Rent, save, buy… gtfo!
If you can’t beat Sydney home prices… flee. That’s what recent first-homebuyers Vin and Yaz Fazio did. They bought small (out of town) and, simultaneously, are renting smaller (in Sydney).
Taking a lease on the most affordable inner-city studio around left them with the disposable income to buy the cheapest house they could find. Just 136kms from Sydney, close to beaches, lakes and hiking, they snapped up a fibro cottage at Gwandalan on Lake Macquarie for $320,000.
A bold move, the ensuing renovation was understated but equally as daring. This labour-of-love shack is now a renovated lakeside home dressed in mid-century colours and fitout.
The couple got creative when the 2-bedroom Clovelly apartment they were renting sold for $1 million near the end of their lease. Busy working in the city, downsizing to a studio was fitting. And the cost of rent + a mortgage is exactly what they were throwing at renting a 2 bedder in Clovelly.
“This idea was really based around still having disposable income when you have a mortgage,” Yaz says. “In Sydney that’s impossible. So this allowed us to still travel and still have the same lifestyle as we did before.
“Sometimes I wish we could have a house in Sydney but then we look at some of our friends with these crazy mortgages who haven’t been on holidays in years.
“And it’s not like we can afford to buy something we like in a suburb we like, let’s be realistic.”
Originally looking closer to Sydney on the Central Coast, they came across this Gwandalan house because of its position – 10 minutes to the coast and one block to the shores of Lake Macquarie.
The old fibro structure itself became another draw card. They fly under the radar for plenty of other buyers, and get scarcer closer you get to Sydney. Passionate about this style of home, Vin and Yaz went about restoring or reinstating the period features.
While the surrounding neighbours put bets on when to expect the march of the buzzdozer, Vin and Yaz were conjuring up the street’s finest cottage renaissance.
“It makes for a really inexpensive way to restore a home,” Vin says. “People usually throw these materials away because they don’t see any value in them. It means they’re easier to source or get for free on Gumtree.
“And all the renovations that were previously done we took out, to put the original features back in. Except our wood-paneled sunroom.”
The original floorboards were in tact and the Bakelite ceiling light switches have been preserved. Meanwhile, an original 1950s sink and toilet are being returned to their rightful place.
Both the entry doors and decorative internal doors were reclaimed, as was the period garage tilt door (all free). The wrought iron screen was free, along with the cedar sliders. Eventually, they will open onto a deck at the back of the house.
According to estimates, the property has already increased in value, even without the deck or planned kitchen.
“We didn’t take out any more money for this renovation and we’re just doing everything as we save from week to week, doing it all ourselves,” Yaz says. “We don’t have credit cards and we don’t have any other debts at all so we don’t have to rent the house out.
“We can afford to have it empty, and work on it whenever we can. We don’t have a timeframe.”
Adding value seems to be a byproduct of preservation here, not a main goal. However, there will eventually be another cottage that gets the back-to-original treatment if all goes to plan.
We’re going to see what equity we might have later and do the same thing again,” Yaz says. “Exactly the same thing – a fibro and do the renovation ourselves.”
And they say the timeworn trajectory of rent/save/buy is lost…