Buying Property in the 1970s: Was it Really Easier?

I have been asked to write a blog about the difficulties with regard to purchasing my first home. I know everyone these days says how difficult it is to buy a property and how expensive they are, and yes, they are quite expensive, but believe me when I say they were very expensive in my day also.

It was a very different time when I wanted to buy my first property. Back in the early 1970’s a women who was not married was not able to get a mortgage themselves without the help of a parent or a male family member. The banks were not willing to lend as they assumed you would have babies and therefore stop working and be unable to repay the loan. I was lucky in that my father went guarantor for me. Now remember he didn’t lend me any money, he only went guarantor, that is he gave an legal assurance to the bank that he would repay the loan if I defaulted, and not just a part of the mortgage, he went guarantor for the entire amount. Now that was pressure, as I certainly did not want my father to be in debt because I was not able to make my payments.

The banks were not willing to lend as they assumed you would have babies and therefore stop working and be unable to repay the loan.

Also I had to come up with a 20% deposit which was not easy to come by as wages were very low. I was a secretary at the time, being 21 years of age, with a very average salary. I scrimped and saved to get the deposit and was so excited when the bank gave me a mortgage for my two bedroom unit in Manly Vale which cost me $18,750. Yes I know you are gasping at that price, thinking how cheap, but I can’t quite remember what my salary was at that time, but a few years earlier when I started working at the age of about 18 my salary was about $35 per week, so that was a huge price for my property. I remember when I had my first interest rate rise and it added about $12 per month into my mortgage and I thought I was going to have to sell the unit as I struggled to make my payments.

Cathy’s first apartment bought in 1970's

I was very broke. I used to get stressed over money and my father would come down to the unit and we would go through my expenses, everything from mortgage payments, insurances, food, vet bills for my pet cat. I had about $5 per week left over for myself. I went out with my friends about once a week, but I always met them after dinner and I would buy whatever was the cheapest drink from the bar and would go to the bathroom and refill the glass with water. That was my source of entertainment for quite a few years. Then a few years later, I was still broke and struggling to pay the mortgage, so I decided to get an extra job. I was lucky in that I could sing, so I entered all the talent quests in the clubs. I did quite well and they paid me to perform, so instead of either sitting at home or going out with my friends, I started singing around the club circuit. I would find myself out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and quite often Sunday afternoon also. I didn’t get paid much but it was enough to get by on and enabled me to pay my mortgage and my other bills. I sang for quite some years until I got married and began my family.

I went out with my friends about once a week, but I always met them after dinner and I would buy whatever was the cheapest drink from the bar and would go to the bathroom and refill the glass with water.

So the main things to remember when wanting to buy your first property is:

1. Save and don’t spend on anything unnecessary.
2. Always pay a little extra each month, it is amazing how it adds up
3. Do a budget to find out where you are spending your money, I think you might be surprised.
4. As my mother once said — “take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”.
5. Begin your property purchase with a smaller cheaper purchase — you don’t have to start off with the 6-bedroom property first, you can build up to that as you go.

Remember, we all have to start somewhere, so start smaller and work upwards.

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