We bought a 100+ year old stone cottage!

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Nov 17, 2012
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Broken Hill, Australia
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Going to branch this off from my "Moving to the MAD MAX locale" thread and dedicate this thread to the property we just bought and are going to fix up.


Long story short, we moved to remote Broken Hill in Outback Australia to be near my folks when they retire and move at the end of this year, they had already bought a house and it was sitting empty, so we got free rent which allowed us to save for a house deposit.
Also houses are stupid cheap here, you can get a decent place for considerably under $100,000, compared to where we were, which would have been about $270,000.

We were well on target to have 10% deposit on a $100k property by September/October, 2 weeks ago a house came up for $40,000, we liked the house so we applied to the bank, the bank have said they would lend us up to $120k with 10% deposit, or if it was less than $100k we would need 50% deposit. :eek:

Saving 50% on a $40-50k home is possible, but it would take us another year on top, and it does seem prices have bottomed out and are now heading back up, in another year that house may cost $60-70k, so it seemed our only option would be a $100k+ property but we really don't want to get into debt for that much considering we are both just on disability support pensions.

Of course if the property was cheap enough that we already had a 50% deposit...

It would have to be the cheapest place sold in the last 12 months.

Cheaper than the previous cheapest: This burnt out wreck that sold for $19,000 last year:


That could be a nice place again, but it would be so much work! Plus no shed to build bikes in and no room to build a shed... :doh:
Last weekend an Auction was taking place:

Screenshot_20200321-150128 redacted.png

I wasn't going to go, don't want to risk anything with my health, supposedly I am in the "At risk" category with the COVID-19 virus due to my other health issues, so I really don't want to get it.

I couldn't sleep Friday night, kept thinking "If it goes really cheap, you will kick yourself!" So my wife and I talk about it, decide we could bid to $20,000, but there would be little to no chance that would win... Especially when you look at the sale history on the property:

sale history.PNG

Figured I would go just for a look and watch, not touch anyone or anything and see what it went for, "knowledge is power" sort of thing for when all the virus stuff blows over...

Got there early, had a walk around, seemed OK, had a look inside once the Estate agents arrived, seems OK but filthy...

Agent asks me if I want to register to bid, I reply "What do you think it will go for?" he says "$15-20k", so I register... He hands me the contract to look through, I flick to the last page and see the council land valuation (Just the land!) is $17,467 and think there is no way it goes under $30k, probably $45k seems reasonable, but anyway I'm registered now, may as well hang around.

Others turn up to have a look through, some walk straight back out again and leave. (I mentioned it was filthy right? :21: ) By the time the auction start time rolls around there is just 3 people aside from the agents, the other 2 look like contractors/builders, so I figure I can see where this is heading, one of them will buy it, fix it, and rent it out.
That is a very common occurrence here as most homes are returning around 12.5% rent compared to buy price, so great investing opportunities.

Agent asks for a starting bid at $20k and looks at me, I wave him off, so he drops to $15k, I wave him off again, he says "We need to start somewhere!" so I say $8,000 just to start it going, there is that much in our savings so why not, by this point I just want to go home and have a nap...

He says, "I can't take that offer to the vendor they want minimum $20k", I motion to the other people and say "I'm just starting, others will bid." He comes back with: "You are the only one registered to bid." :21:

Lots of phone calls to the vendor (A bank, it was a foreclosure.) Me calling my wife and my brother for advice, I remember the land valuation and raise my offer to $15,000, they ring the bank again and suddenly I'm signing contracts...

We bought it.

For $15,000!
So what exactly did we get for our $15,000?

Well no one seems to be able to tell us exactly how old it is, it is the same design as many others in the town that run from the late 1880's to around 1920, most records have it written down as 1900, but we are not sure if that is the actual date or just a generic "We don't know, but it needs a figure" date.

What we do know is that the block of land was already divided up and owned by January 1910, as we have a copy of the surveyors report for the house behind ours from that date:


It seems reasonable to think that if someone owned it at that point, they would be already living there or in the process of building, so we are going with "circa 1910" as the date it was built. We may find a better date once we have the keys and can look it over properly.

It is a stone 2 bedroom cottage, originally it was just 2 rooms at the front of the house, stone walls and raised timber floors, then at some point two more rooms were added to the back, using stone walls and stepping down 2 steps on to concrete floors, then later on another extension was added behind them, this time using timber frames and continuing the concrete floor on the same level. The layout is pretty typical for the area, most places have at least the first addition, many have up to three additions to the original tiny cottage.

We don't know when the additions happened, but we do know they all happened before 1968, as we have a planning certificate for the shed at that point which shows the entire building floorplan on the block.

The walls seem pretty solid, they have been rendered at some point and there is only minor cracking, this being the worst right on the front wall above one of the windows:


That doesn't bother me at all, I will check the foundations when I lift the floors in the front rooms, but 100+ years of settling will cause small cracks, so if it all looks good underneath the crack can stay.

The inside looks solid, although filthy and that carpet needs to go!


The windows being boarded up concerned me a little, figured they were probably smashed and were boarded up to prevent people getting in. (People did get in anyway, there is graffiti everywhere inside.)

A little more digging yesterday found that they windows do appear to actually be there, they may have been covered just to protect them, so that may be an added bonus:


The only other structural issue in the front 2 sections we have found so far is the front chimney needs re-mortaring between some of the bricks towards the top:


The final addition is not so great, the walls are solid enough, but they didn't match the roofline at all when building and most of the inside lining is completely missing:



Thinking it will be best to just raise the roofline to suit the earlier extension and do it all properly while it is all stripped out, that will be my main project before the time comes to move in, aside from the floors in the original front rooms that is, they are bouncy and squeaky, so will need at least some work.

Of course the bathroom needs work too...


Be interesting to see how much of that is salvageable with just a good clean, but upgrades will happen at some point!
Then there is the land and shed on top!

Check out the size of the backyard:


Most properties in the area range from 300 square meters to 800 square meters. (3300 to 8600 square feet.) Our block is 1514 square meters! (16,300 square feet or 0.4 of an acre.) Not only that but it is on a corner and has a lane at the back, so no neighbors on 3 sides!


Check out the size of the shed in that satellite image!

It doesn't look like much in person:


But it is big! 63 square meters/680 square feet!

The front section appears to have been a workshop at some point:


The rear looks like a good place to work on cars:


I can already see that front section filled up with benches, welders, lathes, frame jigs and the like!

Now we just have to wait until April 27th to get the keys!
Good things sometimes happen for good people. I’m thinking it looks like you may have won the lottery so to speak. Best of luck with the work going forth.

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Congrats on the new digs, Luke! It will be fun to watch as you "make it your own". I can see those visions and hear the gears turning in your head from here!
We finally got the keys on Tuesday!
Been pretty crazy since...

Here are some pics of inside: (After I went around and redacted some of the graffiti!)


All the floor coverings are now pulled out so we can check the floors, covers are off the windows so we can see what is (or isn't) there, had an electrician around to guide the next steps too.

Electrician told us what I suspected, the house was disconnected due to not being up to code, and having been disconnected for over 12 months now needs to meet current codes.

So that means a pretty much complete rewire, which we were expecting to mostly do anyway as it originally only had one light circuit and one power circuit for the whole house!

Unfortunately it will mean extra costs to get residual current breakers, a new ground post, a new entry point post and a few other things, but the good news is he is willing to let me do most of the work and he can just finish and certify, saving us a lot on his labor costs.

First steps are to build a new entry post that meets regulations, order a new meterbox, a new main switch, a 20amp rcd breaker and 2 in-board power points, get that all installed, get him to hook it up and then we at least have power to the board and 2 power points to run tools while doing the rest.
He also suggested I buy all the gear, specified which ones to buy, so I avoid his add-on costs and even gave me links to online sites so I could avoid the "remote area convenience pricing" that the local suppliers use.
So I ordered everything from Sydney, it will be here in 5 days and saved over 30% compared to the local costs.
I am all for buying local, but at some point there is a limit to how much more people should charge...

I need to work out how to attach the new entry point post to the house in a way that meets the newer codes, but I have some ideas.

Pulled the covers off the windows from the inside, most of them are broken which is fine, but some of them the frames and sashes are completely missing too, so that is annoying, but does mean I won't feel bad if I replace them all with something a bit newer and more efficient for insulating purposes...

Pulled the carpets from all the rooms that had them. (Including the kitchen... Carpet in the kitchen just seems a bad idea to me, not sure why they did that.)
All the rooms were good except for the main front room , we knew it had issues because it bounced as you walked on it and there was a noticeable drop in floor height at one point. Under the carpet in that room was glued on linoleum, under that was not the 100 year old floorboards I hoped for, but particle board. :doh:

Oh well!

The good news was under the boards was that although the joists are destroyed, the wall foundations are very good and solid, so that is a huge relief!
New joists and flooring is not expensive or hard work, but shoring up old foundations could have been!


Overall we are extremely happy with what we have, no big surprises we were not aware of, the electrical may be a little more than we expected, but at least it will be all new and safe, which is important.
Plus he is fine with eventually (as we can afford it) running extra circuits over to the shed/workshop to allow for welders and the like, I have my doubts any of the current circuits would run what I want to...

Check out this sudden crazy storm that blew though while I was pulling out the carpets:


Very cool!
Sounds like a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.

Looking for seeing your progress!
Thanks Doc!
Easily worth it, by the time we are finished it will be amazing, so much character and history, and we are already so far ahead in value because we bought it so cheap!

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