PHOTO: Kelsey Kuru with Freedom Property Investors co-founder Lianna Pan.
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Kelsey Kuru’s discipline and determination to get onto the property ladder belie his mere 21 years of age.
Having sacrificed most of the normal trappings of the late teens and early 20s lifestyle, Kelsey signed the contracts to buy his first property on the day of his 21st birthday.
The product of a hardworking Samoan father who turned around the tough conditions facing his four children, Kelsey knew from an early age that he did not want to live at the mercy of landlords, ever-rising rents and unkempt residences.
“We were living in a cramped two-bedroom apartment; my sister in one room, me and my two brothers in the other and my single dad on the couch in the lounge room,” Kelsey said of his childhood.
“This went on for years before something just switched in dad and I saw him go to training courses, seminars and study until late in the night around his job and then he bought his first property.
His dad is a worthy source of inspiration, now owning an expansive 17-property portfolio collated over just seven years.
With median house prices of almost $1 million in Sydney, $800,000 in Melbourne, close to $700,000 in Canberra, and hovering around the half million dollar mark across the remaining major cities, the dream of owning property appears out of reach to many young people.
According to the Grattan Institute, two-thirds of those aged 24 to 34 in 1980 who might be counted among the poorest of their generation could at least boast they owned their own home. Today that figure has fallen to one in five.
The number of homeowners aged 18 to 39 in Sydney and Melbourne has plummeted since 2002, picking up only slightly during the recent downturn.
In 2002, 34 per cent of 18 to 39-year-olds in Melbourne were homeowners. By 2018 that figure had dropped to 22 per cent.
Exception to the rule
Kelsey is clearly the exception to the rule and it’s an exceptional effort that has not come without significant sacrifices.
Through assiduous dedication to saving, an iron will to avoid costly social temptations and clever research and use of available grants, Kelsey bought a three-bedroom, two-bathroom terrace off the plan in a Mount Annan development for $650,000.
Located 60km southwest of the Sydney CBD, it is a humble but crucial step onto the property ladder.
To get on that first rung, he saved a $32,500 deposit, and negotiated a 5 per cent deposit, half the usual ratio.
Making use of first home buyer incentives, including the $25,000 HomeBuilder grant and a $10,000 builders’ rebate, plus full stamp duty exemption, he saved $70,000 on the total cost.
The property is close to shops and eateries, public transport and emerging infrastructure. It is an area set to attract strong rental demand and is likely to enjoy good capital growth in coming years.
“I’ve been given a lot of financial advice to be able to save for a deposit, which has benefited me greatly,” he said.
Good advice is one thing but applying the resolve to save when your peers are partying and socialising is another thing altogether.
Kelsey has largely shunned the bright lights and baubles and limited his social life to the occasional café outing with friends.
“It is tough,” he said.
“I probably lost touch with 80 per cent of the people I once hung out with but you eventually find the right people on a similar path to your own.”
The gym and the basketball court are now the primary social outlets for a young man who once aspired to play rugby in the NRL.
Banks demanding larger deposits from first-time buyers are pushing those without family help out of the market. New research has shown that a quarter of young people are reliant on parents to fund house purchases.
But Kelsey is proof that hard work and single-minded focus can counter this trend.
“Growing up as a young islander my dream was of course to play in front of the big crowds but I never thought about business or creating assets,” Kelsey said.
“I became super aware that I was not good enough for the NRL so I had to come up with a new dream and I am stoked to have achieved it on my 21st birthday,” he said of the purchase made three months ago.
Kelsey’s savings regimen was not built on a lofty salary or any inheritance. School was not his strong point and three years of arduous labouring jobs from a relatively young age were the source of his deposit and savings.
His nascent interest in property investment led to him helping out at Freedom Property Investors, where over the past two years he learned from the seminars and the advice of his mentors, Lianna Pan and father Scott, co-founders of Freedom Property Investors.
“I learned so much from mentoring and first-hand experience, watched lots of YouTube videos and followed other industry leaders on social media.
“And all of them would say the same thing; saving your way to financial freedom was not possible and property is the number one asset in the world.
“It just helped me to get really focused and determined to achieve my goal”, he said.
Kelsey now wants to offer hope and inspiration to other millennials facing the same impediments that stood in front of him.
“The biggest lesson I learned was self-discipline, being able to control myself with spending and staying committed to putting together a deposit.
“It taught me a lot about myself and makes me want to share this with my friends and family too.”
Short-term pain for long-term gain is his mantra.
“My advice to young people would be to really consider who you are spending your time with and what you are spending your money on.
“A lot of the time, we are spending money on stuff that we really do not need just to impress people we don’t know.
“Hanging around the wrong people led me away from my plans and I’d be influenced to do stuff that didn’t fit in with these goals.”
Kelsey, still single and happy with his life decisions so far, is now thinking in five-year blocks and readjusting his sights on more purchases to ensure his future is secure and free of external stresses.
“This is so empowering, I mean who would have thought this would happen when I dropped out of school, right”.
Additional reporting by Erik Bigalk