decision with my current partner to move in together. We now have a beautiful house in Maylands, but you could never have another home or street like that one.
The move was even an adjustment for my cat, who had always lived there and loved visiting the neighbours!
Was there anything about the house that you didn’t like?
I really did love everything about it.
Although, in taking 24 years to finish it, it meant I was always focused on what needed to be done rather than what had been achieved.
Looking back now, how do you think that moment – buying your first home – changed your life?
I probably didn’t realise at the time, being relatively young, just how MUCH a home meant to me until I had a home of my own.
Perhaps to some people, homes are just houses and stepping stones to something else. To me, this was my home. Owning my own place was almost an extension of me, not just a place to sleep. I really evolved from my 20s to my 50s, while living in and designing that house.
Renovating was life changing too; designing the house around my lifestyle and the way I live. For example, I would say that renovating the kitchen changed my life. I didn’t realise how much I actually liked cooking until I made the kitchen that I liked to cook in. Previously limited to my 1930s or 40s cooker, I am now a two-oven person and have found a love of cooking.
How did you find the home buying process?
Having a sister-in-law who was in banking, I was very fortunate to have her help. For us, the process wasn’t difficult at all. Even the process of getting loans to extend and renovate weren’t difficult either. Saying that, I would say I am a very conservative buyer and investor and can be very cagey about debt.
While I am really enjoying this era of low interest, I will always remember the period of 18% rates and the adverse impact this had on many people so would never stretch finances beyond my means.
What would you say to someone thinking of buying their first home right now?
It is such a different time now, perhaps any advice I would give would be irrelevant!
One thing I would say is to buy what you can afford – it is important to know that interest rates won’t always be this low so make sure you are able to afford it now and in the future.
By buying what you can afford, you can also still maintain your lifestyle and still enjoy life.
Are you thinking about getting into your first home but aren’t sure where to start? Click here to find out more.
As one of P&N's community partners, Lifeline WA strives to improve the lives of West Australians on a daily basis. To find out more about what they do and how you can support them, visit lifelinewa.org.au.
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