Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chapter 4: House Hunting Tips, then back to the Garden

Chapter 4 : House Hunting Tips and then back to the Garden

There are some things that will haunt a renter til the day they die (especially if they are still renting when they die). There are the onging mundane aspects of 'renting life' like having to constantly deal with inexperienced real estate agents with names such as 'Sheri-lee', 'Mario' and 'Kaylene', who insist on sending letters outlining your immenent eviction even though your rent is 6 weeks in advance. Then of course there are the old sour pusses like 'Yvonne' who tells you the land lady "is a dear old sweet lady who drops by maybe once a year for a quick dip at the beach and to prune the front garden" but ommits details of any size 26 knickers and the truth about extended stays with her extended family having extended parties in your back yard for up to 4 weeks.

Or there are those friggin cold winter mornings when you shiver to the fridge for the milk, open the door and realise in a moment of renting sadness that the inside of the fridge is warmer than your house...and there is nothing you can do about it...except climb inside the fridge.

Almost all renters have experienced plauges of one kind or another, whether it be the killer wasp hive inside your living room wall, the psycho possum who stares at you through your air vents or the endless stream of german cockroaches that take up residence in every single electrical item you plug into a wall and that no spray known to man can kill.

There is an inevitable period of self deception that every renter undergoes by concocting a series of pschological antedotes such as 'those silly people who are chained to their mortgage, I am free to go anywhere I please, hell I could even live in Brazil tomorrow if I wanted to' or the classic spartan and quasi-ethical excuse for renting 'my house does not define me as a person, I have transcended all need for material ownership, thats why I only aquire my house-hold furniture at council pickup, I am NOT buying into this consumerist ideology damn it!' Last but not least there are those less fortunate renters who have subsided to drugs and alcohol abuse as a final resort, before leaving and joining a commune. Their excuse for renting usually goes a little something like this 'I won't be told I need to buy a block of land, I mean we all own the land, the land is part of us and we are part of it. right? Darren? wake up darren!'

Unless you have already come to the last intoxicated option and embraced Socialist perspectives of land ownership, eventually every renter faces the cold, hard fact that they would prefer to own their own home.

Here are our top tips for escaping the rental cycle.

1. Start saving and put your money in a high interest saving account, don't touch it, be patient. Getting into a cycle of saving will give you a good indication of how much you are capable of repaying on a mortgage.

2. Start seeing brokers and banks (they will come to you) and get an idea of how much you can afford to repay fortnightly. They will most likely offer you more than they should so be smart. Make sure that the monthly repayments are well under the amount that you are putting aside in savings already otherwsie a simple interest rise will knock you about.

3. Start looking on and and other private sale sites to see what and where your money can buy. The more you do this the more discerning you will become of good value for money.

4. Make a list of everything you want in a home such as distance to work and shops, number of bedrooms, size of block, suburb etc and then work out which things you will and won't compromise on right down to things like floor boards v carpet.

5. When dealing with real estate agents be very clear on your checklist, email it to them, it will save you and them alot of wasted time.

6. Start getting out and seeing houses, see at least 10 before you seriously consider anything. This can be hard, but be disciplined and patient.
7. Think outside the square. Advertise what you want in local papers as private sellers will respond (this was how we bought our house).

8. When you find the house you really like make sure you get a building and pest inspection and if possible get some advice from someone in the building industry that you trust.

9. If all else fails revert to phase 3 of our renting scenario, Yalumba makes a great Dry Red, 2 litres for only $12, if it wasn't for the fact tht Joe kept breaking out in an allergic rash, we may never have owned our own home!

Starting a Veggie Garden
Anyway time to put the funk back into our funky frontyard farming advice. In the garden right now we are growing purple carrots, Pak choy, lots of tomatoes, huge bunches of basil, sweet potatoes, strawberries, butternut pumpkins, baby capsicums and spicey hot chillis. These are but few of the summer bounty which is sadly now coming to a cool close. But do not despair, our fellow funky farmers, there are still plenty of volumptuos vegetables you can grow right now.

"But I don't have time to make a vegetable garden", I hear you think across this cyber space. Don't be silly, even in a styrofoam box you can get a satisfying return of crops. Heres what to plant this month of March:

for the budding first time vege gardeners, try all season carrots, lettuce, Pak-Choy, silverbeet, shallots and garlic.

for the more adventurous, go for beetroot, broccoli, chives, Leek, onions, turnips and strawberries. if you have the room, plant them all.

Some handy hints are as follows.

put your patch in a spot where it will get as much sun as possible, and near a water source. Good soil means good crops. plenty of manure and dark soil will give big returns (top soil and manure is about $5 a bag). add mulch like sugar cane mulch to help retain water. (about $13 a bale at bunnings).

We made this vege box from a wooden pallet i found in council pick up (we were renting at the time).

Some things grow larger than others, so plant your taller crops at the southern end of the garden so they don't overshadow the smaller crops. Don't fret too much about this if you are a first timer. you will pick it up as you go. main thing is to make sure you have a go.

water in the evenings every 2 or 3 days, and after any hot days.

Pak-Choy grows super fast (an asian green that is great in stirfries and laksa's). When sowing all season carrots, mix the seeds with some sand (they are tiny) before sowing to help space out the seeds. Shallots are great - hack them back and they grow back again and again. Garlic shoots are also nice to flavour dishes or can be used to tie chicken thigh fillets flavoured with seasoning etc. Yummy.

sweet potatoes grow like mad in spring and summer. Unlike normal potatoes (which have poisonous leaves) the leaves of sweat potatoes are edible and delicious in a salad. they grow heart shaped leaves as a creeper, and look nice in the garden too.

when things start to grow cover with netting to keep out unwanted feathered or furry freeloaders. There, that should get you started. We will keep updating you with what to grow each month.

Next week - time to talk poultry. Introducing our three lay-dees, Henrietta, Charlie, and Billy Holiday. How we got started, and some eggsellent ideas for anyone thinking foul thoughts.


  1. Very clever, some great models tooo, though Noah looks a bit starved. v

  2. I am a been there done that kind of soul!
    Having recently had a new fence put up I had given up on the garden (as being too hard!)
    Your blog has inspired me! If toddlers can do it how hard can it be?
    And the workers don't even look tired!
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    pam a

  3. Hi, We live in Faulconbridge and are about to start looking for a new home, we have twins on the way!! We're thinking of putting an add in the paper to seek private sellers like you did. What section did you list your ad under, any tips?

  4. HI guys,

    We just listed it in the realestate section with a title along the lines of "Wanted 3BR house" with a bit of a speal about what we were looking for and our price range.

    Good luck with the house hunting.