Money·4 min read

I Bought a Home in NYC Before 30

October 9, 2019

The Story

If buying an apartment was a race, student loans and ‘meh’ income would be two of the biggest hurdles. But you can clear them. Alexa K. did.

Would love her trainer’s name.

She got there with a lot of hustle. When she realized her entry-level salary at a media agency didn’t stretch that far, she started a photography side biz. And spent her nights and weekends shooting to earn more. Then she put that money toward extra student loan payments every few months. Four years later, she was debt-free.

Impressive. And if I don’t have a magic money-making skill?

If earning more isn’t possible, focus on ways to spend less. Alexa also got picky about which expenses were worth her money. Think: she said yes to occasional dinners out, but no to expensive clothes and cabs.For you, mindful spending might mean attending every wedding you get invited to, but cutting back by meal prepping. Do you. And if shopping is your cardio, try the 24-hour rule. That's when you wait at least one day before purchasing stuff you want to buy but don’t need. Like another red sweater.Other ways to save more: get a roomie, cut the cable cord, and look for ways to have fun for less. Read: get a library card and binge on free books and movies.

Got it. But back to the house part...where’d Alexa get the money for that?

Even after she paid off her debt, Alexa pretended she was making loan payments and put that money in savings every month. Along with extra cash from raises she got at work and her growing side hustle...which she eventually turned into her full-time job, Alexa Drew Photography. All that went toward a new goal: a home down payment. For a lot of people, that’s the biggest check you’ll write in your life. Casual.Related: How to Get Your Bank Account Ready to Buy a Home

How big of a check are we talking?

Experts recommend 20% of the home’s sticker price. Kind of a tall order. Last year, the median down payment for first-time buyers was 7%. But remember: the more you pay upfront, the less you’ll have to pay back later. Alexa put down 10%, which tacked on some extra costs.

Like what?

PMI, or private mortgage insurance. That’s an extra monthly fee lenders can charge people who put down less than 20%. Juuust in case you ghost on your payments. Alexa’s broker estimated she’d pay about $350 for PMI. But since she had good credit, she only paid $70. (Psst...a higher credit score can help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage, too.)Related: What Debt Means for Your Credit Score

What else do you have to budget for?

Closing costs. That includes money for all the people who helped you. Like your realtor, mortgage broker, and lawyer. Plus appraisal and inspection fees, insurance, and taxes. All this usually costs about 2-5% of the home’s price. Pro tip: negotiate with the seller to see if they’ll cover some of these fees.Alexa was also on the hook for $55K in reno costs because her apartment needed a lot of work. Oh, and the balance of her interest.

This is really adding up.

Yeah. But you don’t have to pay it all back at once. Alexa signed up for a 30-year loan with a fixed rate. Meaning the amount of interest she pays stays the same every month. You can also get an adjustable-rate mortgage (aka an ARM), where rates can change. Not ideal if they go up, great if they go down.


Buying a house may feel like an impossible goal. Especially when you’re doing it on your own. But borrowing someone else’s tips can help. So can picking up a side hustle, increasing your credit score, and learning how the whole mortgage thing works. Go-al for gold.

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