We have flicked through the property papers and attended a good many realtor open homes over the last year or two and I was pretty much over the idea of ever finding a house and smallholding that would suit us as a family and that we could afford.
We looked at a place in a nearby township and I asked my friend Kevin, who is an architect, to give me his opinion. While he didn’t actually say ‘don’t buy’, it was clear he had reservations as he outlined the stuff he saw and the potential expenses we might incur. He also gave me a piece of advice that he always bore in mind when buying a place; namely, you’re buying the vendor’s reason to sell and, if you don’t establish what that is, it can be an expensive mistake.
As we chatted outside the place, he told me we were setting our sights too low. By only looking at places we could afford and not considering other more expensive places we could haggle over and bargain down, we were unlikely to get anywhere close to the kind of place we were looking for. This turned out to be sage and timely advice.
For a laugh, the next day we went and looked at a millionaire’s mansion with 10 acres and had a hoot imagining ourselves living there with the galleried bedrooms and the kidney shaped swimming pool; the power bill and pool maintenance costs would have seen us bankrupt within a few months. Even so, I was tired of the whole house-hunting thing and, driving home, I had decided I’d had enough of looking.
Two days later, SWMBO asked me to go view another property after work. It was the last thing I wanted to do but I begrudgingly agreed. However, it turned out that the property was close by my friend Johnny’s farm and as we passed his place, turned onto an unmade road, through the gate and up a drive, I has a sense that this place might just be different.
And I was right, it was away from suburbia but close to the school bus route, was one bedroom short but had space to create another, had good land but not too much, was more rural but the commute was still realistic. Over the following weeks and months, we jumped through the usual and some not-so-usual hoops as we slowly but steadily worked our way towards making an offer we could afford and the vendor would accept.
Built on the side of a hill at the end of a koru-shaped drive, the house overlooks a valley which leads to a small estuary on what is one of the largest harbours in the world. We found the custom-built house cleverly thought out, well-designed and built with an eye for detail and a quality finish. You can imagine the goosebumps we got when the owner told us that the architect he had commissioned to design the place was our friend Kevin!
The house is North facing with the rooms and decks laid out to make the best of the day’s sun. The large roof catches the currently-plentiful rain and routes it into two 5,000 gallon tanks buried beneath the back garden for our water supply. The windows give us amazing views of the surrounding farmland, fantastic skies and spectacular sunsets.
Fanning away from the house are three paddocks: a narrow scrub-filled gulley dropping away to a small wetland area, a larger sloping grass paddock and a home paddock just below the house, where we keep our chickens and lamb. Across the drive, we have an acre of wetland reserve, a mini-ecosystem of native trees, plants and fauna bisected by a little brook.
Halfway up the drive and opposite the wetland area, there is a small one bedroom rental cottage. Imagine our surprise when, on one of our visits, we discovered that we knew the folk renting it! Sadly, they have moved to housesit for friends so we’re currently in the process of showing the place to a slow trickle of prospective tenants.
Adjacent to the main house is a self-contained one bedroom flat, which will provide space for visiting family and friends. In between such visits, we will offer it as a home stay for international students or something similar to bring in a little extra income.
Between the flat and the house is a large double garage or, should I say was, as we had a local builder convert part of the space into a bedsit for our first year uni student daughter, leaving the rest for a workshop and storage space. In fact, storage is one thing we’re not short of, as we’re blessed with two lofts, a wet room, a large basement, an under-deck store/animal shelter and a feed store in the back paddock.