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If You Want A House, Move To The Country

And learn to be a tightarse.

10/03/2017 8:09 AM AEDT | Updated 10/03/2017 8:10 AM AEDT

Video by Tom Compagnoni

I never thought I'd move out of Melbourne. Never.

In 2005 I was living above a seafood restaurant in Fitzroy with eight other 20-somethings. The neighbourhood was full of life and noise and stuff. I went to pubs on the weekends, had house parties, ate chocolate in bed. I worked in the CBD. I didn't need a car.

But my boyfriend lived on a farm. A farm. In the country.

I visited him quite a lot (undying love, etc), but the country, in my mind, was four things:

Boring
Filled with spiders and snakes
Dry
Mostly paddocks.

Also, boring.

What I liked best was being inside, and the country has such a lot of outside. However, it's difficult to have babies and get married and so on if you live 300km from your fella. So I moved. Oh, don't worry -- it wasn't one-sided. It's not like I was a contestant on 'Farmer Wants a Cook'or anything. He moved too.

We found somewhere a little bit country and a little bit city. Not too far from Melbourne, not too far from dry, spidery paddocks. Hello, Ballarat.

I hated my new home for about a year. Maybe 18 months. Like, hated it. I wanted to move back to Fitzroy and resume my old inner-city life. I didn't, though -- quite the opposite: I decided to buy a house. I know, wacky. But get this: houses are really cheap in the country. Ballarat isn't even serious rural country, but the real estate -- compared to those silly capital cities -- is a bargain.

Federal Victorian MP Michael Sukkar recently claimed that getting a "highly paid job" is the "first step" to owning a home. Well, I don't know about that. I reckon the first step is learning how to be a tightarse.

My boyfriend and I found a run-down 1890s cottage in a good spot and naively offered the agent $185,000 (he probably would have taken less). Now, keep in mind that this was more than 10 years ago. But still -- super amazing cheaptown. We had almost identical incomes at the time ($36,000 before tax -- wow, we were doing well) and had been saving at the same rate. Together we managed a nice 20 percent deposit (thus avoiding mortgage insurance) and borrowed $144,000.

Five years later we decided to upsize. No, that's the wrong word. We decided to buy a house with exactly the same number of rooms but more fancy wood panelling on the walls. This was tricky because by this stage we had two kids and one income (about $60,000 per year).

Fortunately, we were pretty frugal. And when I say "pretty frugal" I mean total tightarses. Our minimum fortnightly repayment on the $144,000 was $375. Instead, we paid $750. By the time we were ready to sell, the mortgage was sitting under $100,000.

Some bloke gave us $250,000 for the first house. The second house -- because of its wood panelling, I guess -- cost $375,000, and we borrowed $240,000. It was very difficult to convince the bank to lend us that much because a) our household income was a bit ridiculous, b) my husband's pay slips were all hand-written and his wages arrived sporadically, and c) I attended bank meetings in my trackies.

In fact, the only reason the bank manager agreed to the mortgage was because I pointed out that we'd been paying double the minimum repayments on our first mortgage. She was impressed (or possibly thought we grew drugs in the backyard).

Moving to the country definitely made it easier to buy a house. Definitely. But really, the main reason we were able to afford our own home was because we saved like crazy.

Our annual household taxable income is now approximately $90,000. We have a lot more money than we used to. However, we still don't: go overseas, buy new cars, eat raspberries, have haircuts, pay for health insurance or feed our children. Wait, scrub that last one -- I occasionally let them have porridge. Every bit of spare money goes into the mortgage. We currently owe the bank about $95,000.

So, what point am I trying to make here? Well, moving to the country definitely made it easier to buy a house. Definitely. (Look up Ballarat real estate and see what you can get for $400,000.) But really, the main reason we were able to afford our own home was because we saved like crazy (i.e. no smashed avo).

Federal Victorian MP Michael Sukkar recently claimed that getting a "highly paid job" is the "first step" to owning a home. Well, I don't know about that. I reckon the first step is learning how to be a tightarse.

Btw, I don't hate Ballarat any more. In fact, I like it more than Melbourne. (Yes, I'm surprised too.)

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Over the next few weeks The Huffington Post Australia will run a series of daily blogs on housing affordability called The Great Australian Nightmare.

Everyone from senior government ministers to first-home buyers will have their say on what we at HuffPost Australia consider one of the biggest issues facing Australia.


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