Let’s face it: Buying a home in your 20s can seem like a far-fetched dream, especially when you’re working a nine-to-five job. However, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to fulfilling any goal. Take it from Ella Mercullo, who bought her first home at the age of 25.
The 34-year-old sales operations specialist purchased her first house, which is a townhouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, as a pre-selling unit financed through Pag-IBIG Fund’s housing loan back in 2012. It was two years and many side gigs later that the property was turned over to her.
In an e-mail interview with Female Network, Ella revealed how such investment gave her fulfillment and a strong sense of maturity.
“Sobrang saya! Overwhelming and fulfilled kahit ‘di pa siya fully paid. ‘Yung nakita mo na lahat ng sacrifices at pagod mo, it’s all worth it,” Ella said. “Mas nag-mature ako noong nagkaroon ako ng sariling property. Before, sa mall, ang una kong pinupuntahan ‘yung mga shoes and bags. Now, mas naha-happy ako sa mga appliance, furniture, and hardware stores.”
As a first-time homebuyer, and a young one at that, the journey had never been easy for Ella. The idea first came to mind after she graduated from college. “I really want to live independently, as I want to prove to myself that I can do it and that I can manage my finances on my own,” she said.
This type of “independent living” has been customary for young adults in the U.S., but atypical in the Philippines because of close family ties, among others. True enough, Ella’s parents’ were appalled by their daughter’s plans.
“Lagi kong ino-open ‘yun sa kanila [then] after four years of working, I decided to push through with it,” Ella recounted. “Ayaw nila pero pinilit ko pa din for my own good din naman… Natanggap na din nila kalaunan since every weekend, dinadalaw ko naman sila.”
Ella was 23 when she began renting a small apartment in Pasay. At that time, she was still working as a banker with a modest salary. And to pay for her monthly rental fee that cost P5,000, she started living a frugal lifestyle.
She explained, “Sobrang tipid ko noon kasi maliit lang suweldo ko. I usually cook for my baon para ‘di na ko bibili sa cafeteria ng lunch. My daily expenses range from P200 to P300 all in—transportation fare and food. Minsan ‘di naman inaabot ng P300 kasi tipid mode talaga ako.”
She soon realized that it’s not a win-win scenario, given that her monthly rent payments do not grant her ownership of the property. Ella then started planning on getting her own house, which she considered a risk because she wasn’t sure if her income can afford it.
Buying her own house
Ella began looking for the perfect house with her list of non-negotiables: “Syempre dapat ‘yung pasok sa budget. Second is the surroundings or environment. I have to consider it since my work is in Makati. [Dapat] madali lang ang byahe. And, of course, malapit pa din sa family ko.”
She found her match in the form of a pre-construction townhouse that is only one phase away from her parent’s residence in Sta. Rosa. To be able to pay for it even without enough cash on hand, she applied for a housing loan in Pag-IBIG Fund.
“The equity is P100,000 payable in 18 months prior to turn over. During this period, the broker processed all the documentation with Pag-IBIG. I just attended a seminar for the housing loan,” Ella told Female Network.
It was also then that the first-time homebuyer started finding ways to earn extra bucks with various side hustles.
“I looked for different sources of income. I started my journey as a makeup artist and also hosted events. I sold various items online too, such as garments, chocolates, imported bags, etc,” she recounted.
“Every weekend mostly ‘yung gigs ko kaya occupied yung weekend schedule ko. And if ever may weekdays, that’s when I would use my leave credits.”
On top of that, Ella continued being thrifty in her leisure activities. “I have only visited three countries—Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan—but it’s okay since my priority is to have my own property first,” she remarked.
Continuing to work hard after achieving her goal
Ella received the key to her house two years later, when she was 27. She had it fixed, still while juggling her day job with her side hustles, and moved in when she was 29.
The work, she said, is not yet over, but made less hard with the financial assistance she’s been getting from Pag-IBIG.
“’Yung total selling price ng bahay is nasa P800K. But since pinasok sa Pag-IBIG, na-maximize ko for 30 years na P5,000 ang monthly amortization,” she said.
“Marami pang aayusin, pero uunti-untiin natin ‘yan,” she continued. “The second floor is still unfinished, no room division yet. I actually had plans to push through with the renovations in 2019, but I decided to purchase my first car and use the funds first for the down payment. Now, I am in the process of saving up again so I can proceed with the renovation.”
When asked for her advice to women who would also like to buy their own houses, especially at a young age, Ella said, “Focus on your goals and work hard to achieve them. Your sacrifices will be all worth it. Mahirap. Nakakapagod. May times na feeling mo susuko ka na pero laban lang. Mapapagod pero ‘di susuko.”
“It's very fulfilling to see the fruits of your labor so invest and save at a young age. It will surely be the best deal of your life,” she concluded.
*Answers have been edited for clarity