House: Reflecting on One Year On

My apologies for something of a clip show episode.

Sabriena pointed out yesterday that it was one year ago that we got the keys, and this morning last year was the year we woke up on an air mattress (after an abysmal night’s sleep) and headed over to organize moving the rest of our shit over here.

What’d we accomplish in one year?

First and foremost, we wanted a dog and we got one. Honestly, and I can’t stress this enough, it was a tie between “lack of stability” and this for which factor made me want to buy a home more. It sucked when we lived in Shirley St and the landlord granted permission to get a cat but no dogs, but we were otherwise reasonably happy there until the rug was pulled out from under us by them selling and the new owner wanting to live in the place (we were there not quite five years).

We’ve reclaimed some of the huge back garden for lawn. I hate lawns, but the dog needs somewhere to run and play, and we weren’t doing anything with this giant garden anyway, it was mostly just one giant bush that the dog would lose toys under. We’re hoping come spring time to start looking at planting a vegetable garden around the corner from it. We’ll see.

We painted one room: Duncan’s. The rest desperately wants doing (there are quite a few places on the wall, noted by the building inspector pre-purchase, where they did really suboptimal plaster patching and it’s painfully visible), but we haven’t settled on colours or anything yet.

We hung the TV - this is what I wanted as soon as I saw the living room, and we finally got it done a while back. I’m pretty happy with the results, except that now we think we’ve finally worked out what we want to do with the bar area… shift the wall to the other side of it and make a small “shoe fitting” area, with the idea we could put the TV on the back side of that wall instead, leaving us the giant brick wall for the couch. If we end up doing that, it’d be pretty unfortunate to have gone to all the trouble of wall-mounting the TV, but let’s be real here by the time it happens we’ll have had quite some years of happy wall-mounted TV goodness to enjoy.

As the realtor suspected, we were able to get a gas furnace installed and its cost was completely covered by the green energy certificates we got from disabling the slab heating.

We upgraded the solar array on the roof from 2kW panels+inverter to 12kW of panels and 10kW of inverters. At some point in the future, likely when battery costs come down (or energy costs rise to offset battery costs), we’ll increase this further, probably to 20kW of panels and 16kW of inverters. This has been awesome, we’re basically in the worst part of the year for solar performance and we’re still routinely exporting 3kW for brief periods throughout the sunny days, and typically not importing anything but bursts for most of the time between 9 and 4. In about a week, things will start getting better again and this summer promises to be much more comfortable as we’ll have the ability to run the cooler as much as we want.

I arranged the storage in the garage better, though not as I’d wanted. I still don’t have a work bench (we have Duncan’s old Kmart desk, but that’s not suitable for working on at all), and it’s still a bit messy, but it’s better than it was.

So what didn’t we do?

  • There’s loads of electrical work left to do. The switchboard needs upgrading, and in the process this will bring us up to code on various things (having the lights on an RCD, having the circuits on individual RCDs instead of one big shared one), allow us to replace the gas hot water heater (which inexplicably survived this long). We have many lights to retrofit LEDs into, this is probably most of our “day time” electrical load.

  • In a similar vein, I still don’t have ethernet to my office. Wifi has been “good enough”, despite annoying me.

  • And on the office note, I’ve torn out the closet, but haven’t done anything about painting, arranging, or anything. I’m chasing an Aeron stool to replace my Aeron chair, because I want to do a wall-mounted standing-height desk and as yet haven’t found one for a reasonable price.

  • We’ve done nothing with finishing the inside of the back shed which is basically our home gym. In retrospect this hasn’t really been required, despite the fact it’s an uninsulated tin shed the temperature extremes in it are not bad at all.

  • I wanted to investigate replacing the two garage doors with a single one. I don’t know if this is reasonable without compromising the brickwork, but the rationalization was that with any amount of stuff in the garage there was simply no way you were getting two cars in there, and even empty you weren’t getting two full size cars in there. Considering that we own exactly one (1) full-size car, it made more sense to have a reasonably wide orifice to back it into. In practice though, we’ve become quite adept at putting our car into that hole, despite the fact there’s about 3 inches between each mirror and the bricks, so we probably won’t bother with this.

  • The problematic spa/hottub is still yet to go. After going back and forth with the council, since the previous owners appear to have done us a solid and drilled holes in the bottom of the tub to prevent it from holding water, it’s effectively just a hole in the ground and not subject to bringing up to code. Unfortunately, said hole requires a $400-ish permit to fill, and I’ve been lazy on doing that mainly due to the requirement of an A3, to-scale site plan. I am hoping to accomplish this in year two.

  • I am hoping to replace the windows with something a bit more energy efficient. The windows are massive, beautiful things, but for instance the living room window at 3000mm x 2200mm of single-paned alloy-framed, 1980’s finest, you can practically feel the outside temperature if you stand within about a meter of them. We mitigate this with heavy curtains, but sometimes you want to live in a well-lit house for a change.

Finally, the “brass tacks”: Not counting changes in valuation (because I do not care, outside of the ability to refinance, what our house is worth as we intend to live in it, not sell it), we’ve increased our equity in the place by not quite 10%. We had always planned to aggressively pay down the house, as Sabriena and I have both been housing-insecure at multiple times in our life and we’ve watched others make the mistake of paying the minimum payment, betting on nothing going wrong for 30 years.

So the plan from day one was to make extra payments at such a rate that we’ll, if we continue to do so, pay the house off in about 10 years. A minor setback to this plan was pulling a few months’ extra payments out of the mortgage to cover the solar array, but otherwise we’ve mostly stuck to the plan despite it being challenging at times (the increasing cost in groceries due to the pandemic being the main one).

The idea being that we start out only making a ten year bet that nothing will go wrong, and in the event something does go wrong, our ability to weather any bad luck increases the later it happens. In contrast, the “optimal” financial move would have been, while mortgage rates were sub 2%, to pay the absolute minimum and put the rest of the money into the stock market by means of ETFs… but considering that mortgage rates are marching up and the stockmarket has basically erased the last 12 months’ gains recently, I think we’re making the right decision (if by accident, through purely emotional decision making).

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle



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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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