Mr Dahlia and I have always loved houses, especially old houses. We watch renovation shows on television for fun. We bought our first house not long after having moved in together, and we learnt a million lessons renovating it. We’ve bought and sold a couple of houses since then, renovating them slowly in our weekends and upsizing each time. Over the past sixteen years, our family has grown and now we have four kids, three of whom will be high school in 2022. For years, we’ve talked about having more space; although on cold winter evenings when we all huddle in front of the heater it seems unnecessary.
Our last house when we bought it – note the asbestos tiled roof!
The same house (after a nine year renovation).
Our last house was big enough and we loved the way the renovation came together. But it had one problem. A toxic neighbour.
The type of neighbour who threatens to call the cops because our rubbish bin touched his trailer.
The type of neighbour who has a thirty year feud with the neighbour on the other side of us, resulting in a lot of screaming in the street and car parking dramas.
The type of neighbour who calls the cops because an eight year old’s birthday party is too loud. The cops turning up at his party made Kid3’s day; he thought it was hilarious. Us, not so much.
The type of neighbour who took photos of the kids trying to get their cricket balls off his garage roof. We called the cops that day because the idea of him having photos of the kids was just gross.
The type of neighbour who loudly abused his own son.
And the type of neighbour who, allegedly, broke the windscreen wipers on our cars several times.
We needed to move. We sold the house at the beginning of the pandemic, getting what we thought was a pretty good price, given the uncertainty of the global economy, and moved into a rental. The property market stalled in the early days of the pandemic and there was hardly anything for sale. We hunted around for months, staring at the same five houses, and getting more and more frustrated. Then in early 2021, the housing market suddenly went wild. Prices jumped and people responded by putting more houses for sale. There were lots of places to look at and we ramped up our efforts to find something, but buyers were keen and we kept missing out. By the middle of the year, we were getting pretty frustrated. We’d been underbidders on several houses, but finally we managed to buy one. And for just under our budget. Phew. Honestly, the relief for having bought something that worked for us mattered more than the satisfaction of getting for under our budget.
All the legal stuff took a while more. Eventually we got the keys to our new home. I guess this is where I outline our plan? The house we bought wasn’t a renovation project; we bought it to knock it down so we could build a house that was big enough for four teenagers and two adults, one of whom worked from home (before it became fashionable!).
We’d managed to find a house that was in bad enough condition that Mr Dahlia (an engineer) could justify knocking it down, in a location that met all our needs, and with slightly more land than the house we’d last sold. It’s in a different suburb to where we were before, and it’ll probably mean that Kid4 will have to change schools, but that seemed (at time of purchase) to be the only downside.
Everyone (except me because I’m taking the picture) waiting to go inside for the first time.
The house was a 2 bedroom Federation cottage that had suffered from a 1970s renovation. All the old features had been taken out; the plaster ceiling, the fireplaces, the hardwood floors, the stained glass windows. All gone. The original brickwork had been rendered, and an extension built at the back that now housed a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. By demolishing it, we wouldn’t be removing any heritage features that weren’t already gone.