Can Minimalism Help You Buy Your First Home?

December 4, 2017

The latest buzzword in the stream of idealistic, modern trends is minimalism. Not the 1950s art movement, but the act of reducing the physical and emotional clutter in our homes and lives for a happier existence. The pillar of the minimalism mindset is rethinking what you truly value and what you really need to lead a meaningful life. Can this mental trimming of the fat change our approach to house hunting and help first time buyers find ‘home’ sooner?


We’re obsessed with three-bedroom houses

Here in New Zealand we’re holding tight to the dated ideal that a house needs to have three or more bedrooms. This means we’re all striving for a goal that may be out of reach financially. If you’re an individual or couple with less than 2.5 kids, you must ask yourself why you need that second or third our fourth bedroom and all the extra furniture they’ll require. Is it a legitimate reason like a work-from-home office, or is it to store material possessions? Are these bedrooms merely a place to store/dump your wardrobe overflow, your countless electronic devices, gym equipment or other miscellaneous items you use so infrequently you wouldn’t notice their absence?

Minimising your material possessions is the ideal way to decide how many ‘things’ you really need. The act of living with less for a trial period will help you strip the superfluous items from your current digs, and see if you can do without that extra bedroom or two when you do buy. Imagine realising your dream home is in fact a two-bedroom bungalow worth $100-200,000 less than you thought you needed!


But the grounds are tiny!

Another predisposition we’ve inherited from a time when housing was cheaper and room to sprawl was plentiful is the hankering for spacious front and backyards. We get it, Kiwis are all about mowing the lawns, gardening, backyard cricket and sharing a barbecue and some adult beverages with our mates. Let’s look at that for a moment, though – if you have less or no lawn, that’s less petrol to pay for; less time spent mowing; and ultimately no need to invest in, store and maintain a lawnmower. A smaller (or absent) barbecue requires less cleaning and storage space, and cricket can always be played at the nearest park or school grounds (there’s less chance of a broken window, too – howzaaaat?!).


A huge backyard you don’t have to pay for

First-time buyers should think about what dollar figure having a yard is worth to them? Settling for a smaller lawn can knock tens of thousands of dollars off your outlay, so why not take a minimalist approach to section size and instead start looking at a house that has a smaller section but is closer to an open space like a park, river or lake. This option will be especially beneficial for families with young children or pets. They’ll love you no end for putting down roots right around the corner from the playground with the flying fox and curly slide. If you’re near the coast think about proximity to the beach for your fur-baby.


Reduced consumption = increased cashflow

The allure of minimalism for many is tightly married to a yearning to step off the excessive consumerism treadmill. High consumption fashion and the modern mania surrounding the latest gadgets and phones has our passion to possess at an all-time high. It sees us accruing debt beyond the banks’ wildest dreams; filling our homes with inanimate clutter we could easily do without; and harming the environment as demand soars for materials and increased manufacturing and landfill space.

Living a lifestyle of minimised consumption results in you being able to save more money for your house deposit and it means you’ll acquire less possessions, in turn requiring less space and a smaller and more affordable home. In the long run – it gives you the ability to dedicate more income to paying off your mortgage faster.


Where to start

We’re all so attached to our ‘stuff’ that it can be hard to fathom getting rid of any of it, making minimalism seem impossible. Don’t stress (an underlying goal of minimalism), there is a wealth of literature about how to dip your toe into the minimalist waters. Here’s a humorous introduction to minimalism to prove it’s not all for millennial hipsters. Here are 15 decluttering routines. And here’s where you can watch an acclaimed documentary about minimalism.

For a living example of accidental minimalism helping a Kiwi get into their own home, just look at Bronwyn from First Avenue Property. Four months ago, Bronwyn, her partner and their dog moved into a four-berth caravan to help save for her first home. Not initially motivated by minimalism at all, over time Bronwyn realised that she can live with less much more happily than she thought, and her vision of her ideal home has changed radically. We’ll speak more in depth with Bronwyn about her interesting story soon, so stay tuned.

Read and watch the materials outlined above and if/when you decide you don’t need a five-bedroom mansion with a pool and rugby field-sized backyard, contact First Avenue Property for an informed look at the one and two-bedroom house market.



Image: Tiny Houses by Bill Dickinson under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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