Friday, 14 March 2014

If I ever buy another old house, slap me. A tale of downs, ups, and sticking it to The Man.

"If I ever buy another old house, slap me". These are the words I uttered in 2009 when we moved into our 18 month old rented ultra-modern home on Ballarat Golf Course (see below). I had seen the other side, and at the time, I thought it was pretty good. 

We had lived in older homes most of our married life and to move to a modern mansion like this was a great feeling. It had been an incredible week; we had driven down from our previous home in Sydney for yet another chapter in our life. 

It seems the very day we move somewhere, something big happens in the world. 

In 2003, the space shuttle exploded. 
In 2009, Michael Jackson died. 
In 2010, we got a new Prime Minister under some weird and dramatic circumstances.

Why was moving to Ballarat, of all places, such a 'great feeling'?

I love to hear stories of the little guy sticking it to "The Man". Overcoming the odds, and not laying down and giving up, and all that jazz.

Here is mine. 

You see, there was a time in the mid-late 1990s (a very short period of time, mind you) when I was close to losing hope. I had thrown in a respectable job and spent all of my days walking with my young son, Liam, who, much to our horror, was diagnosed with autism. None of this "mild autism" stuff, mind you.......we won the "profound intellectual disability" jackpot. He would never have a normal life like his sister. The only way to get rid of this toddler's energy at the time was to get him out of the house......... and walk. 

We would walk for hours on end. Well, I couldn't do this forever, and when it came time to look for work, and there was nothing. We lived in country Queensland, in the middle of a significant drought. As we walked, I gritted my teeth and said to myself "I will survive". Over and over again.

We always wanted to live in Ballarat. Victoria, and I spent almost the last of our meagre savings at the time on a 20 hour bus trip to Ballarat for a job interview that I was eminently qualified to do. I didn't get the job. They actually said "we cant believe you don't have a job. There must be something you aren't telling us". 

What the Hell?

Anyway, I went to a large Ballarat Employment Agency to register with them. They wouldn't even take my details. They were only interested in providing LOCAL people with employment. To say I was disheartened was an understatement. I left by bus the following day, and the 20 hours on the bus was some sort of "resolve strengthener". 

I resolved to someday drive back into Ballarat in a nice car, to a nice house with good possibilities for my growing family.

I resolved to never have to feel that bad again.

I resolved that I would have an old antique wardrobe at my home (a home we had purchased a year before)with a large shelf filled with boxes that would be bristling with cash.

They all came true. (Legally, too!)

Fast forward a dozen years or so, and I drove my new black Honda up the driveway of this place, with a good job, a family that had doubled in size, and lots of money in the bank.

However, it still wasn't "ours". The new house seemed unusually large to us, and just not what we were used to. Our family is used to living in each other's pockets, and this was so different. It was about 60 steps from our room to Liam's! We are a family that prefers to buy, not rent. So the search began for a house that we would be proud to call our own without suffering that overused word "mortgage stress", which is probably what would have happened if we bought the house on the golf course, a game that I don't actually like. Time to get real and find something authentic.

Narrowing it down

We started looking at historic homes closer to Ballarat Central, and to our dismay, they were starting to increase in price by thousands of dollars every week over the year. The nicer ones were similar in price to those we left in Sydney.

We narrowed some areas down by doing what we do best; walking the streets with our family at certain times of the day and seeing what it felt like. There seemed to be a certain excitement about Soldiers Hill, but it was very pricey and seemed a bit overrated. Lake Wendouree? Great, if we had spare couple of million dollars! "Eureka" precinct is a sleeper area that is slowly being "gentrified" with more historic houses being renovated and less being rented out. So we decided that "this is the place".

We first inspected our home to be in Feb 2010 and it was being rented. The home was a brick on bluestone semi detached terrace house, built in the 1850s and had a fortune spent on it on the inside. 

Also, it had 4 bedrooms and its own driveway; a rarity in central, historic Ballarat. Somehow, from our very first inspection, we just knew it was going to be ours. My mentor in Real Estate, June, told me that "nice people buy nice houses", and this just seemed to scream out to us to make this grand old dame shine again. Sure, it was small but the overall package is livable and suits our needs, and will be renovated and extended soon.

Serious point: Write lists. Do stuff. 

I am a great believer in writing lists to help with achieving things, and we had a half a dozen things we needed to complete (and sell) before we could comfortably proceed. The list was devoured in 4 weeks. After a bit of negotiating, the house was ours!

My advice....Set goals. Take risks. I love that old BMW ad that said "to set lowly goals is to cripple oneself from within". 

Most important: Make your goals worthwhile and meaningful to YOU, not what you think others want you to do. After all, they are not paying your mortgage! 

So there you have it. My tale of woe, betrayal, not getting served and then overcoming stuff. "Like a Boss", as they say.

Oh, and you might want to know what happened to that Ballarat employment agency that wouldn't serve me. They went bankrupt and disappeared from the landscape. 

Serves the buggers right. : )