So Much Has Changed – Part 1

I just looked, and it has been five years (and a bit) since I last posted anything in my blog. And so much has changed in that time.

I finally got another job in 2017 after almost three years of looking. It was a good job and I enjoyed it. Managing a membership database, keeping things up-to-date and as accurate as possible. Lots of spreadsheets to track what needed to be updated and so on. It was a small office of about 15 people at the most.

But things were not quite right. There were things that needed to be done to the house. Hamish had developed a habit of peeing right next to the litter box, instead of inside it. I just didn’t have the money for such things. I was getting older, and my weight had gone up. Hovering around where I was when I had my surgery in 2015. I was indulging in Real Estate Porn… where you look at houses for sale and think… ‘If I had the money, I would buy that one’ etc.

For a long time, I had been thinking about selling my house in Sydney and moving to a regional town. I had one in mind that I had visited a number of times. Not a giant town like Sydney, but with a daily train service to Sydney, an airport, major hospital, Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) base, a branch of my Church, and even a local bus network for when I become too old and can no longer drive a car. And as an added bonus, parts of the town had Fibre to the Premises (FttP) National Broadband Network (NBN) connections. Parts of town had the lower standard Fibre to the Node (FttN) connection to the NBN, so I only looked at houses with FttP.

In July 2019 I was called to Jury Duty in the District Court. It was my first time being called. Ever. My father used to be called to serve, all the time, but my mother never was called. We had managed to get my call deferred once due to work, but they insisted the next time. I had been due to be called in May, for a possible 24 week trial, but it was cancelled the day beforehand and I remained on the list of potential jurors. In July, just before my time on the list was due to expire, I was notified to turn up for a possible 25 week trial… which would have put me right up to Christmas. When I reported in, they advised that instead of 25 weeks, would I be already with a 5-6 week trial. I said yes. I was eventually selected from the pool of available candidates on that day to serve on the trial. It lasted exactly 5 weeks. And no, I won’t discuss the trial at all. Except to say, my jury was a really good group of people. We all got on well together. The age ranges were pretty good. Another jury did not get on together, with the younger people disregarding what the oldest juror had to say… turned out she was right. But our group was good. Very friendly. I was chatting with one juror who worked not far from where I lived. We were both around the same age. He and I were talking and I told him about my thoughts on selling up and moving etc. He said that with the price I would get for my Sydney house, even in the condition it was in, I would be able to move, buy a new house – a better house, and still have enough money to live on until I reached Pension Age in a few years. Even if I spent $1,000 a week, I would still have money left over by the time I reached 67 when I qualified for the pension.

In October 2019 our office was moving to new premises. Close to Wynyard station in the Sydney CBD. I was taking two weeks of my annual leave around that time. I arranged to rent a car and go to the regional town and take a look at some of the houses that were for sale and which I had bookmarked as ‘possibilities’. I rented a Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatchback from Bayswater Car Rentals. Their cars are all white, and all automatics, and I have never had an issue with cleanliness or with the condition of the cars I have rented from them. Plus, they have good pricing for their cars and don’t rip people off with outrageous fees. Additionally, one of their offices is located right next to the bus stop that would take me back to the office or to home when I returned the car. I wanted to see how the hybrid car did on a long journey. The regional town is 5.5-6 hours drive west of Sydney, over the Blue Mountains.

I have made the journey to this town before in a similar sized car and it has taken a full tank of petrol to make the trip. It took only a half tank in the hybrid. I stayed at a nice motel. On my first full day, I saw three houses. I was a bit disappointed with them and ruled them out of contention and took them off my bookmarks in the real estate app. I then drove to Coonabarabran to meet a friend for lunch. We had never met in person before, but we used to chat almost daily in my previous work and had become good friends. It was nice to finally meet her in person.

I checked out the town and surrounding areas for the next few days. Real Estate open houses are usually held only on Wednesdays and Saturdays and I needed to return to Sydney on the Saturday. So on the Saturday morning I packed the car and using the real estate app, had a plan to go and see 7-8 houses that morning before I started to drive back to Sydney. It only takes 15mins or so, even in peak hour, to drive from one side of town to the other. So even though some open house timeframes (30mins each) overlapped, I was still able to go and see all the houses I had on my list.

There was one lovely house that I adored. It was a turn of the 20th Century brick house. It was on a main road, but the way the road was constructed, with angled parking out front, and the house set back from the boundary and the hedge, it was very quiet. It was a 4 bedroom house with 12′ ceilings and picture rails on the walls (I love picture rails… no need to mark your walls with holes to hang pictures when you have a picture rail from which to hang things). There were polished wooden floorboards throughout the house. It had been extended at the back to allow for the renovation of the bathroom and the kitchen. The kitchen was large with lots of bench space. Out the back was a double lock up garage, and a double car port leading to the rear lane access. This house, which I called the ‘Period House’ was about two blocks from the train station, and there was a bus stop near by too. The last house I visited that Saturday was a new 4 bedroom house, with a single lock up garage on the other side of the river. It was nice, and it was a little cheaper than the Period House. Of all the houses I had looked at that day, I thought it was between the Period House and this last house. The estate agent for the last house mentioned that he had another house about to come on the market the following week, just around the corner and that he also lived in the area, so he could attest that it was a nice area of town to live in, not dangerous or prone to robbery etc.

I drove back to Sydney and resolved that the time was right to finally make the decision to sell my house, quit my job and move to this regional town. On the Monday, I contacted a real estate agent to come talk to me about selling my house. I had a value in mind due to the valuation given in the real estate app from low, mid and high value for the house. Well, they nearly fell over themselves. As I was driving back from the regional town to Sydney on Saturday, they had tried to sell a house in the street parallel to mine. It was a fully renovated 3 bedroom fibro cottage with everything done to it. Even the landscaping was done. They had 5 registered bidders for the auction with their money already organised for the sale. But literally at the last minute, the vendors decided they didn’t want to sell the house. It was so last minute, the agents still had to run the auction. So they put a reserve price of A$1.8million on the house. Now this is an area which when I grew up was very industrial. Factories, tanneries, freight forwarding etc. My father had built my 2-3 bedroom fibro cottage himself, taking 3 years on weekends to do it, for a cost of 3,000 pounds (with there was a proper pound currency option on this keyboard)… which works out to around A$99,000 in 2019. The auction got to A$1.793million, but the vendors still wouldn’t sell. So when I rang the following Monday, the agents couldn’t believe it.

So the agent came around that afternoon and we agreed to sell my house off market. This means it isn’t advertised. I didn’t need to declutter the house (after more than 60 years in the same house… there was a lot of stuff), I didn’t need to make it like a ‘show home’. Instead, the agent brought the people they had bidding on the house the previous weekend come around and they could bid on the house. They set a date and people had to email their best price to the agent by 4pm. Whoever had the highest bid, would buy the house. There was a 10% deposit and as it was under auction conditions, no cooling off period. I had been told what price range they were going to tell the potential buyers. It was higher than what I was going to aim for, but I was told that I wouldn’t get the top of the range they were asking. Well, when they phoned me at about 4:30pm three weeks after I contacted the agent about selling…. I got the top price of the range! It was more than $100,000 above what I had expected the house to get. We set a long 4 month Settlement period to allow me time to find a new house, and I was allowed to use the deposit (which I was could keep even if the buyers backed out of the sale) to place the deposit on my new house.

During this three week period, that other house the regional town agent told me about appeared on the real estate app. A 4 bedroom, two bathroom with a separate toilet to the main bathroom, rumpus room, double lock up garage, on a large block of land. The house was about 5-6 years old. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to the town before the Christmas/New Year break. So I employed a Buyers Agent from the next major town over to go view the house for me. He did a 360degree video and sent it to me. Then he prepared a written report and sent that to me too. He went into the history of the area where the house is located (which I already was aware of) and he compared the value of the house with three recent sales in the town and how this house compared to them. On the Friday after I had agreed to the sale of my house and signed to contracts with the buyers, he phoned in the morning to discuss the report and we agreed to go ahead. He negotiated the price with the sellers. By 12:30pm that Friday, I had agreed to buy the house. He also arranged the pest and building inspection for me. We negotiated between both my buyer and the seller of the new house to have both sales settle on the same date… 28 February 2020. My conveyancer arranged to transfer the payment to the conveyancer of my new house once the buyers had transferred the money to them.

I think this is enough for now. I will continue the catch up on what has been happening in my life in Part 2. And I won’t make you wait 5 years for it either. I promise.

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