BUYING A HOUSE AT 21
Woman turns tables on housing crisis by good savings - and KiwiSaver.
We’ve always been sensible with money, don’t smoke or drink or need any of the flash things. -AbigailPicott
At 21 – and with just four years of working life behind her – Abigail Picott has thumbed her nose at the so-called housing crisis by buying her first home. “I left school at 17 and started full-time work in retail management,” she says. “I haven’t studied but have been very careful with money and now have a family home.”
Picott - who uses ASB as her KiwiSaver provider - is one of over 30,000 people helped into their first home using KiwiSaver savings in the year to the end of March.
She firmly believes it is time to change her generation’s mind- set from ‘ I want, I will have’ and be prepared to put in the hard yards to get what they want.
Picott, who now works as a concierge, has purchased a home in Upper Hutt near Wellington together with her partner Sheridan Cullen. The pair came up with a deposit of over $40,000 - withdrawing a combined $26,000 from their KiwiSaver accounts - for the $430,000 property.
They move in on October 28, and Picott says it would not have been possible without the contribution through KiwiSaver.
“I have been in KiwiSaver for four years and Sheridan three, and we were able to withdraw the $26,000 between us to go towards the deposit; there is no way we could have bought the house without it.
Picott, who is English, moved to New Zealand with her parents when aged 12: “They came here to give me more opportunities; New Zealand is the about the same size as the UK, but with a population of less than five million compared to 65 million, the opportunities are very different and it has turned out to be a smart decision.”
Picott says she and Cullen - he is a builder with a six-year-old son - have always put extra money aside for a house.
“He is a natural saver and has been a fantastic influence on me,” she says. “We’ve always been sensible with money, don’t smoke or drink or need any of the flash things; I have no other loans other than the mortgage, don’t use credit cards and we live within our means.”
Picott says the couple had amassed $11,000 in personal savings but it was their KiwiSaver savings that made the difference.
“Initially I was contributing three per cent but increased it to eight per cent for about a year. I’ll go back to contributing three per cent now and start saving for retirement,” she says.
“When I first joined I was unaware of what it was,” she says. “But the ASB were very helpful and took me through all the ins and out of the scheme. I would recommend anyone to go and talk to their provider and get them to show how they can reach their goals.”
Picott says they were not actively looking for a property; “we were sort of window-shopping but as soon as we saw it we decided we wanted it – I got quite emotionally attached very quickly.”
Aidan Vince, ASB Bank’s head of KiwiSaver and Outbound Advisory, says Picott has obviously latched on to the power of KiwiSaver.
“Although it was built for people to save for retirement, early withdrawal to buy a first home is also one of the key advantages,” he says. “KiwiSaver has helped around 24,000 ASB customers buy their first home and I think it is safe to say this dream would have been further away for many of them without the benefits it provides.
He says people can use money for their first home if they have been a KiwiSaver member for at least three years, although are required to leave a balance of $1,000 after withdrawal.
Vince says it is important people continue with KiwiSaver once into their home: “There is this temptation to stop paying in because now they have this big scary mortgage they think they can no longer afford the contributions.
“Depending on your employment contract this could effectively be giving yourself a pay cut because you lose your employer contribution as well. Although in your 20s and 30s retirement may seem a long way off, none of us are bullet proof and the day will come when it becomes a reality.”
Vince says regardless of your provider, there are a few key things anyone saving for a first home should do with KiwiSaver.
“Check what fund type you are in as less growth-focused funds are important as you are getting ready to withdraw,” he says. “This ensures fewer ups and downs in your balance.
“But I would also recommend shifting back to a growth focus after you buy as your investment horizon will now be longer; and advise looking at your contribution – before and after you buy – as every little bit helps.”