Truck driver Steve Smith says he doesn’t have much income, but through sacrifice and savings he was able to buy two houses.
While he bought his first home 15 years ago and his second before the 2020 boom, Smith says he mostly worked for low or minimal pay during that time.
Smith (40) bought Dunedin in 2019 and rented property in Palmerston North.
Equity from his first home, which he paid $197,000 for 15 years, helped him buy a second home.
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Five years ago he moved to Dunedin, and loved the views of the South Island for his drive. It didn’t immediately pay off and his first job was as a motorcycle postman, which he described as “an old minimum wage job at the end of winter in Dunedin – all rain and snow”.
He says: “Not much was happening in Bami, so I was dreaming on my motorcycle. I had no business or partner.”
On earlier trips, the length of the country, he liked Dunedin and thought it was comparable in size to Palmerston North. When he got there, he gave him two years to buy a house.
“It may be a lofty goal, it’s certainly ambitious. I didn’t get a good paying job because truck driving is underrated. Don’t even work at Fonterra.
“I paid really bad wages, long hours, not many breaks.”
He found a house “on the highway, a lot of noise, no garage, two leaks in the ceiling. Nobody wants it. “
He paid $240,000 for a three-bedroom brick-and-concrete house in the 1950s and needed his roommates to help cover the mortgage for the first two years.
Smith says having roommates is part of the sacrifices low-income people have to make to own a home, especially if they’re single.
“Many individuals may not have had good experiences with painting. I think anyone would agree: You don’t want to come home after a long day at work and see other people’s dishes. It is very stressful.
“(With nobody else around) you can make your music as loud as you want.”
He had a similar strategy in Palmerston North, where he bought a four-bedroom house so he could rent out three. “I could have had three bedrooms in a better and nicer area, but the four bedroom allows me to pay for it.”
He says he has to be frugal to be a homeowner. “I didn’t do well academically at school, but one thing I learned in economics is needs and wants. You want a house to live in. You don’t have to take it twice a week.
Besides treating shopping as a treat, she buys clothes from thrift stores and used furniture. The “new” kitchen in her home in Dunedin is secondary.
I am not materialistic. I always say, “Don’t spend more than $100 on TV.” I have 42 inches and paid $75 for it. I refuse to buy a new TV.
“The only thing I buy new is the phone. This is Nokia, not the latest and greatest.
He enjoys the outdoors, including hiking and mountain biking on a $200 used bike.
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He has been driving a 1990 Ford Laser for over 10 years. “The most I ever spent on a car was $3000. That was my splurge when I came to Dunedin: I bought a 2000 Toyota Celica, which cost $3000 when I fixed it up. It was a police rescue.
“I talk to some people and they say, ‘There are going to be these problems and high maintenance costs,’ but if you don’t know anything about cars, you know Toyota is a good, reliable brand. I don’t have a problem with that.
Smith says that if low-income people think about their day-to-day choices and focus on homes that aren’t “everyone’s cup of tea,” home ownership can be a reality for them, too.
He loves “everything” in his house.
“There are no flat studies. I would have to paint the room a different color if I wanted to hang a poster… I would like to renovate.
“You don’t have to get permission to do anything.”