Monday, 9 November 2015

Sweet home project 4 – endless inspections

Stories before this

Sweet home project 1 buying an apartment in St Kilda East

Sweet home project 2 choosing an agent to sell the St Kilda East apartment

Sweet home project3   selling an apartment

Paul and I got married in November in 2012. Ever since then, we kind of started to look for a house. I grew up in a two-storey town house with a small backyard, front yard and sideway in Tokyo. My otousan (dad) looked after the garden but it looked like a chaos, at least for me, and I knew I’m not good at looking after plants anyway (I just don’t bother water them and then they die soon…poor things!) So I felt that if we couldn't afford a house, I was okay with an apartment. But for Paul, the idea of a "dream house" was a place with a decent size of yard. He grew up in a big house with a big backyard (typical Aussie home!) and his parents have lovely vegie patch and their garden always looks neat.

Well, I definitely didn't hate the idea of living in a house, as long as we can afford it, so we kind of decided that we want a 3BR house. It’s good to have 3 bed rooms because we might have 2 kids in the future. Even if we don’t, it’s good to have an extra room for guests from Japan (especially my mum.) We were pretty happy with our St Kilda East apartment before we had Nico, so we weren’t that serious about trying to find a place quickly. We just occasionally checked and when there was something interesting, we went to the inspection for fun.

We thought it’s nice to live close to Paul’s family in Mount Waverley, but Mount Waverley was becoming one of the most expensive suburbs because of the high-ranked public school. Then we found this area called Clarinda (near Clayton) which is about 15 mins by drive from Mount Waverley and where the houses were still affordable. In 2012-2013, a 3BR house in a big block of land was around 500k there. Because of the land size, we thought we could build one more house in the backyard and sell or share the land with a friend or someone from Paul's family and build two new units. We weren’t ready to buy yet, but we went to a couple of auctions too. We saw at least 15 houses around this area over around 6 months. During that time, while we weren't that serious, the prices went up so quickly and we started to doubt if we could afford a house in Clarinda. That was the time we found our little Nico was in my tummy.

Then, as I wrote in Sweet home project 2, we decided to sell our apartment first and rent from Paul’s parents temporarily while we were getting ready to welcome our baby.

Once we started to settle in our new life with Nico, we started looking for our house again. Our first inspection after Nico was born was when he was 2 months old and my mum was there. Paul found a new area called Heathmont near Ringwood which was still affordable at the end of 2014. That suburb was a bit farther from the City and Paul’s work, but it’s still 15 mins drive from Mt Waverley and quite handy with express trains from Ringwood and a big shopping centre nearby.

inspections with little Nico

The first house we saw there was a lovely mid-century style house with a big backyard. The inside of the house was very very old, but it had some potential. It had a big front yard too, but they were selling the front yard separately and we couldn't know what kind of house would be built there.

My mum went to the inspection with us and I could tell that she was a bit shocked by how old the house was and how rubbishy it looked. By that time I had gotten used to looking these old houses in Australia and when I inspected them, I didn’t think about living there unchanged and was really just looking at the parts we couldn't change, like the structure of the house or location. But my poor mum, she didn’t really understand - in Japan, when people get married, they usually buy land and build a new home. Usually they'll never sell it and will continue to live in one "family house" for a long time. Once they pass away, their kids live in the house. (These days, many people buy a high rise apartment though!)

Looking around at houses with a newborn baby wasn’t easy. He was often sleeping in the car and one of us had to stay in the car with him. I often had to make formula in a moving car and try to cool it down while Nico was crying so hard. We sometimes had to change his dirty nappy in our car or on the nature strip too! We went to Heathmont almost every weekend and had 2 or 3 inspections each time. It was quite tiring.

Well this is becoming a long story (and felt long for us at the time), so I will share some interesting stories about inspections and auctions next time.

With love,


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