‘I miss my house and renting makes me feel worthless. How can I become a home owner again?’

Apr 28, 2020
For many long-time home owners, renting is uncharted territory leaving many desperate to get back on track to the property market. Source: Getty.

Q: I am 61 and recently divorced, having had to sell the home I shared with my abusive ex-husband, with my share of the sale proceeds being $860,000 in total in cash. I now rent an apartment in the same area with my daughter and my two small dogs.

I want to stay in the area – I have lived in this suburb for 18 years and been a homeowner here for 17 – but I don’t think it’s possible because I can’t afford to buy in my suburb alone and my daughter is not interested in buying a property here with me as she wants to leave in the next year or two. And I can’t afford to borrow money at my age, nor do I want to.

I work full-time in a good job and plan to stay there as long as I am healthy and able, so possibly for another seven to 10 years. 

But I’m feeling lost and sad and miss having a home. My super is not great, around $100,000 or less, and I have started to pay $100 a month into it. My husband was a gambler or money has always been tight so I wasn’t able to make bigger contributions before our divorce. I catch public transport everywhere as I live 15 minutes from the CBD. I do need a car but I can’t afford one.

My money from the house sale is in the bank doing nothing. I have looked at a few lower-floor apartments with outdoor space (I can’t imagine living for the long-term in a unit with the two dogs) but they seem to be hitting the $1 million-plus mark. Houses in my area are out of the question and I hate renting as the owner and agent won’t fix anything and I feel worthless because I rent.

I am too petrified to do anything. I thought of going to live in the city where my other daughter and grandson live, but it’s quite a distance to where I work and where all my friends are. I have even thought of moving to the country, but have no friends or family out there. I was in such a controlled, belittling marriage, that I am so scared to do anything and I will have failed again.

What are the best options for my money and do I have the chance to purchase a home?

A: Firstly, I’m sorry for the circumstances in which you find yourself. This is a very difficult question and there is no simple answer. Whilst there appears to be little doubt you are best to be out of the abusive relationship, such breakdowns in relationships often result in neither party being able to continue with the previous lifestyle and in particular to own a similar home.

I agree with your views in relation to borrowing money and would strongly recommend against borrowing money at your age and in your circumstances. In any event, it is very unlikely that any financial institution would lend you sufficient funds to buy the type of property you would want in the area in which you have lived.

Unfortunately, I think you have little choice other than to consider renting in an area you would prefer to live and investing your funds to provide for your living costs now and retirement. Alternatively, you would need to find a more affordable property in a different location. In this event, I would try to keep some funds back to help fund your retirement. I would certainly suggest you seek professional financial advice from an unbiased source to properly assess your options as I cannot give more than general advice.

I fully understand that either option requires a huge compromise and uncomfortable changes to your personal circumstances, however, you have limited choices. As you are now your own person you should look to a brighter future in control of your own choices and decisions.

If you have a question for Starts at 60’s money experts, email it to [email protected].

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