Heartbreaking tale of homeowner Marcus Graham as he was forced to sell because of rising costs and lost ‘everything’, including his marriage
A man went from being a happy homeowner to a divorcee living with his parents after he drowned in his mortgage repayments and lost everything.
Marcus Graham (27) was forced to sell his house at Cranebrook in Sydney’s west in June 2022 for $100,000 more than he bought it for in 2018 – but has nothing to show for it.
The three-bedroom house was mr. Graham and his then-wife’s first property purchase and the repayments were going well until the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Despite a freeze in mortgage repayments, interest kept building on the couple’s loan until they couldn’t keep up and everything started to fall apart.
Now Mr Graham is asking others with similar stories to come forward to help raise the ‘collective consciousness’ about how bad the cost of living crisis has become.
Marcus Graham, 27, was forced to sell his western Sydney home in June 2022 after falling behind on his mortgage repayments
Mr Graham paid $580,000 for his home and made steady repayments for four years before falling $32,000 in arrears after losing his job in the first months of the pandemic.
“I lost my job and from then, once lockdowns started to get worse, I ended up having a mental health crisis and things spiraled out of control,” he told USA Online Post Australia.
‘It just felt like all the security I had been able to build up was all taken away, plus the rising interest rates made it completely impossible to maintain mortgage payments.
“Once the financial security was gone, then all the safety and security in my mind was gone, I thought I had absolutely nothing and that was the end, everything I had worked for was gone.”
Despite banks handing out six-month mortgage freezes, the interest rate on Mr. Graham’s mortgage continued to rise beyond his means.
He bounced between jobs and even started for months his own photography business as a way to supplement his income but after his wife also lost her job, the repayments became impossible to keep up.
If Covid hadn’t hit, Mr Graham would have progressed to become a customer service manager, but hired himself out instead a real estate photographer.
He also worked as a warehouse worker, sometimes unpacking shipping containers in 40C heat.
Mr Graham paid $580,000 for his home and made steady repayments for four years before falling $32,000 in arrears after losing his job in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic
Yet it still wasn’t enough to cover the bills and by December 2021 his marriage was falling apart and the couple agreed to go their separate ways.
“The financial duress was the number one cause of our relationship breaking down,” Mr Graham said.
‘We were a dual-income household, which then turned into a single-income household, which then turned into a no-income household.
‘It spiraled very quickly, the stress and the pain we were feeling and the emotion eventually got the better of both of us and unfortunately we fell out of love.’
Two years later Mr. Graham is still saving up the $1,000 it costs to file the divorce papers.
“That’s how hard it is to live in the moment,” he added.
His now-ex-wife moved into a flat of her own around March 2022 and Mr Graham tried to save the mortgage until the sale of the house became inevitable.
He lived alone in the house for three months in a state of ‘second-degree homelessness’ before moving into his parent’s playroom.
‘My mental health was absolutely in tatters and it got pretty serious,’ he said.
‘Luckily my parents were able to help me with a spare room. I know that there are many people who do not have this and I am extremely grateful for that.
“I know people who have lost rent and just been pushed onto the streets and that’s it – you can try to queue for social housing for 10 years or you can couch surf, but it’s really rough.”
People in similar situations as Mr. Graham faced in 2022 are what he calls the ‘invisible people’, and they often suffer alone.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw Mr. Graham goes through a divorce and moves back in with his parents
While he lived with his parents for three months, Mr. Graham said that he continued to deteriorate until he found his new partner, who he is still with today.
Together they found themselves a new place in St Lucia and made it their home before Mr Graham’s misfortune continued.
“The landlord ended up kicking us out because one of their friends got pregnant,” he said.
“We were informed at the beginning of December and then we fretted over Christmas and thought, “what are we going to do?”.
As rental prices continued to rise across Sydney, Mr. Graham ventured back to Penrith where he regularly conducted inspections with 50 other applicants.
None of the homes he or his partner inspected offered long-term leases, adding to their stress levels after already being kicked out of one place.
“I feel like a lot of agencies go for short-term rentals and then advertise again at a higher price,” he noted.
Eventually, the two found a small-time local real estate agency that had fewer applicants and they were able to find a home that was a downgrade from their first home, but still cost about the same price due to rent increases.
Mr Graham is now with a new partner and in a new home, but has a bittersweet outlook on the future, lamenting that: ‘At the moment I think the Australian dream is dead’
Now happily settled in his new home, Mr Graham remains optimistic for the future but still has a sense of bitterness about the struggles he has gone through.
‘It’s definitely a sense of betrayal to some degree, I was told as a kid to go to university, get a degree, get a good job, make a lot of money and that would be fine.
‘And then everything collapsed, even though I did everything right.
“Right now I think the Australian dream is dead.
“The Australian dream in the 1980s was very different to how it is in the new roaring 2020s, which feels a lot like the other roaring ’20s where we have something akin to the Great Depression.
‘There is a whole lot of uncertainty floating around. I think it’s a scary time to be in Australia.
‘I am going to reassess the situation from time to time and see if it is plausible to get back into the property market. But for now, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to be a renter for a very long time.
“I would have to find three jobs to supplement an income big enough to get back on that (property) ladder.”
But while Mr. As Graham continues to rebuild his tattered credit score, he said he will remain optimistic because without it, there will be nothing left.
‘I try to stay optimistic every day. But personally I don’t think I will be able to get back on the property ladder for at least 10 years.’