We sold the house!

And for $13,000 over our asking price. Big thanks to our agent, Andrew Harvey, for putting in all the hard work.

I gotta say, I was worried for a while. After the first open last Tuesday (12th October), when he said all 6 groups who came through said it was too expensive, I was wondering if we’d have to drop the price. But the agent said he was quietly confident (his words) that we’d get more buyers on Saturday.

Sunday afternoon, he contacted me and said he hadn’t had any offers yet, but that he knew at least two were very interested, so he was going to follow up with them and let me know.

Later Sunday night, he messaged me saying we had an offer for $10k over asking price, and had to decide whether to take a 45 day settlement with a rent back option of $250/week, or a 60 day settlement without that. After discussing it a bit, we asked if we could go for the 45 day settlement, and then have the option to extend it if we didn’t find anything in time.

He messaged back the next day asking if a 60 day settlement was ok, with two optional 30 day extensions. We agreed to that. He finished drafting the contract and went to see the buyer that evening.

After he saw the buyer and had them sign, he came to see us, and told us he managed to get us an extra $3k. Cool! So we signed, and it’s all in motion, and we’re currently waiting for the 48 hour cooling off period to finish (which will be finished by the time I actually post this – we’ve told a few people, but won’t make it public till that’s all finalised).

All going well, if we can find a house in time, we’ll settle on 18th December and be in a new house before Christmas. Which is what I’ve been hoping for all along.

So…I’ve done the numbers and worked out how much we can afford to spend on a new house. Although we do want to keep it lower than the max if at all possible, so that we can have a buffer in case we need to do any work in the first week (like if it’s 40 degrees outside and the air conditioner dies on us….)

I’ve already been looking at houses, been to several opens, we’ve offered on 3 but got turned down. Our agent said our buyer doesn’t need finance, so making offers from here on is just like having money in the bank, giving us an advantage.

This is so different to when we bought this house. Back then, this was the first and only house we offered on. The market wasn’t nearly as crazy as it is now.

So now we keep house hunting, and pray that the right house at the right price comes up at the right time.

Cooking without an oven

So, I suppose you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear something about our house. And you will, soon. But for now, I wanted to talk about something else we’ve been dealing with lately.

If you’ve been following along since September, you’ll know that we were told our gas line has too many leaks to be safely left on. So it’s off, which means our oven can’t be used, nor can our lounge room heater (although it’s getting warmer so we don’t need it as much anyway), and we have to use a temporary electric water heater which is half the size of our normal one and half the pressure (or less).

So one of the most significant ways this has impacted us is how we cook. We can’t cook anything on the stove top, and we can’t cook anything in the oven either. So I’ve had to get creative with the meal planning.

Thermomix

The Thermomix is a fancy shmancy blender that also cooks and steams. Brand new, they run about $2300 AUD. I bought mine when Chuckie was a baby. So I’m pretty used to cooking in this already. I make taco meat in here, rice, soups, and my homemade chocolate. I steam veggies in it. I’ve also had to start using it to boil water for my cup of tea in the morning, since my stove top whistling kettle is now unusable.

Electronic pressure cooker

This one’s great. I use it as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, and big saucepan. I can cook a roast in there. I can make cheeseburger mac in there (a family favourite). I can make spaghetti bolognaise, butter chicken, boil eggs, and a plethora of other foods.

Air fryer

After I got an air fryer for Christmas a couple years ago, I decided I liked it enough to get an even bigger one. So that’s what I did. My air fryer has 5 functions: air fry, bake, convection, pizza, and…I forget the last one because I never use it.

Grill! That’s it. I should try that sometime.

So anyway…in the air fryer, we do anything that we normally do in the oven, because that’s basically what it is – a mini oven. Pies, sausage rolls, pizza, chicken nuggets, roast potatoes. Air fryers do the BEST steak. I baked brownies in there for mum’s night last week. We heat taco shells in there on Taco Tuesday. It’s much smaller, but it’s still quite usable. I’ve also used it to reheat food on occasion.

Big electric frying pan

Generally, this is Darrin & Caleb’s domain. They use it to cook sausages, chops, burgers, schnitzels. But I’ve used it in the past to make pancakes and fry bacon.

Microwave

Thawing & reheating food. Just like always. Ours is a small, low wattage one, so if I want to cook veggies in there, it does take a long time. Probably easier & quicker to steam them in the Thermomix.

Barbecue

*sigh* I still haven’t been able to convince anyone to clean it so it can be used. Sad, really, because it’s twice the size of the electric frying pan, so burgers could all be done in one hit. And we bought it for EXACTLY THIS PURPOSE! We were talking about emergency preparedness back when Covid first started, and decided we needed a barbecue, so that if the gas & electricity were both off, we could still cook. And nobody’s used it in over a year.

Sandwich press

I never saw these in the States. Think George Foreman grill, but without the lines. We’ve made toasted sandwiches a few times in this. I’ve also done sausages once, but it was such a pain in the neck to clean it after, I haven’t bothered since.

Overall, I’ve realised we need to stick with simple meals – frozen stuff we can cook in the air fryer, or one pot meals we can make in the Thermomix/pressure cooker, or stuff we can fry up in the frying pan. Things that need multiple steps – not really an option for us right now. Your basic ‘meat & 3 veg’ meal works well – I cook the meat in the air fryer, and the veggies in the Thermomix.

It’s working. It’s not ideal, but we’re eating decent food. Mostly.

Well, that was awkward.

So the house is officially on the market, it’s online, and we have a sign out front and everything.

House for sale sign

Micah doing his usual thing trying to read every word he sees…everywhere.

Thursday around lunchtime, when I was (what else?) cooking lunch, I had a brother and sister come to the door to ask about buying the house before the first open next Tuesday. I said they should probably go through the agent, and the sister (the extrovert of the two) said they’d tried ringing him, but he was busy. So they came directly to the owner because they thought that might give them a better foot in the door.

Now, if you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m an introvert – I don’t like being surprised by people on my doorstep unless they’re delivering a package to me. And I’m not a big fan of things being sprung on my all of a sudden.

So here’s the deal: they offered $10k over what’s being advertised on the listing. So it’s a good offer. But their story didn’t add up.

See, one minute they said they wanted to live here, and the next they said ‘you can stay as long as you like till you find another house.’

And they didn’t want to see the inside of the house – they didn’t care about that, they just wanted to buy before the open. But if they wanted to live here, why wouldn’t they want to see the inside?

They also dropped this gem: that if I told the agent we were friends (!) I could pay less commission when the house sold. I’m not even sure if that’s true.

To shut them up, I told them I’d have to check with my husband and think it over. They asked for my mobile number (which in retrospect I wish I hadn’t given) and I went back to making lunch, and they walked away.

I emailed the agent to let him know they showed up, and he wasn’t happy about it. He’d been in meetings all morning so hadn’t got their message earlier. One thing he said was that people new to the country don’t always understand the etiquette (which I can thoroughly understand!) so that might be why they thought it was ok to come talk to me instead of going through him. So for the moment, I assumed that was the case and went on with my life.

Then that evening, the sister texted me a long explanation reiterating what they’d said when they came to see me. That they wanted to buy it before the open, and they don’t care how it looks inside, and we can stay as long as we need, and it’s a good offer. And she said if I didn’t accept their offer within 48 hours, they’d withdraw it because ‘Hope you know there are so many other properties that can give me hips [sic] better rental income which I don’t want to miss on while waiting for your response to my offer.’

Okay…so first they said they want to live here, then they said we can stay as long as we like, and now she’s saying they want the rental income? Huh? All sounds a bit suspicious to me.

Friday morning at about 9:30, I got a text saying that if I didn’t accept the offer in 1 hour, they’d withdraw it.

Okay, so Thursday night you said 48 hours, and Friday morning you said 1 hour. You want to live here, but you want the rental income. You want me to lie to the agent, tell them we’re friends, and accept your offer which you brought to me unannounced, uninvited AT MY HOUSE while I was cooking lunch for my kids, and getting ready to go to a friend’s house.

All of this left me feeling harassed and slightly threatened. So I replied back that they should withdraw their offer and stop contacting me.

We’ll see if that’s the end of it…

Our house is on the market.

Link here

So long story short…the friend we thought we were selling to, we aren’t anymore. I won’t go into the details here, but don’t worry, we’re all still friends.

Been packing, decluttering, cleaning, searching properties, going to open inspections…it’s busy around here right now.

And I have one decent sized box left that I can pack things in, and then I’ll have to go hunting for boxes.

Good news and bad news…

So I’m going to write the update and then write the title, because I don’t know what to title this.

In our last episode, we saw Mel and Darrin waiting for the second quote on replacing the gas line, and wondering what to do next…

The plumber was meant to come on Monday afternoon, but it got to 5 pm and I texted him to find out if he was still coming. He said ‘oops, I put you in my book for Tuesday by accident, sorry.’ So he came on Tuesday instead. His quote ended up being about $1000 less than the first plumber, but that’s still a lot of money when we’re definitely NOT staying here long enough to get that much use out of it.

So…we are not replacing the gas line. We’re putting up with things as is until we find a new house. We’ll hire the temporary hot water system until we can move. We have a workable situation that we’ll just live with for a few weeks.

Wednesday morning I went to the bank meeting and got good news! Because of Darrin only being employed for 3 months at a casual job, the home loan officer said our easiest option would be to make our current home loan ‘portable’ – which means they can just move our current home loan to a new property, provided a) the purchase price of a new place is less than the sale of this place, and b) settlement (closing) happens on the same day for both properties.

Since we already pretty much know who we’re selling to, that should be pretty easy.

So we have a number in mind, which means now we can look at houses! And by ‘we’ I obviously mean ‘I’ because Darrin hates this kind of thing, and his standards are way lower than mine, so he says ‘if it works for you it’ll probably work for me.’

I’ve already been to one open inspection, we did make an offer, but the owners had already accepted an offer. I’m not surprised or disappointed. I kinda feel like we should offer on everything we see just in case we get one, because almost anything would be better than this house. I won’t offer on a property I absolutely hate, but I don’t have to LOVE the house in order to live there. It just has to be better.

Any house we buy will definitely need some work. That’s the reality of what we can afford right now combined with what the market is like. There had to have been 50 people at the inspection I went to the other day. I’ve never seen that many people at an inspection, even though it was 15 years ago I last looked at houses.

So here we go. Wish us luck, pray that the right house comes up at the right time.

Out of gas

Better go get yourself a cuppa, this is gonna be a long one…

So. In July, I found a secondhand gas oven on Gumtree (Australia’s Craig’s list) for $150. Because ours was falling apart, and half the nozzles in the oven were covered up by melted plastic (thanks to a toddler who put something in there one day and we didn’t notice till it started stinking). We hired a gasfitter to come and install it. I kept the oven racks from the old oven, so we could cook 4 pizzas at once, and it was good. It even had automatic ignition (on 3 of the burners) and a fan. It was working pretty well.

Then we started noticing a smell. Not all the time, just every now and then, we’d notice a waft of gas smell. (Or, to be pedantic, the stuff they put in the gas to make it smell so you know it’s leaking.) Since it wasn’t always there, we couldn’t tell if it was us, or if it was blowing in from a neighbour. But Darrin did some poking around one day and found a leak in the pipe coming up out of the ground which goes into the house where the oven is. He found the leak.

So last Friday, we had a gas guy come out again to fix the leak. In the process of all that, he did some testing on the gas line, and said we’ll need a whole new gas line from the meter. He said couldn’t leave the gas on when he left for his next job, but that he’d send someone else out with a temporary hot water system that we could hook up and at least have hot water over the weekend.

He left, and almost immediately the next guy turned up with the temporary water heater. He got it into the bathroom and realised he didn’t have the right fittings to hook it up, and it was 5 pm by this time and the plumbing store was closing. So he had to go and send someone back in the morning to connect it.

Did I mention this all happened on a day when I was getting ready to go to Victor Harbor for the weekend with some friends? Yeah. So Darrin got home around 4, and the first guy was still here. I’d been planning to wait till Darrin got back from work before I left, but then all this happened, and I didn’t feel right leaving before all the water heater stuff was sorted. So then the second guy left, and a few minutes later, so did I.

I had a great weekend, by the way. By the end I was ready to get home, so it was about the right length of time to be away. First time I’ve been away without kids in 5 years. Second time I’ve been away without kids since I had kids! Must do it more often.

So now we’re trying to work out what to do about it. As I’ve mentioned previously, this house is a pile of crap. Okay, not literally, but it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s 60 years old. It’s one of those houses they put up quickly and cheaply in the 1960s when Adelaide’s population boomed. Houses like this have been getting knocked down all over the place for at least 20 years. When we bought this place 15 years ago, the family was expecting the same thing to happen, but were glad we were going to live here. And we had thought about knocking it down ourselves and building a new house, but it’s a lot of hassle and money that we really don’t have right now. And I’m not willing to go into massive amounts of debt with a house payment that’s more than 25-30% of our income.

All week since I got back, I’ve been emailing & texting real estate agents & plumbers, trying to work out the best thing to do for the least reasonable amount of money. We had another plumber recommended to us, but he can’t come see the place till Monday afternoon.

We’ve been thinking, what if we get an electric water heater and put in an extra circuit to handle that? So we had the original plumbing company come out to do a quote. I haven’t heard back from them about that yet, but the quote they gave us to redo the gas line was $6000.

Oh, and what they didn’t tell us, but the other plumber did, is that the rules state that if you have gas on a property, you HAVE TO have gas hot water. Or solar (which is backed up by gas anyway), or heat pump (which is more expensive). So that leaves us having to replace the gas line after all, and trying to find the cheapest person to do it.

Because we don’t want to be here forever. Personally, I was DONE with this house 5 years ago when I found out Micah was on his way. But we’ve stayed, because, firstly, we weren’t organised with money to move, so we worked at building up our savings, and then covid happened, and we didn’t want to move when things were uncertain, and then Darrin quit his job and it took 9 months to find a new one, and then we had another lockdown so he was off work for 3 weeks, and we’re still waiting for him to get a decent number of hours consistently.

But now, it seems we don’t have a choice. We have to do something. Selling the house would put us in a good position to do whatever we wanted. But it’s a pain in the neck packing and cleaning and house hunting and paperwork…but we don’t have a choice. Even if we get a new gas line put in, how long before something else breaks that’s even more expensive? It’s time to get out. And we have a friend who wants to buy the property to put a new house on it for himself. So that part would be easy and quick.

But it sucks that we’re being forced to do it before we’re ready. And do we rent or buy? Renting means we don’t have to fix anything, but the houses I’ve looked at that would suit us, even with rent assistance (through Centrelink, the place where you get government payments…eventually, if you fight hard enough and sign in blood in triplicate), our rent would be more than our mortgage payment + council rates (property tax) + property insurance + water bill. We’d have a huge chunk of money in the bank, so we could wear the extra cost for a while, but I wouldn’t want to do it for very long.

Renting means landlords who allow pets are few and far between. And probably cost more. And we have two cats. But it also means we’d have some time to find the RIGHT house to buy.

Buying means we have a new-to-us house that’s OURS (and the bank’s, of course) and we can do whatever we want there. If we can find something suitable.

So yeah, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. But stay tuned for updates.

20 years ago today

Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I woke up at 8 am from the best sleep I’d had since switching from the night shift a few days before, to a beautiful blue sky. I had a good feeling about the day.

I got on my computer and checked my email and the Bannerbored, a message board for fans of Steve Taylor who also used our IRC channel called #bannerman. I saw a post from my friend Alex in Canada saying to pray for New York, because a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Yeah, right, I thought. I thought it was one of those internet hoaxes that were so common in those days. I mean, how many times have we seen that kind of thing in movies? Total hoax. And I couldn’t believe my intelligent friend had fallen for it.

But everywhere I looked online, I saw the same thing. And I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but at some point I realised that maybe this wasn’t a joke and turned on the TV. And I think I saw the second plane hit, or I tuned in just after, and the good feeling I had about the day was replaced with impending dread.

This was when I knew it wasn’t an accident. It was deliberate. And the country wouldn’t lie down and take it.

We were united. We weren’t Republicans or Democrats. We were Americans.

I’ve been gone now for almost 18 years, and from what I see from over here, the country is more divided than ever. I’ve certainly never seen it this divided in my lifetime. The 60s we’re pretty turbulent I know, but I wouldn’t know if that was worse. It’s hard not to worry whether I’ll even have a country to go back to when I finally get the chance. I just have to keep reminding myself that God is in control, and ask him to remind me when I forget.

Priorities.

This exchange just happened in our house.

Micah asked to play a game on the computer, to which we said no, because our rule is that kids don’t play on computers until after lunch.

He asked again, and I said “Kids don’t get to play on computers in our house till after lunch, or in very extreme circumstances like if Mum and Dad are sick, and can’t be bothered, and let you do whatever.”

Darrin said, “Careful, don’t say that or Caleb will start poisoning our food!”

Caleb: “No I won’t, because I might get the dosage wrong and kill you, and then who would fix the computers?”

Yep. Definitely our kid.

The grocery bill with 4 boys

It sounds scary, and sometimes it is. And we don’t have coupons in Australia like they have in the States. But I have a few tricks I use to feed everyone without going over budget (most of the time).

First, I set a weekly budget based on what Jordan Page recommends. Her rule is to budget $100 per person per month, starting at $300, and then break it down by week. So a family of 1-3 people would still get $300 to spend each month, and about $75 each week.

Now Jordan Page lives in Utah, and there’s quite a difference between the cost of living there and here, not to mention our currency isn’t worth as much. So I plugged $600 into x-rates.com and use that as my monthly grocery budget. When I first did it, it came to $900 a month. Which was about $300 less than I was used to spending, but I thought I’d give it a go. Ever since starting to listen to Dave Ramsey, I’m always on the lookout for more ways to cut spending and save money. 900/4=225. So $225 is what I give myself to work with every week.

Here’s another tip I learned from Jordan. She says before you go shopping, make a meal plan from the food you already have in your kitchen, and write the shopping list based on what you’re missing in the meals you’ve planned. This has been a game changer.

Example: I find ground beef and cheese, and half a tub of sour cream. This screams tacos to me, but I don’t have taco shells or tortillas. So I put those on my list, along with any other taco fixings we like.

Another example: there’s most of a roast chicken in the fridge that needs to get used up. I dig around in the freezer and find a bag of broccoli. There’s a yummy chicken and broccoli casserole that I make, so that goes on the meal plan. But I can’t find any bacon to garnish on top, so bacon goes on the list.

See how that works? It’s made a huge difference to the grocery budget, and in turn, our overall budget.

Another thing I do is look for marked down meat. If I have space left in the budget after I’ve got everything on my list, I’ll stock up on sale meat or marked down meat, and keep it in the freezer for later. We bought a chest freezer when Caleb was born, so we have a ton of space for that kind of thing.

And I shop at Aldi as much as possible. Their prices are usually about 10-20% lower than Coles and Woolworths. When I do shop at the big supermarkets, I scan my loyalty card to earn points and money off my shopping. I try not to get sucked into the bonus offers, unless it’s for something I need anyway.

I also use an app called Receipt Jar, which lets you scan your receipts and get points. When you get enough points, you can redeem them for gift cards or a bank deposit. I’ve already redeemed $30 this way (the first time I used $15 to put toward a new car battery when we needed one, and the next time I got Coles gift cards).

I’d like to say I only go shopping once a week, but I often go a few times for emergency chocolate runs. Which is totally a thing, by the way. Don’t judge me.