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New York is not a cheap city. It’s probably the most expensive city (between San Francisco) in the country. But I wanted to own a piece of the Big Apple, even if that piece is only 350 square feet of living space. Many people have asked me how I was able to purchase an apartment in the most expensive city at the age of 24. And no, my parents did not buy it for me.
Before I bought my first apartment, I was already renting a studio apartment in downtown Manhattan. The only reason why I decided to pay rent was because this was right after 9/11 and nobody wanted to live near ground zero.
But there was this amazing offer to entice new residents to move into the neighborhood. The city was offering to give you back 30% on your rent. This was unheard of at the time and I jumped on the opportunity.
So I got a pretty nice studio, about 600 feet with a lot of closets in a doorman building for $1500/month minus the 30% rebate so I was paying only $1050 a month! It was a steal to be living in Manhattan at this price, especially without needing any roommates to help pay the rent.
However, the 30% rebate would end after two years and rent usually goes up every year as well. So I knew I couldn’t stay there for long. I decided I needed to buy my own place once the rebate ended. I first had to determine how much house I could afford. I was making around $60K/year at the time so I figured a house costing around 200K would be adequate which means I needed to have at least $40,000 for the down payment.
I already had about $30K in savings since I lived at home before moving into Manhattan. I saved every penny I made and I had no debt. Now If I did not have this amount already saved up, there would be no way I would have the down payment before the 2 year rebate period ended.
So what did I do to save the remaining $10K? I worked and saved my a** off is what I did. I even took a second job working at local bars at night to earn and save more money. After two years I had saved more than $10K and bought my first apartment in Manhattan for $215K.
If you are interested in purchasing your first home, you will first need to determine how much you can afford. This is a good calculator to use for determining that number https://www.nerdwallet.com/mortgages/how-much-house-can-i-afford
The best way to save for a down payment on your first home is to live somewhere for free for a while. In my case it was my parents’ house. While I was living with them, I saved every penny I could muster which allowed me to have a huge chunk of my down payment amount.
If you don’t have the luxury or privilege of living free with your folks, then move into a very affordable and temporary place like I did. The cheaper it is, the more money you can save for your down payment.
If you do find a place that is rent controlled and you love it, by all means stay in it for as long as you can. My colleague lives in a rent stabilized apartment in Manhattan that has been passed down to him from his family. It’s like winning the lotto to have a set up like that. If I was in that situation, I probably would not even bother purchasing a home and stay in that apartment for the rest of my life. Home ownership is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Read this article for my take on that.
I was fortunate enough to not have any student loans or credit card debts before purchasing my first apartment. Not having this burden definitely helped me in saving for my down payment.
If I did have these debts, I probably would not even attempt buying a home until these were all paid off first. I don’t think most people would enjoy their new home by taking on even more debt by adding a huge mortgage.
So there you have it, the stars were all pretty much aligned for me when I purchased my first home at such a young age. This didn’t happen overnight and I did not win the lotto or receive a huge family inheritance. I was preparing and saving for years to buy my apartment. If I can do it, then so can you.
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