I bought my new (to me) house by myself, but I didn’t do it alone. I mean, my name is the only one on the title and all the money for the down payment was earned by me, but – well, you know how it takes a village to raise a child? It also takes a village to make a millennial with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt a homeowner before she is 30.

The linchpin of this whole endeavor was Lois Fleming, my Grammy, despite the fact that she’s been dead for four years. My grandmother was a financial guru. If she was still around today she would probably be making super viral financial advice videos on TikTok or something (all filmed with an I-pad at a 45-degree angle in her lap, no doubt). She taught me about saving (do it), investing (you can’t go wrong with a good index fund and the stock market always recovers in the end), living frugally (store brand!) and building a credit score (open a credit card and only use it to buy gas, to make sure you have enough to pay it off every month). When I asked her for advice on what sort of savings and investment account I should have, she sent me the link to the exact perfect Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund. It was from that fund that I withdrew my $21,500 down payment.

Grammy was also vital to the purchase of this house because she made my mother. When my parents bought their house together in the mid-1990s, my paternal grandfather gave them $30,000 for a down payment. Unfortunately, my mom did not have $30,000 to give me. (My grandfather spent all his money when he was alive.) But what my mom could give me, and did give me, was a place to live rent-free for the last three years so that I could save up $30,000. I’m not saying I was a freeloader – I contributed to household expenses – but I didn’t have to fork over $1,000 every month just to keep a roof over my head. This is what enabled me to build a down payment and get my credit score on the top shelf so quickly. It’s an example of privilege and generational wealth.

I also benefited from my Aunt Barb’s knowledge and connections. She’s been a real estate agent for a few years in the Washington, D.C., area (and if you think Maine’s housing market is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet). I knew I needed to find a good real estate agent here in Maine, and the advice I kept getting was “ask your friends.” Well, all my friends are broke millennials. They don’t know any real estate agents. So my Aunt Barb researched and made some phone calls to interview agents and she found – Sandra Fish with Coldwell Banker in Brunswick.

This never would have happened without her. I’d say she was like a bulldog for me, but all the bulldogs I’ve ever met are lazy couch potatoes. Sandra was more like a bloodhound – nose constantly to the ground. (Figuratively, of course, except when she was trying to figure out if a basement was giving off a mildew smell). Most importantly, she never pressured me into making an offer on a place I didn’t like or couldn’t afford, even though she didn’t get paid until the very end of the house-buying process. She treated me and my $160,000 budget like I was a billionaire buying my own private island.

I must also thank Ray Mayo of Mayo Home Inspections; not only was his inspection thorough and his report emailed to me in 36 hours (and it was fifteen pages!), he also answered all of my stupid questions (and there were many) and let me pick his brain for advice on various contractors and companies.

I’ve worked very hard for this accomplishment, but just because nobody wrote me a check doesn’t mean I didn’t get help along the way. Allow me to stick a pin in the balloon of the myth of rugged individualism. I have benefited from an extended community sharing their knowledge with me. I don’t need to know everything. But I do tend to know what I don’t know; and more importantly I know how to find people who know the things I don’t.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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