The search for a house begins!
We started seriously saving to buy a place before we moved into this one (we had actually hoped to buy before moving out of the Shirley Street place, but it wasn’t in the cards then… our income was just too low and no bank would believe us as frugal as we were). Unfortunately shortly after moving into this place, it became apparent that the VT Commodore wasn’t going to last until after we’d bought a place, so we set about replacing it, and spent most of what we’d saved… setting us back some (but hopefully we’ve bought a car that’ll get us through the next ten years).
We got back to saving, and towards the end of last year found ourselves getting to almost where we could get in at the bottom of the property ladder, so I spoke to our bank (NAB) about a mortgage. They asked for a pile of information for preapproval, and then it came back that - apparently - we were the trifecta of undesirability: buying a place on a rural area, contracted by a foreign entity, and paid in a foreign currency. I guess any two of these things would have been fine, but all three meant it wasn’t going to happen.
I happened to mention it in passing to one of my bosses at work, and a few days later he came back with an interesting idea. Apparently they were looking at using local entities in many of the countries to employ folks, so we wouldn’t be contractors, and if I was okay with being something of a lab rat I could get pushed to the front of the queue for this. Heck yeah!
Now I’m guessing their motivations for doing this were not entirely selfless: I’m under the impression that hiring contractors for regular work is something of a compliance minefield, and even though I absolutely love the mob that I work for they are still a company and I’m pretty cynical. But still, the process was actually super-generous on their part. They converted my rate to a yearly salary in Australian Dollars (at a time when the Aussie dollar was rather weak, albeit not the perfect time for me to have done it), plus they covered superannuation and everything else (apparently it’s quite common in the tech industry to have your salary number quoted as including super, or as “total compensation”).
On the whole I’m really happy with how everything worked out, and other than getting delayed a couple of times (I didn’t formerly cease to be a contractor until December) everything went smooth. If I work any overtime, there’s the small pain in the backside of it’ll take about 6 weeks to get paid for it, and if I only work one hour overtime in a month my pay only goes up by about $10 due to being right under the threshold for one of the jumps in HECS repayments (but I’ll have that paid off in a bit over a year now anyway I think)… I’ll get the rest at tax time, but for now I can live with it. Oh, and it should also improve my US tax situation as well. Not sure if we’ll still owe taxes to the IRS after the 2020 tax year, but it’ll definitely make things simpler after that tax year!
So fast forward to after I got my second payslip, and we contacted a mortgage broker (rather than going through our own bank, who apparently are notoriously risk-averse). Not only am I actually a desirable lendee now, the amount we can borrow has gone up significantly, but along with it have house prices and I’m pretty anxious about carrying that much debt.
Last week we toured a place in an open house that on-paper was perfect (only thing it was missing was a lock-up garage/shed to put the car in). It was great, right by the river, but not in a flood plain (the street it’s on could, per the local government’s forecasts, see up to 25cm of flooding but the block itself was elevated more than that, so we could be watered in but not inundated). It was just outside of the bushfire overlay (the neighbours on the south and east side were not so lucky), and had basically everything else we could want.
It was also at the absolute top of our budget, an absolutely anxiety-inducing amount of money. We ummed and ahhed about it while I spoke to the mortgage broker to get reassurance that yes I could probably get finance for it, and as we were about to put our paper offer in (after having a conveyancer check the paperwork out for us and everything) someone else came along. The real estate agent told us that in these situations to make things easier for everyone, they do a one-shot silent auction, so “give us your best price”.
Honestly, this sounded like bullshit to me, and I forecast that there was a pretty good chance the other buyer was imaginary. But it was irrelevant anyway, because the asking price for the house was the absolute best we could do, I wasn’t about to try find another $10,000 or more just to try and outbid someone that may not even exist!
Unfortunately, they were not imaginary, and paid over asking price. C’est la vie! Apparently the property market is like this in Australia at the moment, we probably could not have picked a worse time to buy a house (save the late 90s, but we were neither married nor old enough to buy a place back then).
We’ll keep looking, but I’m suspecting we’ll cut our budget back a bit so we can be a bit more decisive. We may not get the neighbourhood we want over by the river, but that’s okay (and moving away from it a bit would effectively eliminate the tiny flood risk too).