This is the beginning of our house building story and we hope that our journey will inspire you and provide answers to some of the million questions we’ve had during the process.
I want to start by saying that my boyfriend and I love avocado toast. We buy avocados to eat at home and when we go out for breakfast. Yes, avocados are expensive, but the bad rap they have been given over the last few years just isn’t fair.
Avocado toast has been singled out as one of the main reasons why first-time homeownership rates are falling and the median age for first home buyers is rising. What started out as a casual, joking observation by a Melbourne journalist quickly grew into a generation-defining debate about everything that is wrong with Millennials, especially when it comes to having the discipline to save for a house deposit.
In 2015, we were both living with our parents while we finished studying and trying to find a rental in Sydney that we could afford was a scary prospect. Neither of us really wanted housemates or to live in an apartment, and we were both over our long commutes with terrible peak hour traffic. We already lived in some of the ‘cheaper’ western and south-western Sydney suburbs and the idea of moving farther west wasn’t appealing. I was spending up to three hours a day commuting, and Danny had the pleasure of dealing with the M4.
Not long after we both finished university, Danny was offered a job in Albury, NSW and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We saw it as an opportunity to get some balance in our lives and remove the stress of finding an affordable place to live. In January 2016, we packed everything up and moved to a city we hadn’t been to and barely knew anything about.
I don’t remember exactly when we started talking about buying a house. We had found a nice enough rental in Albury – the house was bigger than we needed and cheaper than anything we could have found within a 100km radius of Sydney. But, the rental estate agents were terrible, and the owner showed up whenever he felt like it.
Once the idea of buying our own place was there, it was hard to shake. I found myself wanting to look at lighting and cabinetry all of the time. We started talking about it more, what we wanted in our own house, how much we wanted to spend, where in Albury we wanted to live and whether we wanted to build or buy an established house.
As our lease was coming to an end, we made the decision to move to a cheaper house to help boost the house deposit savings. A few more months went by before we started getting serious about looking for our own place. We knew we were still a little off of our target deposit, but we thought it was a good idea to check out a few open houses and see what was around. We also toured a few display homes to compare what was available with what we could build ourselves.
Most of the established houses we looked at in our price range needed a lot of work, which wasn’t something we were prepared to do at this stage. I love the idea of an older fixer-upper with a bit of charm and a solid personality of its own. But, my teenage years were spent living in a house under constant DIY renovations that I don’t think were ever really finished, so I wasn’t keen on reliving that.
I think Danny thought I was a little crazy when I said I was serious about wanting to build. Thankfully, he went along with it and we spent two solid weekends visiting every display home and block of land for sale in Albury and Wodonga. Danny being mathematically minded of the two of us, created a spreadsheet showing the land size to cost ratio to help us understand where we could get the most value for our money.
We (meaning I, because I’m incredibly impatient) started to run out of steam when we couldn’t find land the size that we were looking for that fit our budget. I even floated the idea of looking at some established homes to see if anything caught our eye. There were a few promising ones, but we still had the same issue of them all needing more work than we were willing to do after spending the majority of our budget on the purchase price.
By this point, it was mid-February 2018. There was one estate that we really liked, but the current stage was sold out and the next stage wouldn’t be ready for release until closer to the end of the year. We decided to shelve the idea for a while, save a bit more and see were at in a few months.
I’m not exactly sure how or why, but a few weeks later, Danny came across a well-hidden listing for a block in the first stage of our preferred estate that had recently come back on the market. About four weeks later, we had organised pre-approval with a broker, put in an offer and bought the land.
It’s difficult to describe, but we knew from the moment we saw the block, that this was the one for us. We had narrowed down a few floor plans, and the next step was to meet with the builders and lock in a final design.
This process took much longer than we thought it would and I was under the delusion that the build was going to start two weeks after buying the land at the end of April. It’s now the middle of August and we’ve just signed off on the final plans, the rest of the mortgage has been approved and we’re waiting for the building to start booking the tradies.
The inspiration for this post and all of the subsequent posts is to hopefully answer some of the questions that we had and help others make sense of the house building process. We found so much information on how to buy an existing house, but building is completely different. But there is so much more to this than just organising the finance – buying or building as a pretty permanent decision and there are so many things to think about – far more than we realised at first.