It's becoming increasingly difficult to buy a property but not much is spoken of those who get on the property ladder, only to step back off it again due to financial distress.
With the rising cost of living it's feared many are suffering in silence and just hanging on to homeownership or forfeiting their home altogether – with mortgage delinquencies on the rise in Australia.
Marcus Graham bought his first home in Penrith, western Sydney back in 2018 with his then-wife and both were excited to build a future in the three-bedroom, one-bathroom property in Cranebrook bought for $580,000 at the time.
However, after four years they realised they were in over their heads during the Covid-19 lockdown.
"The payments just became way too much… banks were offering mortgage pauses to people but interest was still accruing during that time. I was something like $32,000 in arrears," the now 27-year-old told Yahoo News.
'I lost everything'
In June, 2022 the property was sold for $680,000 but Graham did not keep any of the proceeds, with it all going toward a debt which had "run up during a mortgage pause". He moved back home with his parents and separated from his wife.
"It felt like everything that I had worked for, everything that I had sort of built up and tried to do… it was completely ruined... I lost absolutely everything, lost my car, lost my house, I lost my wife," he said, admitting he is still dealing with the emotional and financial fallout.
Rise in numbers of Aussies behind on home repayments
The latest data released by credit agency Moody’s Investors Service revealed the mortgage delinquency rate – the number of homeowners at least 30 days overdue on making a mortgage repayment – was on a steady increase. Most are occurring in low income areas away from the city, and inflation, interest rates and the rising cost of living have created the perfect storm to crush Aussie homeowners.
Graham believes many people are suffering in silence due to the "shame" often attached to losing your property, with many desperately still wanting to hold out for the "Australian dream".
"I suppose a lot of people would feel shame to an extent… most of us realise that if interest rates go up, then we can't really afford a house. Then we start realising that we don't make enough per week to pay for a house, then all of it starts tumbling down."
“I feel like there's no security here [in Australia]. There's no settling down anymore," he said, believing it will take another decade at least for him to be in a position to try to buy again.
Homeowner turned renter encourages others to share story
Graham is now advocating for others to share their story in the hope it will grow "collective consciousness" around an aspect of the "distressing" housing market which is often hidden in the shadows. He hopes it will help others feel less stuck and alone, like he did.
"A group discussion about this, getting more people out to tell their stories, will hopefully help," he said. "We do know how to stick together and survive through this... even if it feels like you've got the weight of that world on your shoulders."
People feeling overwhelmed by debt can phone the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007, or reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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