From location to financing, renovations and regrets, First-Home Buyers looks at people's biggest life purchase with the 20/20 vision only hindsight grants.
This week on First-Home Buyers, Deb and Carol Stephenson shares the lessons they learned on their lengthy search for a quieter life outside of Sydney.
We've always known buying our own place was on the cards for us but we wanted to make sure the timing was right.
We got married later in life because of timing and also because we both wanted to do different things in our careers.
So although buying our own place has always been in the back of our minds, it had to be parked because we had other things to take care of financially.
When we did start looking at homes it was a conscious choice to look outside of Sydney. We wanted a quieter life.
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The Sydney lifestyle is attractive when you're a bit younger and want to be out and about. But we're both of the age now where we just appreciate time at home and downtime.
When we holiday we'd do a lot of weekends away on the south coast and really loved the location and its vibe of the more peaceful atmosphere.
So when we started talking about places to buy, both of us decided if we could afford it we'd like to live on the south coast.
Kiama was our dream location but it's just as expensive as Sydney now.
We had been looking at places in Kiama and around that area for a couple of years, not seriously, but more just taking a drive down and sussing out the area. That's when we realised that we couldn't afford to buy in Kiama.
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But we put the foot on the pedal in around December last year when we knew we were in a position to actually be serious about buying a property.
We started looking at established homes but then we quickly realised a lot of the established homes needed lots of work for the price range that we had in mind.
Given neither of us would be great renovators we moved away from established homes and looked at house and land packages.
So, every weekend we would drive south and go to display homes and all the new estates. It would see us dodge a few bullets along the way.
What we mean by that is we had a few scenarios where we put money down and then had a conveyancer look over the contract.
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They found there was a big difference between what people were telling us to what was in the contract.
As an example, one contract said it would be five years before the build would even happen but the sales consultant was telling us something else entirely.
Basically we found out that if we wanted to move in 12 months into our new place it wouldn't happen as the build wouldn't have even started.
So we moved on from that place and kept looking.
We've learned a lot of lessons along the way – the growth potential of the areas you want to buy in, the construction process and the loan process.
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When you're purchasing a house and land package there's two loans – there's a land loan and a house loan and there's two contracts. So there's a lot to be aware of.
Another thing to be aware of is finding the right mortgage broker. Our advice would be to do your due diligence on your broker and make sure they are right for you.
If you're able to get a recommendation to someone, even better.
We ended up going with New Living Homes which had a really great sales consultant who was really transparent.
In the end we compromised on location. We're still 65 kilometres out of Sydney, inland on the south coast. But we're closer to Kiama than we are in Sydney.
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We've bought a four-bedroom, two-bathroom single-storey home. It has a theatre room and then there's a large open plan living, dining and kitchen.
The kitchen has a walk-in pantry and there's a two car garage.
But for us, it ticks a lot of boxes. The single storey works for us because we have two dachshunds so stairs are not a good idea for them.
But also as Carol runs her own business, Charlie Boy Clothing, what we did is we were able to extend the house at the back to give Carol a much bigger sewing studio.
Fortunately for us, Deb's older brother is a builder, so he was able to go through the contract with us and suggest crucial upgrades to the home – like double glazing on the windows.
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The house build starts in mid-September this year and finishes mid-April next year. So potentially by Easter we'll be moving in.
It will be interesting timing with the interest rate rises. We're paying double – paying off the house and paying rent in Sydney.
But as soon as we turn the key in our new home our cost of living will drop. So it makes it all worthwhile.
As for whether this will be our forever home, we're not sure.
We always pictured that long term we might live closer to the coast, but it's so expensive. We can't afford that right now, but this is the next best thing.
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