Slight Change of Heart and a New Opportunity

It’s been a mad couple of weeks. I have been very busy with work and other activities and the property search has changed forms somewhat.

I am going to be honest. My interest in Victoria has waned. Regular commenter here, Sam, asked me in an email a few weeks ago whether there’s a chance I would feel lonely living so far away from everything and everybody in West Wimmera. I was quite defensive initially but my mood changed. It’s a huge thing I am taking on. It’s a huge change of life. And as much as West Wimmera is only a 4 hour coach trip from Adelaide it’s a 4 hour coach trip from Adelaide! Financially and time-wise not something I can do on a whim.

Short story, I went and viewed a block a lot closer to Adelaide last weekend. Much different than what I have been looking for but good nonetheless. It is smaller, 1/2 acre, and based in a tiny village but it provides for my needs. Public transport is regular and cheap. The village has a pub and a post office. Services are 20km to the east and west. And the price is right.

What’s more, the First Home Owner Grant I am entitled to will almost offset the cost of buying the land and building a small straw bale house on it. This combined with the fact that it’s an easy weekend or day trip out to the block means that I can ease into this lifestyle a lot better. I can be experimental. And, if I change my mine, or want to buy somewhere else, I am much more likely to profit from the investment.

That’s where I am at.

A Use Case of The Typical Vendor Finance Skeptic

Vendor’s property has been on the market for two and a half years. Vendor is offered a deposit of 25% of sale price. Vendor is offered repayment terms of 3 years (25% of the remainder per year). Vendor is offered an interest rate of 9% (current market rate is 5%). Vendor intends to invest the proceeds of the sale in cash at a rate of 5.19%. Vendor doesn’t like the sounds of vendor finance so doesn’t wish to proceed with the sale. Vendor continues to pay $456 in council rates each year. Vendor “just wants to sell the property already!”

Living Deliberately Isn’t About House Size or Remoteness

This is a slightly edited comment I wrote over at Life in 120 Square Feet in response to a post entitled, “Live Deliberately: Follow Your Dreams“.

People ask me “Why do you want to build such a small house?” My answer is usually “Why would I want to build any bigger?” Deliberate living has nothing to do with the size of one’s house. Other factors will determine the size of my house and they are my budget (I am building a house that I can afford) and my needs or wants (I need a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, a comfortable place to read, and a workspace). When I say I need or want certain things they are determined by my budget. If I couldn’t afford, say, a dedicated workspace (with a view, I might add) I will change my plans. The fact that I do want a work area has meant that my tiny house is a deal bigger than many others. I’m okay with that as this isn’t a race to be the smallest. For me, at least, it is about my budget and my needs and wants.

People also question me about my want to buy so far away. This largely comes down to budget. The further from the big cities you are, the cheaper the land. “But why not save for a bit longer and buy something closer in?” (I actually had this question from a colleague today.) Because I don’t want to. I want to start living more deliberately as soon as I can. “Then why not rent a place rather than go to all the trouble and expense of buying land and building a house?” Because if I rented a house I’d be whittling away all my savings, the money that I have worked hard and endured suffering for, only to have nothing in the end. My current day job, where I earn good money, I hope, will be my last stint of that. Wage-slavery, I perhaps unfairly call it. I am going to make the money work hard for me as I no longer want to work hard for the money (there’s a bit of Donna Summer for you!). And it’s important, for my ‘new’ life to be sustainable, to acquire assets that don’t cost much to maintain after the initial expenditure. To rent, requires being out of pocket many thousands of dollars every year ad infinitum. Many more than I would pay in council rates and so on.

Buying Land : Another One Bites The Dust

I checked out the property on Patricia’s Road, Edenhope, yesterday. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. The soil was beach-like – it was that sandy. I expected to see it overgrown with Pteridium (bracken). Oh no, it was overgrown in Melaleuca Uncinata (Broombrush). We couldn’t actually walk the block – it was that dense, so ended up walking around it via a track that had been carved through one of the adjacent blocks. It certainly is a nice spot. It backs onto a cute strand of stringybark and – what looks to be – a private pine plantation. But it wasn’t what I expected. Now I know why the online listing didn’t give too much detail.

If the land was given away (or priced at about a 20th of what it is listed at) I’d certainly give it a shot. But in its current state it is way too much work. Don’t get me wrong, I want a challenge but there are challenges and there are challenges. This is greening the desert type stuff. (Perhaps I am just being dramatic?)

Geoff Lawton, want to give me a hand?

Buying Land : Take Two

I have officially given up on the Wimmera block that I looked at a few weeks ago. The bank isn’t interested. I haven’t been in business long enough, they say. I have been in business three months short of their two year requirement but that isn’t good enough. I expected this to be the outcome.

Not to worry, I am heading back over the border to view another block in the Wimmera region next weekend. This one is much different. It’s around 10 acres, no forest or woodlands to worry about – there is the odd eucalyptus dotted here and there only, and it satisfies all my other criteria. In fact, it’s within walking (and cycling) distance of a large town which has good transport links. Best of all, finance shall not be a problem.

Buying Land : An Update

A really quick update. That block of land that I fell in love with: it may not get legs after all. The vendor seems to have cooled off regarding the sale. The finance arrangement that he has suggested he has reneged on. So it’s back to the drawing board for me and hopefully I can get traditional finance – a tough call for someone that has been self-employed for only a couple of years and who is buying rural land. But we’ll see. I constantly bang on about adaptability, and that’s what I shall practice in this situation too.

If it all falls in a heap. Well that’s okay. I will keep a’looking.

Buying Land: Emotion, Rationality, and The One.

In my previous post, “The Desirable World: The Beginning“, I wrote that I was going to view my first block of land this weekend. Well, I did.

As I walked over the sandy loam and sniffed in the damp air I struggled to find words to describe my impression. My partner asked, “So what do you think?” My answer was confused and mechanical. I wanted to describe my feelings accurately but without putting too much emotion in. I wanted to answer rationally. This is what was confusing and made me feel mechanical – the need to answer in this way. I was looking at a piece of earth that I may soon own, that may be a part of my journey to making a life for myself, that may become a part of me, and here I am questioning the language I ought to use to express myself. Ought to, why?

Ancient Fence Posts Australia

A little sneak peek of the property, looking onto the reserve.

This feeling, this internal fight, has been with me for a few weeks now. As I increasingly tell people my intentions I am made to feel that I need to be rigorously rational about this process. But why aren’t other people made to feel that way? Home ownership is core to the “Australian Dream”. One ought to aspire to home ownership, we are lead to believe. Well so say the banks. Those that rent for too long are looked at as people with poor character or poor credit. To be treated equitably, it would seem, one has to toe the line: to live the normal life. To buy a suburban block. To live with the burden of a mortgage until just before retirement. If my choice was to live that life, it would be cause for celebration. Finally I am growing up, people would hail. Welcome aboard the property latter they would say. Too emotional a decision, buying a house in the ‘burbs? Not at all. It’s a sensible move. After all, rent money is dead money John Newcombe told us – in a television commercial for new homes.

The risk I am taking is known to me. However – and a lot of people say this – I tend not to regret things if they go ‘bad’. I see failure as an opportunity. And I mean that. I have taken many risks in my life that haven’t worked out, from giving relationships a go that perhaps I shouldn’t have, to taking on huge physical adventures that fell in a heap. From each of these “failures” an opportunity was born. Failure is a positive.

But you know what, I am going to talk about it in emotional terms now. As I was emoted by the experience. I’m a human, I am susceptible to it. It was stunning. Not just the land but everything around it which would be mine too. The land only measures 3 acres but backs on to a crown-owned reserve that is huge and impenetrable. Behind the block lays an ancient creek bed which was full and alive with the sound of frogs. A couple of hundred metres to the west, a massive wetland, thick with insects and drowned timber. Nature at its best. Beautiful.

As I walked back to the car – my partner drove me on this trip – the lady that lived in the closest house came out to see what we were doing. I explained to her that I was interested in buying the block. She gave me a short history of the area, in a thick cockney accent. She told me that the rainfall this year has been very good, though late, but then shared her concerns about global warming and that that the Australian Greens party have lost their focus on their founding cause, the environment. I found myself talking to a greenie, where I thought there wouldn’t be a greenie in miles. She told me that when she and her husband first emigrated to Australia they settled in the same city where I live. But she wanted room for her horses so moved to this town. She loves it. The people are pleasant, she said. Maybe not greenies – true, considering it is a Nationals Party safe seat – but that isn’t talked about. Politics isn’t part of the conversation. There are other things to talk about like the town, the sports scene, the weather, life.

Having spoken to this dear old lady, who unfortunately lost her husband a few years ago, I feel already a part of me is connected to this place. Let’s imagine for a sec that this block of land fell through. Well that’s okay. It can happen. But I reckon this region could be the one. It is stunning. It is beautiful. I felt something. Or perhaps I am being a bit too emotional.