Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

Why owning your home trumps renting.

The front view of my house.
My house before I started working on the front garden.

Dave from Strong Money Australia wrote a post this morning about whether or not he and his wife should cash out their share portfolio and buy a house. I enjoyed reading it, as it’s the perpetual question with FIRE people who are good at Maths – is it better to invest in the share market and rent, or to buy a house and save on living costs down the road when it’s all paid off?

Me? I’m a home-owner through and through, not for any mathematical reasons (because Maths is hard) but purely because the security of having my own place that nobody can boss me around and kick me out of is too precious to give up. Also, having three dogs means that no landlord would rent to me anyway – and having the dogs is one thing that I will definitely not give up. So the freedom of home ownership is something that is integral to the Frogdancer Jones lifestyle.

When I bought my current house, I bought it with one eye to the view of the floorplan being perfect should any of the boys need to come back home after living away. Basically, the house is a rectangle divided into 2 main parts, so I can happily live in the front part while the boy/s have their privacy at the other end. The land was smaller than our original house, which was a plus because I was finding it hard to keep up with the upkeep at the old place. Also throw in that it’s just around the corner from an Aldi, 5 minutes walk to the dog beach and 4 minutes walk from the train station – the bones of this property are all great!

However, even though this house is pretty darned perfect, there have been things that I’ve decided to alter. Being in my mid-fifties, I know myself pretty week by now and there are some things that I know Future Frogdancer would love to have at her fingertips.

My plan is to get these things done while I still have a pay packet coming in so that I can cashflow some of the jobs, though in mid last year I took 40K in profits from my shares to kickstart the whole thing. I still have 20K left to spend.

I’ve spoken before about how 2020 was always going to be the year of getting The Best House in Melbourne retirement-ready for when Older Me/Future Frogdancer decides to stop teaching. The list of things I’ve done here since the money came through from the Domestic Geoarbitrage adventure is as follows:

Apple trees growing in the veggie garden.
Apple trees in the background. The back half of my yard is devoted to food growing.
  • Before we moved in I had the hardwood floors sanded and polished. Real timber floors were a ‘must-have’ and I enjoy looking at them every day.
  • Added a wall of cupboards to the laundry for my zombie apocalypse cupboard. It’s come in handy during lockdown! Also, put in some new cupboards in the kitchen, along with a fantastic wine glass storage feature. Easy access to wine is also a ‘must-have’!
  • Totally ripped out the backyard and landscaped it with old bricks – no more lawn mowing and no more weeds. I’m very lazy.
  • Installed 18m of wicking veggie gardens, plus a small ‘orchard’ of 5 apples, a pomegranate, an apricot and 2 limes.
The new big verandah roof.
Now I have to decide what to plant around my outdoor room so that it flowers in summer for Christmas.
  • Installed a whopping great verandah along the entire back of the house, creating an outdoor room for family get-togethers and parties. With 4 boys in their 20’s, I have a feeling that over the next decade or so the family is going to get larger!
  • Bought a teak table that extends to seat 12 for this new space.
  • Once our cats Daphne and Maris died, I bought brand new leather lounge suites to cut down on pet hair sticking to the furniture.
  • I also found a dining table and chairs, a tv cabinet, a couple of stools for the kitchen bench, an armchair for my room and a coffee table on Gumtree. These antique pieces are totally individual and will see me out. I love them and they were second hand, so they were far cheaper than new furniture of comparable quality.
Painted paling front fence. Beautiful!
My new front fence with my stellar painting. Now the dogs aren’t on guard duty all day.
  • We’ve put up a side fence between us and the new neighbours. They have a staffy who hates little dogs and both households definitely don’t want any bloodshed!
  • I wasn’t planning to replace the front fence as it was a metal picket fence and built to last, but the dogs kept barking every time they saw a dog go by. I figured if it was annoying me, it must be annoying the people around us. This new paling fence blocks the view and if it ever gets tagged by teenagers I can simply put another coat of paint over it.
  • If you look at the photo at the top of the page, you can see that there were two yucca trees on either side of the house. Whoever planted these next to walkways was clearly no brain surgeon. Every time I went to put something in the bin I’d nearly get my eyes poked out by the spiky leaves. These trees are now gone. I’ve bought a couple of avocado trees to take their place. I’ll be able to stand on the verandah to prune the trees and to pick the fruit. These trees have soft leaves so they’ll be a pleasure to brush past.
  • I live in a slightly dodgier neighbourhood than I used to. I put Crimsafe safety screens on all windows and doors.
Bosch oven.
I bought German-made appliances – I know they’ll be well built and will last far longer than cheaper ones.
  • When the people before us did up the place to sell, they installed the cheapest stainless steel appliances that they could. It was on my list to replace them ‘someday’… but during lockdown the oven and dishwasher both died, so it seems that my kitchen renovation is suddenly pretty much done!
  • When our hot water service died I replaced it with a continuous gas hot water service. Expensive to set up, but over time it saves on gas and as an added bonus, people can program their showers to be the exact temperature that they want. I like this little luxury!
  • When a friend at work told me that her husband worked at the Reece plumbing ‘samples and seconds’ shop, I ducked in and bought all the fixings for my new ensuite I’ll have installed one day. I saved at least 8K on what I bought because he gave me mates rates on top of the already cheap prices. At the moment it’s all in boxes and bubble wrap cluttering up the boys’ lounge room, but that’s ok in the short term.

Astute readers will have noticed that few of these renovations are what people would consider “essential.” We could have moved into this place and lived quite happily without the brick paving, the new cupboards and the polished floors etc. After all, the families who lived here before us did just that.

But owning this home means that I can tailor it to the way I want to live. For example, I enjoy growing some of our food. To me, having literally half the backyard set aside for this is a great use of the space. But I don’t want to have to mow a lawn or weed all the time, so spending money on paving makes me happy, as I know I’ve freed up Future Frogdancer’s time. I don’t want her to fall down and break a hip trying to pull up a weed in about 30 years time! I could have put concrete down at a fraction of the price of the bricks, but I like the natural look of the bricks, so again – money well spent.

Scout, my miniature wire-haired dachshund.
Scout. She’ll be 4 next month – where does the time go?

I value a calm, peaceful home without any troubles from the council and the neighbours. The fencing I’ve put up isn’t the most exciting way to spend money, but it’s worth it because it keeps Poppy, Jeff and Scout safe, secure and QUIET.

I’m basically thinking about the things I like to do and the values I want to live my life by and then seeing how I can design my home to include as many of these things as possible. I want to have Future Frogdancer fit into this house like a happy little pea in a pod.

So remember I said I still have 20K left? I feel like a bit of an idiot because I had one job that absolutely needed to be done, but I kept putting it off because I was scared about how much it would cost.

Rotting timber balustrading.
Yeah… this doesn’t look good…

My front verandah has timber balustrading that has seen better days. I had absolutely no idea how much it would cost and then with coronavirus coming along, I shoved it into the back of my mind and tried to stop thinking about it.

Except… this job was only going to get worse with time and turn into something that would just get more and more expensive the longer I ignored it. So, after a year of resolutely turning my face away from it, I called in a couple of tradies to quote.

ARGH! I’m such a fool! I thought it’d cost thousands! I got the first quote back last night – $1,040. I could have had this done AGES ago. I’ve been needing to get this done so I could then plant my avocado trees. They’re still in their little pots, instead of getting their feet in the ground and producing those smashed avos that my millennial boys dream about.

As part of this job, I’m also getting a piece of laserlight nailed to the underside of the verandah, where an access door is. This will be where I’ll put our lawnmower. It’ll be tucked away out of sight, safe from any rain and it’ll be right where the lawn is – no wrestling it down from the backyard. Again – I’ll be getting something done that suits me.

So what else is on my list?

  • The other side fence. It’s literally falling apart, so once I get this done I won’t have to worry about fencing for decades.
  • Beautifying the new back verandah. I’ve bought the dining table and chairs and we have an old couch there, but it needs plants around the perimeter and I want to get a couple of half wine barrels to put splashes of colour in. I also want some sort of artwork on the wall of the house to make it all look pretty.
  • A new ensuite. My old one is perfectly serviceable, but it has a shower over a bath. I HATE THIS – it’s so pov. Plus I think it’ll be unsafe when Future Frogdancer will be getting in and out of it – one slip and she’ll be in a world of trouble.
  • A Tesla power wall. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get one of these, but I’d love it if I could. I’m looking for ways to future-proof Future Frogdancer’s bills and seeing as I already have solar panels, this could dovetail in quite nicely. Plus, I like the idea of having a back-up when power cuts and brownouts happen during the summers. I have a niggling feeling that these will get worse as time goes on and peak oil starts to bite and I don’t want to suffer through hot temperatures or have my freezer lose all of its contents. I freeze A LOT of things, particularly from the garden and I’d be incandescent with rage if I had to throw it all out.
  • An office/crafting room. OMG. I’ve never had one of these in my life and I’d love one. When we looked at this place, one of the back bedrooms was set up as an office. It has a door through to the backyard and it has a wall of cupboard save lined with shelves. THIS is the space. Unfortunately, Ryan25 lives in here and he’s not going anyplace soon – he’s finishing his remedial massage course and going straight into a 12-month myotherapy course. So this one will have to wait. But when I have all of my paperwork, my sewing machine, my yarn and my fabric all organised in the one room, I’ll be a very happy woman.
  • Painting the inside of the house. This isn’t urgent, but like the kitchen fittings, the previous owners did a very quick spray job. I’d like enamel paint on the skirting and doors, instead of the matt paint I currently have. It’s impossible to wipe down properly.
  • Landscaping the front yard. I have a vision of people coming through the high front gate and being greeted with a beautiful oasis of flowers, fruit trees and lawn that is invisible from the street. Apart from my avocados, I have absolutely no clue what I’ll be planting here. None whatsoever. But it’ll come to me.

The beauty of having my own place is that once I set it up, I’ll be able to live here with minimal ongoing costs and I’ll be perfectly happy with everything I have around me. I plan to travel overseas every year (once this pesky pandemic sorts itself out) but when I’m at home, my dogs, my crafts, my books, my blogging and my gardening will occupy me very nicely.

Once you buy furniture, that expense goes away as you have it for YEARS. Given this, it’s worth it to hunt around for items that really suit you. I found this out the hard way. When I moved in with my boyfriend back in the day, we bought some ugly cheap pine furniture “just for now”. A marriage, divorce, 4 kids and twenty years later, I finally got rid of those eyesores. It’s better to buy things you love looking at (like my bedroom setting that I’ve had for 25 years and have no plans to replace), because furniture hangs around for decades. My rule now is to allow nothing through the door that I don’t love, no matter how “practical” that thing may be.

Propaganda poster from my trip to North Korea.
One of my propaganda posters from my trip to North Korea, along with a North Korean banknote that I smuggled out.

My plan, once the world opens up again, is to gradually fill my walls with paintings and drawings from places that I’ve visited. I’m in no hurry to fill the empty walls I have. I’ll see something on my travels and know that I’ll want to look at it for the rest of my life and it’ll find its way home.

I love the idea of slowly building a collection of art that will spark memories of my travels and will make my house look totally different to anyone else’s. My house will reflect ME. So far we have Balinese paintings, pieces from North Korea and Venice and France. I wonder what else will join them as time goes on?

I save vegetable seeds and grow from them year after year. I love the idea of feeding myself and my boys food that started from seeds I bought years ago, but which still feed and nourish us years into the future. There’s something about the continuity and the tradition that appeals to me.

Home ownership is something that is definitely a financial struggle in the beginning. Homes are not something that vendors just casually give away! But over time, as the mortgage is paid off and there’s extra money available, there’s a beautiful opportunity to craft your living space into the perfect space for YOU.

Being on the FI/RE path as we are, the vision of decades of freedom in a space we simply enjoy living in is something to be aimed for. At the moment I’m having the fun of planning and ticking tasks off the list one by one. In a couple of years, I’ll have the fun of actually spending huge gobs of time in this home I’ve created. A home that keeps costs to a minimum. A home that makes me happy and fulfils my needs.

A home that suits ME.

29 Comments

  1. Latestarterfire

    Like you, I’m totally in the camp of preferring to own my home rather than rent. I love coming home to my own space, knowing it’s mine and no one can kick me out. The psychological benefits far outweigh the maths, in my humble opinion. Provided of course that you can afford the house in the first place.

    Love your back garden and how productive it is!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yep – you and I are peas in a pod in this regard. We have to rely on ourselves to make our future selves secure.

  2. scottsabode

    Don’t think I’ve seen a picture of the back verandah – looks great! Nice and shady!

    • FrogdancerJones

      You know how I burn within 5 minutes of being in the summer sun.
      It’s a verandah roof for vampires like me!

  3. Kathy Aylward

    I just read the post you were referring to ….I too love the security of a home, a place to call my own. I love that you are future proofing your house now while you are working as it’s so sensible.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks. I like to think that future me will be glad I slogged through an extra year or two of work to Get Things Done.

  4. Katie

    I completely agree with your reasons for home ownership. While your home has a much better setup and location than mine, I love how you’ve prioritized your projects according to your needs, especially the garden. I wish I had one! Homes are definitely expensive to purchase and maintain, but the benefits of having an eventually paid off property that you control is great! Plus, at some point, you (hopefully) have little to pay for beyond some upkeep and property taxes, which frees up more money. There’s also just something to be said for the security of your own hone where you dictate the rules. As a fellow dog mom, that’s essential!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I like to think that when I’m an older lady, I can potter around here without worrying about costs and things falling apart.
      I hope that what I’m doing now will make my later years easier.

  5. gofi

    We’d love to own a home as well – not an apartment or townhome. And I’d love my own office (hideaway) as well. Very well done FdJ. I look forward to your future adventures.

    • FrogdancerJones

      When you said “hideaway” I pictured you installing a priest hole so you could disappear at will!

  6. Kay

    I’m totally in the camp for home ownership too. So far last 10 yrs have been extremely stressful, we were just surviving rather than thriving … so no time to make our home a reflection of us … but we did get some infrastructure changes done… which has helped with energy consumption and water consumption… hopefully now we can start with the aesthetics …. so much to do …. one at a time, deep breaths …

    • Kay

      Btw, I love how you have developed your new house so far and the plans you have for future too … your house would be a great place to retire.

      • FrogdancerJones

        I certainly hope so! Otherwise I’ll be seriously annoyed!!

    • FrogdancerJones

      The thing I love about the aesthetics is that there’s no rush.
      If the oven dies or the hot water service goes kaput – you HAVE to get them fixed asap.
      But with aesthetics, there’s no huge race to get something on the wall/sculpture in the garden… You can just mosey along with your life, keeping a vague eye out until the right thing comes along.
      I’ve been in The Best House In Melbourne for 4 years now. I still have huge blank walls. It’s ok. I refuse to “fill the spaces” with anything less than my perfect choice. I’ll trip over them sooner or later, and then I’ll love looking at them forever.

      • Kay

        Very true!!! I’ll keep that in mind. 😊

  7. Shaun

    I love how you have everything worked out in your head, and are almost entirely set up and ready to go.

    Like you, I am squarely in the homeowner /homeownership camp.

    The only thing I would change about our apartment would be having an outdoor space (with a bbq), an office, and a guest room.

    I suspect that when we are no longer required to be in close proximity to an office, we will relocate to somewhere that we can afford those things at the same or less cost than my $$$ inner Sydney Bolthole.

    Like you, it will come to me when it needs to.

    Thanks for taking me on the journey and providing me with some inspiration and food for thought.

    Shaun

    • FrogdancerJones

      I think you’ll move to get the bigger living space when the time comes.
      Think of it as a reward for all of your FIRE work!

  8. Jamie

    I’m enjoying camellias in the (non-edible) garden.

    They seem to cope with our cold winters. I’ve heard they don’t like hot westerlies in the afternoon, which our small/med camellia shrubs do get in the front yard here over the summer but they aren’t complaining much.

    You can get them in different heights, and even as a standard. We had a beautiful standard in the backyard when we moved in (it must has been 2.5-3m high), but it didn’t survive repairing the retaining wall. We’ve planted a camellia hedge in its place.

    My favourite part is that they seem to be evergreen. I hate it when the garden dies off in winter. Some greenery around us all year is a little piece of heaven to me. And there is a decent bit of choice with the different flower varieties available.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ve never been a fan of camellias, but maybe that’s because my parents had camellias in a hideous shade of pink when I was growing up.
      You’re making me think I should revisit them.

  9. freddy smidlap

    i might have never been a homeowner if not for the future mrs. smidlap already having our house when we met. now if wouldn’t want to be a renter with all the freedom to do as you wish with the property. we have about the same priorities as you being dog owners. sometimes we have the conversation about where to live in old age and the same answer keeps coming up when we ask “would it be better than where we live now for the trouble?” the answer so far has been no even though we wouldn’t mind leaving the snowy winters some day.

    • FrogdancerJones

      You definitely wouldn’t have been able to convert that space into an artists studio if you were renting!

  10. Maureen

    I loved your take on home ownership. I have owned my place free and clear for the past 10 yrs, but since I retired, I’ve been thinking of trading it for a smaller town home w/ no yard. The lockdown afforded me time to re-explore gardening, and I love it. Costs are low, and your thoughtful plan to craft the place to suit your needs is making me reevaluate selling up! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Gardening is so rewarding. And as my Dad once told me when I was overwhelmed at the thought of tackling an overgrown garden when we were living in the old place, “You can always move faster than things can grow.” So true. It’s always possible to create order from chaos in a garden.

  11. Staci Henderson

    Ok so I was looking at the FI/RE movement a year ago and telling my workmates that I am going to do it. Now I am debt free but on the verge of saving for my own home. I am roughly 2 years away from that dream but I am planning all my dreams and goals for myself and 2 kids. I am currently 30 years old and my kids are 9 and 3, so lots I have to consider. Thank you for your story so inspirational and given me a few ideas too.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Go for it!!
      You’re so young! I started off with 4 kids when I was 34. (Frankly, I’m a bit envious…!)

      • Staci Henderson

        Thank you so much, but I know now that many woman have achieved the unachievable on their own and it does give me hope for the future.

  12. Paul Dunbar

    I first heard about you on Millionaires unveiled. It led me here and I have since gone through all your blog posts. Fantastic what you have achieved. I am bit like you a tragic from a divorce. I was left with a lot of debt after settlement though and basically had to claw back to zero and then move forward from there. I have just put a deposit on a block of land near Newcastle in NSW and looking forward to the next few years of building getting the house up to spec and then building again and again.
    Just want to say its because of people like you, who have shown me that even late in life you can reach financial independence. I’m working on the FI without the RE. Once I have enough money behind me to get me to super release age (now 68 for me) I will be saying good buy the the boss. I am currently saving over 50% of my income, which I would never had thought possible 10 years ago.
    You’re an inspiration, Thank you.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I think we “later in life” FIRE people have an advantage in that we know ourselves pretty well after we’ve lived through a few decades.If we make up our minds to do something, it’s important to us so we get it done.
      Your plans for the block sound great. I haven’t been in that neck of the woods but I’ve heard it’s very nice.

  13. chasingfiredownunder

    I’m certainly on your side with home ownership! My parents currently own my ‘dream house’ but we’re in the process of getting the ownership of that property shifted around over the next 6 months or so. Doing so well be a financial loss in some ways as I’ll have to pay stamp duty, which I wouldn’t have to pay if I just waited to inherit it in 20-odd years, but from a security standpoint (there are some divorce proceedings going on…) putting in the investment now will be worth it in the long run. Certain FIRE bloggers will hate the house as it certainly fits the bill of “having more space than you currently need” but we have put a lot of love into the designing and building the house, and so I don’t care!

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