Meet a killer 20-something property power couple
Emily Lynch and her partner, Jack, don't muck around. After buying a one-bed unit in Melbourne's Kensington for $330,000 in 2016, they've already traded up and they're tackling a serious home renovation in Coburg. But the journey thus far has been far from breezy.
In her spare time, 27-year-old Emily is studying marketing at RMIT, while working as a senior property stylist at Not Plain Jane. Jack, 28, is a personal injury lawyer. They missed out on a lot of homes, before making an offer on the Kensington property prior to auction. 'The biggest challenge is not being taken seriously because of our age,' she says.
To get the place, they used a 20 per cent deposit and borrowed the stamp duty, which meant they paid lender's mortgage insurance. 'We lived there for more than 18 months, did a minor renovation and styled it for sale last year,' Emily explains. 'We are very good savers. While we don’t necessarily go without, I account for every expense and plan a lot.'
That's an understatement. Emily allocates money from groceries to hair appointments and knows where every cent goes. The pair has a plan that allows them to splurge a bit on the weekend, but during the week they live on a 'uni budget'.
The duo worked to pay down the mortgage while living in the apartment, listing it on Airbnb when they could, and staying with family in country Victoria or renting cheaper rooms on Airbnb when it was booked. 'This enabled us to throw loads of extra money onto our mortgage every month,' she says. In some cases they made enough to cover mortgage repayments in a matter of days, by listing the place during the Spring Racing Carnival or during the Royal Melbourne Show which is held at the nearby Showgrounds.
'When we sold, we got a great return surprisingly as the apartment market can be quite unpredictable and several other places were for sale, or still are, in the same building,' Emily says. She believes their luck is a result of their renovation and the home styling which she pulled off through her work. 'I really think it was all the personal touches, that made it stand out from the crowd.'
The house they bought wasn't what they'd planned. Jack's parents had purchased the Coburg property as an investment ten years earlier and were ready to sell. The couple completed two valuations and agreed to buy the home for a price that sat in between the values. Although she suspects that readers might roll their eyes at the access to a parental asset, she says, 'While we did have the opportunity to buy a place without an auction, it certainly wasn’t any easier. Having missed out on many auctions before, we stepped our budget up to buy this place.'
They forked out a bit more than a million dollars in May, 2017, using a 10 per cent deposit acquired from their apartment sale. Lender's mortgage insurance covered the rest, so reserve renovation funds were ready. They paid the $65,000 stamp duty and had about $65,000 left for a refurb.
'We also live off one wage mainly to support us and pay our mortgage. The other goes into our renovation fund. So, we see that top up by around $800 a week,' Emily adds.
Although they've invested heavily, Emily and Jack believe the renovation will put them in front. 'Our last apartment showed us that if you spend the right amount of money on a home, you will get it back,' Emily points out.
It's a big job. 'We initially thought there wouldn’t be too much work. A slap of paint, new kitchen and bathroom and we would be done. However, every job seems to have 10 other jobs joined to it.'
Here's what they'll tackle: a re-stump, re-plaster, new kitchen, opening up the living area, new floorboards sourced from a demolished Californian bungalow followed by sanding and polishing, painting, new bathroom and laundry, new deck, driveway and landscaping.
Completion is a while off. In the meantime, they're living in the front room of the house and chipping away, with an hour or so of work each night before bed. 'Crazy, we know. It just allows us to go out on Saturday or Sunday arvo rather than work all weekend,' Emily says.
To people considering doing the same, Emily has some simple advice: 'Focus on the short-term, buying a few lemons and turning them into lemonade is essential to be able to land a dream property. I think as millennials we sometimes focus on the long-term luxurious goal and forget how much we need to do to get there.'
If you're working as a couple, play to your strengths. Emily has the visual nous, so they physically tape out spaces to make sure they're on the same page before they go knocking anything over. Regardless of how strong your vision is, it's essential to be kind to each other. 'As much as I’d like to say it’s not taxing on a relationship, it really is. We are more tired, slightly grumpy from time to time and it always comes out on demolition days,' Emily admits.
Nonetheless, it pays if you're committed to a common goal. 'Be smart, buy the worst unit, low-cost flip and sell it. Repeat until you have a big enough deposit for what you want long term,' she concludes.
Follow Emily, Jack and their dog Poppy's Coburg Californian renovation on Instagram.