Today my Australian dream was realised – I paid off my ideal beach home and have (hopefully) secured my daughter’s future! A lot of blood, sweat and tears and a decade in the making but I did it! Now can someone please buy me a drink, I can no longer afford one?!

After posting this celebratory statement on instagram I’ve had a few inquiries as to just how I did it.

So if you’re interested in walking a similar path which could lead to the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of and the front door of your perfect beach home here are my e-sea tips:

Please note that I have no official qualifications in real estate. When property hunting I research the market, look carefully for property defects, disadvantages, perks and advantages, trust my judgement and make calculated decisions which have paid off.

1. Start small. Find an inexpensive property (requiring little to no maintenance) which is close to schools, shops and transport. Be patient and get yourself a good deal.

The first property I purchased was a three year old studio in Rozelle, Sydney. Sadly the previous owners couldn’t make their repayments so the bank took possession of the unit and wanted a quick sale to reclaim their money. This mortgagee sale meant a great price for me.

Having carefully chosen the studio believing the area would rise significantly in price given its proximity to the Sydney CBD and desirable location (a suburb full of families, stunning old pubs and the harbour), I struggled to pay my mortgage while I sat on this property for five years until I could be in receipt of a decent profit which would allow me to buy the next stepping stone to my Australian dream.

2. Decide what kind of lifestyle you want. Find an area that embodies this and is a popular place to be. Buy in the cheaper suburb near it.

With Sydney real estate on the rise and my desire to improve my standard of living I headed to Queensland (my place of birth) where I knew property prices were lower. Just over the border Byron Bay beckoned. After looking at thirty properties and knowing I couldn’t afford to buy in the centre of town, I snapped up the cutest house I could find in Suffolk Park, then known as “Suffering Park”. There may not have been an abundance of beautiful homes there yet but it was five minutes from Byron and just as close to the beach.

Be prepared to lead the way! Others will follow!

3. If you are not an experienced negotiator have someone do it for you.

Choosing someone with a passion for real estate, a knack for negotiation and the strength to stand his ground I allowed a trusted friend to negotiate the price with the real estate agent on my behalf. This took the emotion out of those hard conversations and worked like a charm. This person now owns a real estate business and is a successful agent.

4. Buy something with character and/or you can improve upon with little work.

My beach home had oodles of character along with carpets that smelt like cat pee and a wheelchair access ramp leading from the falling down deck.

Over the five year period in which I lived there I knocked out a small bench in the kitchen, renovated one bathroom and toilet, replaced and increased the size of the front stairs and external deck and switched the ramp to some stairs. Old curtains were replaced with inexpensive blinds, fans updated and a feature light added. Rolling back the carpets myself on afternoon one (I was desperate to get rid of them) I revealed the timber floors throughout and with a touch of Byron Beach flavoured but low budget styling I sold the home after the rise of the suburb for $300,000 more than I paid. Another win.

Before

After

Before

After

5. Don’t do everything! Leave easy additions that people inspecting the property can identify will further add value after their purchase.

Before

After – leaving the easy addition of a freestanding bath and replacement mirror

Before

After – the likelihood of new owners wanting to update the kitchen in entirety was high so there was little point spending money on replacing kitchen cabinets – this being an e-sea-r and cheaper option they could identify to give this room a facelift.

6. Watch what the market is doing, go to inspections and get ready to get out when others want in!

Sell at the right time. Get an appraisal of your property from three seperate real estate agents. Compare them and their fees. Choose the one whose fees are reasonable and appraisal is in line with what your property is worth.

7. Rent to someone looking to buy.

After living in my next purchase for a year I needed to move for unrelated (to real estate) reasons. Having not been in this home long enough to see substantial capital gain it was certainly not the right time to sell so I listed the property for rent. When I was advised by my rental agent that one of the applicants was a good potential tenant who was also looking to buy I quickly gave them my approval. After one year my tenant expressed how much he and his family were enjoying living there and his interest to take the property off my hands. A record breaking sale price in this estate was obtained without my having to hold a single inspection and, as it was a private sale no fees needed to be paid to an agent.

Then…WOOHOO! I PAID OFF MY NEW DREAM HOME. And I firmly believe, with perseverance, patience and:

8. ALWAYS getting a structural engineer or reputable building inspector (and pestie) along with a professional valuer to assess any new possible purchase prior to buying.

9. Not getting in over your head financially.

YOU can do this too!

Convinced so many of us love the e-sea life close to the beach I’ve continued my real estate journey and invested in the lifestyle I enjoy and promote. Strongly believing in the power of styling and the mood that can be created through it, my final tip would be:

10. When selling a property create a feeling of excitement with interesting art and colourful cushions, of indulgence with candles, plush towels and throws and of invigoration by leaving the doors and windows open which let light stream in and allow gentle breezes to flow and billowy curtains to blow. Finally jump into the shoes of your potential buyer and ask yourself  “Would I want to buy from this agent?” “Does the agent’s manner allow me to feel that this is a positive experience and a secure investment?” and, “If I had the amount of money in my pocket right now that I am expecting someone to pay would I want to buy this?” Make the place feel like their dream home so that you can move on and buy yours!

Goodluck and take it e-sea,

Mel x

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