When Dad comes to visit

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General, The Build

Late August 2016: It was a happy day when my Dad came over for a peak at the progress. My parents tried not to visit the building site, as it was full of hazards.

So, when he came around and had a look, he said “It’s getting there, you’re doing a great job.” It made me feel unbelievably happy.

In a renovation you often wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You’re in your own head and down in the detail a lot, sometimes debating and arguing the detail with your spouse as well. You worry about money and time. When things go wrong, it can set you off when stresses are high.

Our wish has never been to build a mansion. We wanted a home that provided enough space for our family to grow over time, and become the hub for our kids as they became teenagers. Rather than spend all their time at other people’s houses (because ours was like an apartment in size), we wanted them to be able to enjoy home with their friends, and with us. We like entertaining our extended family and good friends as we had pre-children.

That we found a house which was architecturally beautiful, even if old, was a stroke of luck. Many P+S homes are bulldozed without a second thought by people who are sometimes unaware of the comforts they offer. And like all parents, we worry about household debt. We did not want more of it. We also run 2 businesses. A mortgage and raising kids is enough.

Neither my husband or I have ever benefited from great windfalls of gifts of money from parents or grandparents, redundancies or the like. Our careers have been upwardly stable and then peppered with some risk when starting businesses – something we have also done on our own dime. Super – what’s that? When you run your own businesses, you’re the last to get paid at times.

We’ve worked for all that we have, including the inevitable debt! My father came to Australia with nothing in the 1970s and together with my mother’s practical ways they’ve become independent retirees. Not rich enough to shower wads of money on anyone, but comfortable enough to look after themselves and their health, travel a little, and have no mortgage left to pay. This has required a strong sense of conservatism when it comes to spending and saving, especially from my father.

We have done that too, especially in order to buy our home. But in order to extend it and not move houses, the current market requires more risk than most adults would prefer: because construction costs money even if you know how to do a great many things yourself. For us, we have borrowed $120,000 for our extension and saved the rest ourselves to bring the budget to $300,000. Our original quotations before finding a builder who would work with us as Owner-builders, hovered around a whopping $550,000..without the pool. And no doubt that is realistic for the floor space were are adding…if the build was to be done fast and handed over to a head contractor. But we were determined not to be held over by banks for anything more than the mortgage, so we chose to owner-build which gives us the ability to time the costs, shop around for materials and discuss more effective ways of doing things with our carpenter daily.

It felt good to hear my Dad’s encouraging words that day. It helped us realise we were doing all that we could with sheer hard work, and that we weren’t crazy.

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