I purchased my first investment property at 23. Five mistakes I made and how to avoid them

Buying my first property is my proudest financial achievement to date. I have no regrets (or buyers remorse) about my property. However, I have learnt some lessons along the way. Here are the 6 things I will do differently next time.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.

When you start looking to buy a property it is exciting but it’s also overwhelming and confusing. It’s easy to feel like everyone else is an expert and you’re just pretending to be an adult while constantly googling the answers to the million questions you have.

Here are five lessons I learned throughout the process of buying my apartment. You can read about my journey to save a $90,000 first property deposit here. I hope these tips can help you avoid making the same mistakes as me and save you (some) panic Googling.

1. Have an Emergency Fund saved before buying a property

This was a moment where I really should have taken my own advice. On my Instagram, Smartgirls_Finishrich I always talk about the importance of having a fully funded emergency fund. Yet I committed a personal finance ‘sin’ and purchased my property without one – oops!

I was highly focused on saving a 20% house deposit (read about that here) so I sent every spare dollar I had to my house saving account. By being so single minded and focussed on my ‘save a house deposit goal” it meant that I never put any money aside for an emergency fund. I figured that after I finished saving my entire deposit I would start looking for a property. I believed that this would take months and months – giving me time to save the emergency fund.

Fastforward to my first weekend of looking, my third home open and me miracoursly finding the PERFECT apartment. I spent the settlement period and first few months of home ownerships madly saving a $10,000 emergency fund. Not only was this stressful, but it actually cost me money.

I paid maximum interest in my first few months of home ownership. My lack of emergency fund meant I didn’t have an instant bulk payment to to add into my redraw so I couldn’t immediately lower the interest charges. I could also only afford the minimum repayments because I was sending most of my income to my emergency fund.

Luckily for me, I didn’t encounter any major emergencies and managed to save my $10,000 emergency fund.

Life Lesson: Save a Emergency Fund before you save a house deposit.

2. Budget for locksmiths, new keys and buzzers

A truly horrifying adulthood realisation that I had on day one of home ownership was that locksmiths are expensive to hire and that’s before you even pay for pricey locks / keys. This new found knowledge was gained when I quickly realised that I hadn’t been given a full set of keys at settlement. I didn’t have storeroom keys or window keys. I also wanted a new front door lock for extra security. I didn’t like the idea that the past owners / renters could just use an old key to let themselves in… It ended up being around a $400 unexpected expense all up!

Cost of a Locksmith 2020

There are various factors which contribute to the total quote provided to you by your local locksmith, including the callout fee and labour, and the cost of products. On average, locksmiths cost around $60 per hour, but this may differ depending on the time of the day. If you need your locksmith to come to you during business hours, a call out fee of around $110 will be incurred. For after-hours services, this price will increase depending on how late it is…

How Much does it cost to hire a locksmith | service.com.au | Georgia budden

Not to mention, I also needed two new gate buzzers ($160) because the ones handed over at settlement were broken.

Next time I will ensure that handing over keys, garage door remotes and gate buzzers is part of the settlement contract.

Life Lesson: Put money aside for set new property set up costs + include keys / remotes in settlement contract.

3. Visit your property and different times of the day AND night.

In my defence, I actually did this, but I didn’t visit late at night. I visited the property and the area at various times
Morning

  • – Lots of traffic
  • + Beautiful morning sunshine in the living room and darker bedrooms

Midday

  • – Everyone in the whole city (or at least it feels like) goes to the multibillion dollar fast-food chain nearby for lunch so the drive through line sometimes blocks the gate to the apartment
  • + Easy to get street parking while everyone is at work

I didn’t visit at night. If I had I would have noticed the extremely bright lights outside of the bedroom window. This isn’t a deal breaker it just would have been nice to know I needed to put money aside for black out curtains / booked installation in advance. On a positive note a night visit also would have told me that its a very quiet and secure area after dark.

Life Lesson: Visit a property / area that you’re interested in morning, mid day, evening and night.

4. Seek an estimate of your expected rental income

Writing this actually makes me cringe because it is SO obvious now but at the time… not so much. I knew roughly what rents were in my properties’ area simply because I had friends who lived near it. In the past they had shared what their weekly rent was and I made a rough guess based off this.

I never actively investigated how much the expected rent would be. I could have easily done this by comparing like properties on realestate.com.au or by asking local real-estate agents.

Luckily for me, the rent ended up being higher then expected. In 2020 my property was renting for $400 a week!

Life Lesson: Investigate expected rental return on a property / area well before you actually buy.

5. Assemble your team before you start looking at properties

I believe their are three key people you should consider hiring for ‘team buy a house’.

  1. Mortgage Broker. You can read about them here
  2. Settlement Agent / Conveyancer. You can read about them here
  3. Licensed Building Inspector. You can read about them here

When I purchased my house I organised these people at the point of need (AKA the last minute) and that was an added stress I just didn’t need. It also meant I didn’t have much time to research the best fit or price. Luckily it all worked out, but next time I would research these team members early, contact them for pricing and ask them what they could organise in advance.

It may also be worthwhile to contact a Mortgage Broker before you start looking as they can help you know how much you need to save and organise preapproval so you know your budget before you start looking.


Saving for my own property is my proudest achievement to date. I don’t regret buying my property in the slightest and I’m glad I learned these lessons along the way. I hope my life lessons help you successfully navigate buying your own place.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself” – Eleanor Roosevelt

| This post was all about the things I wish I knew before purchasing my own property. |

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Published by smartgirlsfinishrich

’m a money driven 20 something year old, working hard to improve my finances and create a lifestyle that I love. My hope is that by sharing my story it will help you increase your financial knowledge, motivate you to improve your financial situation and empower you to make more money $$$$ I’m not obsessed with money. I’m obsessed with the freedom and lifestyle choices money provides. (but also, I’m a little obsessed with money) My biggest money wins were all achieved on a a teacher income + side hustle earnings. All while living out of home. Saved a 20% deposit ($90,000) and purchased my dream first apartment in Perth, Australia. Saved $13,000 (so far) for a new car using side hustle income. On track to finish 2021 with NO HECs Debt. $18,000 paid off to date! Travelled Europe for six weeks while saving a house deposit. Check out my blog posts or follow my Instagram for all the details! It’s time for your financial glow up!

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