It was clad with aluminium weatherboards and mission brown aluminium windows had replaced its original sash casement ones, but it had a lovely north facing lounge-dining room and the fair sized garden was an empty canvas.
I had it inspected, so thought there were to be no nasty surprises. How wrong I was!
I went in with my eyes open, aware that my new house was in urgent need of restumping. It needed to be undertaken as soon as I could afford it.
Within a week I discovered the showerhead needed to be replaced as it squirted more water onto the floor than it did into the shower. Worse still the bathroom door had long been removed and the previous owner had removed all but the most basic venetian blinds and curtains. I hung an old sheet to serve as a temporary bathroom door, whilst I did the rounds of wreckers to find one the right size and pattern to match the existing doors. Thankfully my mum recued me with terrylene curtains, removed from her house when they first moved in, to afford me some privacy when it came to the windows!
There were no powerpoints at benchtop level in the kitchen. Thus began the money-draining scenario that is home-ownership!
The laundry window was a case of put your hand on it and the whole thing wobbled. A burgular's delight. The toilet window was rotten. My dad found me a fantastic secondhand window for the toilet, but I had to have one made for the laundry and both needed fitting. More money; more urgent repairs!
Now buying this house had already cost me my entire life-savings. I was living on sausages and baked beans. The mortgage claimed a huge chunk of my salary. The only way I was going to be able to save up the kind of funds needed for the work on my house was to take in a boarder, which I did, as well as taking on the extra work this involved.
Finally I had the cash to get the restumping done. However, there was a problem, no reblocking company would do the work until the problem of the water lying underneath the house had been solved.
My new home had down pipes that drained straight onto the ground and under the house. There was no storm water drainage. This was a big job. It was the second call to my plumber and would cost almost as much as the restumping.
I kept saving.
Within a year, the house had stormwater connection and was reblocked. Finally it stood on solid foundations.
However more follow up work was needed. During the restumping process I had this wierd, burgular's delight back porch that only just covered the backdoor and served no real purpose, removed. This had wrecked the finish of the aluminium cladding at the back, as well as exposing a concrete floor that had been hidden with tiles, straight over the top of the original baltic pine floors.
I needed to get this concrete removed in order to get a new backdoor to fit.
In the process of removing the concrete flooring that disguised how unlevel the house had been when I bought it, the previous owners had cut a hole in the middle of the kitchen floor to install the new drains in their very bad and cheap kitchen renovation. The new kitchen had not been a selling point for me when I purchased the home.
I was now up for floor repairs, new floor covering, repairs to very old aluminium cladding, a new backdoor and security door, as well as paving the area immediately outside my backdoor.
I began saving again.
The neighbours donated an old rug to put down over what remained of my kitchen floor and a family friend repaired the hole that had been cut to plumb the kitchen.
I attended to the new back door and security door immediately, then lived without kitchen flooring for a further two years.
Meanwhile I paved a back entertaining area with second hand bricks and got to work on my garden, using sleepers and lots of cuttings and bulbs my dad supplied me with. At least the garden was making a difference to the look of the place and I could afford to purchase a few plants every couple of weeks.
The previous garden was non-existent. or almost so. It consisted of two federation daisies, some bergenia, mexican daisies and several poorly placed "landscaper's specials" pittosporums, which I hated. My dad and a neighbour cut them out before they got too big!
The garden was billed as "low maintenance". Given the garden was almost entirely made up of invasive kikuyu grass, nothing could have been further from the truth. I tried various strategies to get rid of it. It survived round up, solarising with black plastic at the height of summer, but eventually succumbed to create some garden beds by using round up followed by huge layers of newspaper, straw, blood and bone and manure. Lots of weight. But the kikuyu still kept invading the edges of beds and was an ongoing bane of my existence.
Eventually, I saved enough for new vinyl for the kitchen, laundry and toilet. What a joy and how easy it was to clean. Furthermore, the previous tiles when either wet or with even a trace of cooking oil on the floor had caused two falls of my mother, several of friends and one for me. The vinyl was way more practical and safe in my galley kitchen!
New fascia boards were needed at the base of the kitchen cabinets to conceal the gaps as the kitchen had been fitted whilst the house was anything but level.
Then the existing gas space heater died.
By now you are probably getting the impression that my Melbourne house was a bottomless money-swallowing pit. Luckily close relatives lent me their skills and expertise with building my carport and shed and doing my bathroom.
Finally I found someone who could supply and repair my ancient aluminium cladding.
The house was finally beginning to look more like the home I had dreamed of....
Then I did the cheapest and easiest home improvement I had ever done. The one that gave my front entrance a little of its wow factor back. I bought a sander and sanded the front verandah floor, which had been painted a minimal maintenence mission brown. Under that paint were beautiful mirboo boards, that oiled up a treat. They gleamed a natural welcome to all who entered.
Finally, thanks to a govenment incentive I was financially aided to install the solar hot water and electricity I had long dreamed of.
But the "renovators dream" had not finished keeping me poor.
Victoria was in the midst of a thirteen year drought. The walls were cracking, needing repair.
Then the drought broke and the existing flashing, could not cope with the deluge. The kitchen and laundry ceilings were now in need of painting. Luckily insurance covered that.
Another deluge and I was too embarassed to contact the insurance company. I called my plumber, who, by this stage, some fifteen years later, had almost completely replumbed the entire house. Wider flashings were installed where the old part of the house met with its newer extension.
I had planned a kitchen, or should I say back of house renovation, to make the layout more practical and appealing, but life circumstances changed and found me selling up and moving to Ballarat.
I sold my house, knowing I had done much towards righting many wrongs done to the house by its previous owners. I had taken it as far as I was going to. The new kichen and back of house work would be left for its next owner to undertake.
My new house is structurally sound and work I have done has been simple maintenence and cosmetic.
While most home owners begin with a renovator's dream, many a time I wondered if I would have been better off simply renting. My renovator's dream was a constant source of stress and over-stretched finances. I was unable to afford local holidays, let alone adventures further afield. Not only was I enslaved to my mortgage, but to a home restoration. I did enjoy designing and establishing my garden and my neighbours were fabulous. I still miss them, but I have never once regretted selling my renovators dream. Even though I sold it at a substantial profit, the experience of its partial restoration and refurbishment was difficult and ongoing and my quality of life was sacrificed to costly, personally and financially stressful renovations!
If you are considering purchasing a renovator's dream to get into the housing market, look for something that is at least structurally sound and has standard storm water drains. Watch out for tricks done to disguise the poor condition of floors and shoddy work. The longer I lived in my renovators dream, the more I fell out of love with it. I wanted a house to live in; not a house to live for!
Remember, when it comes to home renovations, nothing seems to cost less than two thousand dollars, it is not difficult to find yourself spending, what I regard as obscene amounts of money on a mere house. Then there are costs that, as a renter the landlord bears, like council rates, water service charges and of course maintenence. I still maintain that I was more financially secure when I was renting a property. Certainly, I did pay off my home in thirteen years, on only my income, as well as maintaining and doing quite minimal renovations and some major structural work. As a renter I could afford regular overseas and interstate travel. I was never in debt and found the concept of being in debt, difficult to live with for as long as I had a mortgage!