Let’s look at the journey of a young couple and their quest to acquire their first home.

Kofi Quist is a 35-year-old banker, married to Jackie, his former colleague in the bank and they have been blessed with three children; two girls and a boy.

Kofi’s parents gave them their two-bedroom boys’ quarters to use to help them start their lives together. Though this was a blessing, it was not without challenges. Kofi and Jackie felt that it was time for them to move into their own home but the question was, “where do they start from?” 

They did not want to go asking Mum and Dad, well for obvious reasons, but they still needed answers to their questions. Really, where do they start from? Should they rent or build? If they choose to rent, where will they find good rental property? What should they look out for? If they choose to build, do they really want to get involved with all this land acquisition drama and stress? Where do they find designs or designers? 

How will they manage the construction with their busy schedules? How can they be sure they are making the right choice between renting and building, in terms of financial prudence? After all, they are bankers, they need to be sure of the numbers.

Yeah! The greyness of this area and their lack of knowledge in this was enough to stop anyone in their tracks, but they had to move because they simply could not shake off the feeling that they had overstayed their welcome in Kofi’s father’s house.

It was in the middle of this frustration that Jackie met Mrs.Ansah, an accomplished businesswoman at an entrepreneurs’ conference.

Mrs. Ansah was the main speaker for the event, addressing the issue of women and financial independence. She is a self-made millionaire and one of the most knowledgeable and sought after female entrepreneurs and speakers today. She has invested over 30 years of her life building her pharmaceutical business and growing from rags to riches in the process.

Out of the many retirement and investment options available to her, she strategically chose to invest in real estate. She completed her first rental property, a chamber and hall, at 27 years and has acquired so many properties that her rental income is more than enough to support her if she decided to retire now.

Jackie was representing her bank, which was the main sponsor of the event. She managed to get Mrs.Ansah’s attention and they got talking at the coffee break. She was bent on tapping into the properties wisdom this woman had acquired over the years.

What do you want?

Jackie left her cup of coffee on her table. She wanted to make sure she did not miss even a word from Mrs. Ansah. She expressed her admiration for this business guru and sought some counsel on how best she and her husband will successfully move out of their parents’ house.

The first acquisition is always a bit unnerving, Mrs. Ansah started. Before you make the decision to build, rent or buy, when to move out or where to move to, etc., you need to first figure out exactly what you want; and whatever it is you decide must at least suit your lifestyle or better yet enhance it.

So let’s take it from the top. Why don’t you tell me exactly what you want?
Jackie said, well for starters I just want to get out of my in-law’s house.  Mrs. Ansah smiled asking “And go where? What exactly is it that is making you so unhappy about where you currently live?”

Jackie got pensive. Mrs.Ansah knew she had her full attention now. It’s a good time to ask some mind-boggling questions. She continued, I can see that you are married so don’t forget that whatever it is that you want must be something that favours not just you but your husband as well.

Try and figure out what’s most important to you and your family. “Home is where the heart is,” they say. How will the type of house and location affect your husband and his work for example? The children’s schooling? What support amenities are in the area that will make your life easier? How much money do you have to spend on transportation in commuting to places that matter to you? How much time do you have left to move out? 

The ages of your children, any other dependents that may have to live with you, how many rooms do you want? What is your daily routine like? How about your husband? How do you spend your free time? Apart from work, what other activities are you and your family involved in? Your shelter choices must be able to support these considerations or at least meet them to some extent.

These will help you figure out which way to go.

Mrs. Ansah paused to allow Jackie to deliberate on these questions.  She could see a question forming.

Madam, Jackie started, what if I just want to buy a home, and cut out this long process? Mrs. Ansah smiled, “of course that is an option, but remember that this too is heavily dependent on your financial capacity. But even with that, all the questions I asked earlier, need to be answered. Ask your husband what he also wants then you two can come to a compromise.

I sound like a professional huh? They both laughed. Well, I’ve done this enough times to know the basics but every new project comes with new challenges, I can assure you.

You have quite a bit to chew on Jackie, Mrs. Ansah said while getting up, I need to go and freshen up for my presentation and don’t forget why you’re here, my dear, go make some money for your bank.

Thank you very much for your time madam, Jackie said gratefully. “It’s my pleasure young lady, call me if you still need help,” Mrs. Ansah said graciously, handing her the business card to Jackie.

Jackie contemplated her discussion with Mrs. Ansah on her drive home. “What do I want”? She had been asked some salient questions and she was fully aware of the fact that her answers to each question will have a major impact on the life of her family, thus they need to be thoroughly thought through.

About the Aurthor

Karen Evans Halm is an architect and an Associate, of the Ghana Institute of Architects with over a decade’s experience in the field. 

She is also a co-founder of Spektra Global, a company that specilises in Architecture, Interior Design and Construction.