Saturday, September 16 2017
Is it only me who feels like the last year has been a complete blur? I know this is how it feels for me! I started writing this post back in 2015, then wrote more a year ago but only now have I finished it. I know it is long, I am sorry, but excitedly it was something that took time to write and unfold. I am not writing this as a brag post, merely sharing the process and how we got to building.
12 months ago we got given the keys to our first home... I remember this day so well, as if it were only yesterday. Gosh, that year has gone so fast, crazy!
12 months ago I didn't even think I would be here a year on to celebrate!
We finally were getting our house, a house that we worked hard and sacrificed over years to get, the house that I thought I wouldn't be alive to see. It was a massive goal and dream of mine (well, ours) to have our own home.
I know a lot of people have judged us for "not really doing it hard " when we were able to build a house and loved making up rumours that we were rich, but we weren't and aren't flushed with cash by any means at all. We saved and sacrificed and worked hard over years to get our own home and we had our fair share of setpacks and hardships during those years, but we never gave up hope.
I have copped a lot of flack on my blog and my facebook page about building and buying our house, I have been told I am a fraud, I have been on the end of horrible jealousy and judgement when inviting people into our home.
While I acknowledge that yes I am fortunate to have my own house, I really don't deserve the vitriol and to be made to feel ashamed of having my house or that I could achieve something that I have always dreamed of doing which was to be a first home owner.
I acknowledge that it is very unaffordable to live in places such as Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane and it is harder for first home buyers to afford their own house. We live in an area of rural NSW where house prices are a fraction compared with those in the bigger cities.
So this is not a brag post in anyway, it is a post that showed our story to how we remained hopeful that one day we would be lucky enough to be home owners. A story of how we eventually got to something we talked about for years. A story that I want to share of our house and how it came to be....
It was cheaper to build a house than buy one, but it doesn't mean we aren't still struggling each week to make ends meet. I still don't have any life insurance and still haven't gotten my super out, we are still drowning in over $15k in credit card debt.
But out decision to have our own house came down to several factors:
How we got here:
We would apply for a homeloan every 6 or so months since early 2010 and usually would be declined and told to come back again in 6 months and try again.
We were fortunate that with Russell's income, we had worked off some of our debts to look more appealing, the little we had saved over the years and the low interest rates meant that the banks were willing to offer us a homeloan, we weren't even expecting a yes that day, I remember we went home and we cried and hugged for hours that FINALLY we could be getting our own place.
It was a dream come true, really!
But for what we needed there wasn't anything in our budget that didn't require a lot of work and rennovations which was money and stress we couldn't afford. Also, because Russ was still on his L plates or his learner's license we were more or less confined to living within walking or riding distance to work, which limited the area we could look at.
We also wanted a house that was:
If we were lucky to find something that ticked most of the boxes it still needed a lot of work done.
I know it sounds like surely a lot of places would easily fit our budget, but with only a budget of $350-390k our options really were limited to:
Deciding to build over buying an established house:
We had mostly given up all hope of having our own home, then the bank manager said these 5 words: "have you thought about building?" and it changed everything. Yes, we had thought about building and No, we didn't think it were possible based on quotes we had years ago the house cost more than our entire budget!
We had always hoped to move out of Coffs at some point and preferably would move to Woolgoolga. We had always felt Woopi felt more like home for us and Coffs was just far too busy, noisy and crowded for our likes. It was close enough to Coffs if we needed doctors or work but far enough away. It is only around 20km north of Coffs Harbour.
When we looked into land, stand alone house costs to build or house and land packages in Woolgoolga (and surrounds) we noticed that the land outside of Woopi in older beachside towns/suburbs was cheaper too approx $200-300k difference in price than in Woopi but only 5km away.
Russ was keen on the move too and I told him he wouldn't move until he had his P's, so he became more committed and took up driving lessons and actually would drive most places to get his confidence up. Excitedly he got his P's first go in June last year (2016), I cried tears of joy and relief and was so proud... been a big year for milestones for us both!
We found this perfect house and land package that fitted our budget perfectly that we drove out to Woolgoolga that next day to enquire. We got to the real estate office and told that the contracts were exchanged earlier that day and that it was now off the market.
I felt a bit bummed out, it was the last available block in the estate, I felt like the hope I had for our future was gone.
But, alas, there was hope again:
On the drive back to home (Coffs) I called into the display home for the builder the earlier package was from and wandered inside. I told the salesman we were interested in the property that was sold earlier that day and if he knew of any other developments coming up that we could secure something early to avoid missing out again.
He replied: "I think I have something for you", feeling hope returning he ushered us to have a seat at his desk. He pulled out the estate plans and circled LOT 14, he said "a block has just become available today after a couple pulled out due to finance falling through, it is double the size of the one you were keen on for a fraction of the price. It is in the first stage release and building can commence in the New Year".
I was so surprised when the builder said the house could be built for $235k! I almost fell off my chair. It included rendering the house and we opted to get airconditioning installed post build as we ran out of money in the budget initially. We had to pay for extras like fencing, tiles on the outside patio, landscaping, turf etc.
It was 16 September 2015, (year to date later we got the keys and moved in) I was due to start chemo in the coming weeks and not knowing how long I had to live, we wanted to do whatever it took to secure this block and start the build, so we could move in the following year and thus ticking off another life goal of ours.
I looked at Russ and asked him if it felt right with him and he was definitely keen, so keen he handed me his credit card. We handed over the deposit they needed which was only $1k - and we just put it on the credit card so we didn't miss out.... and so the process began!
I think the sales person thought I was nuts for opting to build a house while undergoing chemo.
But you know what, I think the build was the one thing that helped me to get through chemo - knowing there was something so exciting to look forward to- it became the best part of my week driving out to check the house progress.
Which brings us to 12 months ago today!
The house was 3 months behind schedule which meant that it was 3 additional months we hadn't quite budgeted for with the additional rent and were struggling. We were paying rent of $375 a week plus the mortgage on a house we weren't even living in, and I was so stressed trying to pay all the bills and afford to eat that we added everything to the credit cards (which we are now drowning in debt to repay and get on our feet).
But the day for final inspection and key handover was finally here, after being pushed back weeks and even days that same week, Friday September 16th had arrived!
We had to be out at the house by 7am sharp ready to do the handover, Russ was having to leave for work by 8am and our furniture pieces (spare bed, lounge and outdoor setting) were due to be delivered at 8am too, the fridge and dishwasher would arrive at some point that morning too. It was absolutley pouring, so much rain and very wet and muddy.
When Russ left, it was just me at the house all day without a car as he took the car to work. I remember just walking around the house all day just feeling so surreal that this was actually ours. Everything looked so new and shiny and was too perfect to live in, I was scared to make a mess. That new house smell too, it felt like I were on holidays.
The builder gifted us a picnic hamper and wine, which came in handy as we hadn't thought as far ahead about plates/cups/cutlery! Was a very thoughtful and unexpected gift.
Wasn't long and I scratched the wall and the place felt like home.
Our first night in our own home:
That night we ate pizza out the back on the patio on the new outdoor setting (was our only table setting for a fortnight) using the picnic hamper the builder left as a gift for us, and we toasted to our first night in our house drinking homebrand pineapple fizzy!
We slept on the spare bed that had arrived earlier that day and I never stepped foot in the old house again.
Never have I ever felt more at home before, but here I feel so happy and we truly love it here. It is so quiet compared to where we lived which was on the highway in Coffs Harbour at one of the busiest traffic intersections.
I feel healthier in this house too, which sounds strange to say as I am dying from cancer. But, the old house I think was making me sicker than I was already as the house leaked/flooded everytime it rained, normally in winter I struggled to breathe and my asthma is horrid - this winter I wasn't in hospital once! It is normally my second home in winter as I can't breathe. Could be there isn't the added pollutants of the traffic too here.
We just love it here!
It is only 17 minutes for Russ to drive to work of a morning and after he got used to the routine of driving of a morning instead of just walking or riding his bike he was fine. He is a lot happier here too.
Woolgoolga was where Russ called home for most of his life, he said it feels great being back.
The town is so welcoming and kind, everyone is always saying hi and smiling, kids you hear laughing and playing in their backyards, they too seem happy which makes you happy too knowing others are happy.
But the 5 best things about finally having our own home is:
It was a long road to get here, so many times we almost gave up along the way thinking that it would never happen. Never give up on a dream.
I had some people when we said we were going to build say to me "but you're dying, what is the point really?". How I saw it, was that no matter what my prognosis is, Russ still needs somewhere to live.... but why should I give up hope on seeing a dream I have always hoped to come true just because I won't have a long life. I know it is hard at times to understand why, but everyday that I am alive I want to live a life I love and that I am proud of... just because I am dying doesn't mean I stop wanting to live or to achieve my heart's desires... dying just made me want to move a lot of things along earlier than expected.
Please keep an eye out for more posts I am writing, I am catching up on over a years worth of posts. But if you want to ask advice and you haven't been able to find it on my blog feel free to contact me or check out my facebook page too as I often blog on there too.
P.s if you read this far, thank you! Russ and I are working on some more posts about the build and advice for others just lessons we learned along the way, so keep an eye out!