How I Bought My First Home At 21

When people ask me: what’s the riskiest investment I’ve made? Without a doubt, I say buying my first home at age 21.

June is National Homeownership month and homeownership is not only the American dream but an integral part of wealth building.

The journey to buying my first home started way before I migrated to the U.S during one conversation with my mother that looking back now, changed the course of my life and fueled a strong desire to be a homeowner at a young age.

“Ogechi”! My mother called out to me from the room in our one-bedroom apartment.

“Sit down”, she said as soon as I walked in.

“What do you think about buying a house or a car? She asked.

I pretended to think for all of two seconds.

You see, we didn’t live in a great neighborhood and I had to take the bus everywhere. Daily. Under the hot sun. I was tired. Chasing and catching the bus was exhausting. Beyond that, we would finally join the ranks of car owners; in my small mind, owning a car equaled wealth.

I also wanted to be able to impress my friends with my mum’s (more like my) car.

“Let’s buy a car”, I replied with the seriousness who had weighed both options….. deeply.

“Really? A car? If the landlord decides to evict us from his house for no reason where are we going to stay?

Are we going to move into the car?“, my mum joked.

I laughed and shrugged.

Three and a half months later, when I returned home from boarding school, my mother, a civil servant bought her first home in cash and whisked me away to a better neighborhood.

We were in Nigeria and I was 14.

My Crazy First Home Buying Story…

The year was January 2007. I had  migrated to the U.S and was finally living on my own in a rented apartment.

I was turning 21 that April and couldn’t shake off the feeling that I wanted to do something major with my life. Somehow, I believed homeownership was the major thing to do.

The moment I made up my mind, I became obsessed with this goal. This desire to become a homeowner drove my every waking moment.

I spent countless hours on the internet searching for houses and quickly realized; New York specifically Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, Bronx, and Manhattan was out of the question because I couldn’t afford it.

So I decided to look in other states.

At the time, I was watching a lot of MTV and entertainment channels and picked up on the fact that a good number of African American entertainers were from in the south specifically, the Atlanta area.

I began researching Atlanta and discovered that houses were cheaper, property taxes were lower, and the weather was warmer in comparison to New York.

I stumbled upon some houses on a website and found the contact of a man we will call Mr. M.

CLICK  TO>> GET THE FREE GUIDE 

How To Buy Your First Home In 10 Easy StepsA (Scary) Trip To Atlanta

Mr. M was a real estate agent, real estate investor, and a landlord, who owned several properties in the Georgia- Atlanta area.

After communicating with him several times over a few weeks, he advised me to fly down and see the properties if I was really interested in becoming a homeowner.

Surely, it made sense to go see what I was interested in purchasing. Besides, I had never been to Atlanta before.

I bought a ticket to Atlanta the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and arrived at about 10- 11 pm.

I hailed an airport cab and when the driver asked for the name of my hotel, I told him any hotel with a room for a night or two.

Just so you understand how naïve I was, I traveled on Memorial Day weekend without knowing it’s one of the busiest times in the year; you need to make accommodation arrangements well in advance.

I thought I’d waltz in, announce my arrival at the front desk to someone who had been twiddling their thumbs all day waiting for me and  I’d immediately be ushered into a room.

I was in for a rude awakening!

The first hotel was book solid so was the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

After the first couple of hours of being unable to secure a room, I started crying silently in the back seat of the cab wondering why the heck I came to Atlanta.

For the first time, I realized I didn’t inform anyone of my trip.

We had no social media (at least not the way it is now) where I could check-in on Facebook.

What if the cab driver is a serial killer? Isn’t this how people go missing? Would I end up missing?

I was freaking out on the inside in the backseat of a cab in a city I had never been to before. I knew no one. By now, it was about 1:00 am.

The cabbie was an older African American man who was born and raised in the area. He noticed I was anxious and while I was careful not to tell him too much, I had to inform him I had nowhere else to go.

He calmly told me we’d just keep driving around the city and eventually, someone was bound to check out for an early flight.

For the next few hours, we drove around, going from one hotel to the other while he told stories about his city.

We ended up driving till approximately 4 am on Saturday morning when we finally found a room in a Super 8 motel.

One person checked out.

Until today, I still think the cab driver was God sent!

Finding My First Home

I only got 2 hours sleep and had to get ready to meet Mr. M who came to pick me from my hotel.

We drove out to the suburbs where he showed me a condo with 1 bedroom and 1 bath, another condo with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath and a few other houses he owned.

I remember looking at each condo carefully and not being entirely impressed.

As we left the last condo, he said: “There is one more house I have but it’s a little more expensive than the condos”.

Surely, it made no sense coming all the way without seeing all the properties available.

We arrived at the house a few minutes later and I knew this was the house for me. It was a single-family home ranch style with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a basement which was perfect as an office space.

“I’ll take it”, I said.

Unknowingly Prepared

I flew back to New York and began shopping around for a lender. What I didn’t realize was, I was building credit long before knowing or understanding the meaning of credit.

You see, I migrated from Nigeria where we didn’t use credit or credit cards. Nigeria is a country that predominantly operates on a cash and carry basis.

Fear of owing anyone drove me to be careful with my credit cards. I’d make a purchase using my credit cards and then make a payment a few days after.

I did this consistently for 2 years and built credit without realizing my actions were being reported to the credit bureaus.

By the time I found a lender and submitted my application to the loan officer, I had a 721 credit score from only a 2-year history based solely on credit card usage.

About 30 days after my application, I met with a notary public sent by the bank at my town’s library where we signed the closing documents.

I was ecstatic to finally buy my first home and join the ranks of homeowners.

Conclusion

Homeownership (real estate investing) is one of the three main ways to build wealth.

Did you know that at one time in American history, only homeowners were allowed to vote?

When I think of this as a woman, a woman of color, and the fact that for a while, we were exempt from this wealth-building strategy, it’s clear why homeownership is very personal to me.

Not only am I obsessed with real estate today, but I’m also now a real estate investor.

My first home buying experience remains one of the riskiest things I’ve done. However, it turned me into a landlord, increased my net worth, and put me on the path towards wealth building.

Today, buying your first home can be a nerve-wracking and overwhelming process without proper guidance.

I’ve created a roadmap for you so you can skip the overwhelm and be better prepared for this important milestone in your life.

{P.S: If you’re wondering if I’d take the risk of flying into Atlanta as I did back in 2007 again, absolutely! 🙂 }

CLICK  TO>> GET THE FREE GUIDE 

How To Buy Your First Home In 10 Easy Steps

About Ogechi

Hello, I'm Ogechi. I'm a financial educator, real estate investor, and founder of OneSavvyDollar. I write to empower you into saving more, paying off debt, increasing your net worth, and building real wealth so you can achieve financial freedom

Connect with me on Instagram