This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

An Unconventional Path To Homeownership In Heathcote!

Owning A Home

At 30 years of age, writer Nicole Haddow’s income was unstable, she had no financial plan, significant credit-card debt, and despite writing about homes for a living, no property of her own. 

Fast forward to just two years later, Nicole is now a proud homeowner, and she’s written a book to share how she did it! 

Smashed Avocado is a first home owner’s bible, featuring not just Nicole’s story, but numerous others who have purchased, constructed and funded homes via creative means such as rent-vesting, flipping and building tiny homes. Throughout the book she shares detailed, practical tips, and even debates with Bernard Salt, the man whose now infamous ‘smashed avocado’ quote inspired the book’s title!

Smashed Avocado is available in bookstores as of yesterday! In the meantime, today we share an excerpt, detailing Jacob Stammers’ story of purchasing and renovating The Barn in Heathcote. 

4th September, 2019

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Nicole Haddow
Wednesday 4th September 2019

‘Pictures of the original property reveal exposed insulation and a dirt floor. It was unfit for human habitation.’

The Barn in Heathcote didn’t look like this when Jacob Stammers and his partner Brad laid eyes on it for the first time. Back in 2016, when they travelled from their East St Kilda rental to see the six-acre property with nothing but a barn on it, they weren’t even seriously shopping. The pair wanted to explore alternatives to buying in the city, having already ruled out moving to the outer ’burbs. ‘We were looking for a place with potential for rental income down the track, within a couple of hours of Melbourne,’ he explains. But then it happened . . . He grins, ‘We fell in love with the barn.’

It fitted the brief, except for the fact that it was little more than four walls and a roof on a massive patch of grass. ‘It was very much a shell. It had the mezzanine in place, but it was untouched. It needed a lot of work to make it what it is today,’ Jacob says. That’s an understatement. Pictures of the original property reveal exposed insulation and a dirt floor. It was unfit for human habitation. And the asking price was $220,000. Despite that, Jacob, now thirty-five and Brad, twenty-nine, saw the potential. They had some funds, but even if they somehow managed to get hold of the place, more money would be needed for a barnyard blitz. But buying something liveable in their Melbourne ‘hood was off the cards anyway. ‘The house next to our rental in East St Kilda went up for auction and went for just under $900,000. It needed hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on it,’ Jacob says. ‘That was the moment of our realisation that we wouldn’t be buying anywhere we wanted to live in a hurry.’ So, it was barn or bust.

Getting a loan was always going to be a challenge. Jacob owns Mr Tucker, a cafe in North Melbourne. Self-employment was a first strike on his application, even though his income was steady and Brad had a stable role as a designer in the fashion industry.

They consulted Jacob’s mum, who agreed to go guarantor. But they hit a roadblock four days out from settlement. Around that time, some banks were tightening their lending for suburbs identified as risky. Unsurprisingly, a block with an uninhabitable barn didn’t fill the folks at the bank with calm confidence. An approved loan would be limited to 70 percent of the property’s value, meaning Jacob and Brad needed a 30 percent deposit, even though their parents had offered to go guarantor. With the help of family they found the funds, but it came down to the wire. ‘It was a stressful four days, but we managed to pull it off,’ Jacob recalls. Victoria has generous incentives to buy regionally – a $20,000 first-homeowner’s grant if you’re buying something new. But this story is a reminder that not all regional properties are treated equally. Each lender has specific criteria. Jacob and Brad’s experience is a reminder to do your research into what banks think about your chosen area before you commit to it.

‘We went into it with a view that if we never rented it, we were happy if it was a recreational thing for us. Being a country property, it’s a pretty modest mortgage. It was manageable on our salaries,’ he says. In fact, Jacob and Brad found it relatively easy to manage a small mortgage and continue to rent where they wanted to live. It made them reassess their spending habits. ‘It just shows how much money you do waste.’

With that insight processed, they got their hands dirty. ‘It had water pumps, electricity and NBN, funnily enough,’ but that was about it. After overseeing the design of a couple of cafe interiors, Jacob had developed a strong eye, and Brad of course made a living surrounded by stylish design. A further plus: Jacob has a builder brother who was generous with his advice. ‘My brother had the tools and was available for phone support. He came out for a couple of days. It made it possible to do it ourselves.’

They spent a bit under $50,000 on the renovation. So, for a total of $270,000 they had a refitted barn that sleeps four on a beautiful property and it was ripe for rental. All that spending meant that a listing on Airbnb was a necessity – they hoped to recover at least some of their costs.

If you’re thinking about following in their regional footsteps, Jacob says ‘proceed with caution’. Turning their investment into a profitable venture took time. You need to be sure you can fund the mortgage repayments before it starts generating cashflow. Plus, it’s harder to get a loan for a regional block. ‘The banks have a different metric based on how long the properties sit on the market for,’ Jacob explains.

This is an edited extract from Smashed Avocado: How I Cracked The Property Market And You Can Too by Nicole Haddow, published by Black Inc Books. It’s now available to purchase at all good bookstores

This Week

Family

Weaver Maryanne Moodie Reflects On Birth, ADHD + Her Coven Of Mothers

The mother of two reflects on parenting the most challenging version of yourself, and the 'birth' that lasts years and years – becoming a
Ashe Davenport

Interiors

A Nearly Demolished Home Turned Interior Masterpiece!

Junctions90 have redesigned this 1850s Melbourne house so it will never be demolished.

Studio Visit

The Miniature Boat Maker Working Out Of An Off-Grid Shipping Container

Meet Captain Elise Cameron Smith – ‘miniature boat maker and builder of dreams’!
Sally Tabart
  23 hours ago

Architecture

An Inviting Home Atop A Violin Shop!

Tsai Design and Sustainable Homes Melbourne turn a dark space above a violin store into a light-filled home.
Amelia Barnes

The Good Room

Rose Chong's Fabulous Rooftop (With Pool!) In Fitzroy!

Fitzroy's costume queen shares her unexpected rooftop haven, above her Fitzroy shop.
Lisa Marie Corso

Creative People

Treasure Hunting With Wild To Ware

Erin Malloy and Michael Tink fossick for gemstones in riverbeds around Australia, to create their ethical bespoke jewellery.

Homes

A Personality-Filled Off-The-Plan Apartment

Imogen Milford's Fitzroy apartment brimming with local Australian art and design is proof that big design can happen in small spaces!

Dream Job

The Perks Of Being a Food Writer, According To One Of Australia’s Top Restaurant Critics!

Senior restaurant critic at The Age, Gemima Cody, shares what it's really like to be a food writer.

Architecture

A Home That Completely Transforms With A Few Quick Switches

Designed as an artist's retreat using mostly recycled materials, The Sawmill House by Archier is a home for all seasons!

Homes

A Beloved Family Home, Re-Built From The Ground Up

After a freak accident destroyed most of their Narre Warren North home, Sarah Woodhouse and Brad Nicholls designed a new and improved versio...

Stays

A Delightfully Rustic, Country Style Getaway

Book your stay at the beautifully restored Airbnb, Marge's Cottage, in South Gippsland.
Amelia Barnes

Gardens

A Layered Garden, Designed Around A Liquidambar Tree

Ben Scott Garden Design have created richly layered garden in Camberwell, tailored to a Victorian home with a contemporary extension.

Sustainable Homes

A Heritage Home, Retrofitted To The Highest Sustainability Standards

The ‘Passive Butterfly’ house - a renovated weatherboard home, with 90 per cent reduced heating and cooling costs.

Architecture

A Contemporary Home Inspired By Heritage Architecture

Wolveridge Architecture balance contemporary design and art deco references, in Melbourne's Ascot Vale.
Amelia Barnes
  15 hours ago

View Comments

Similar Stories

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

Homes

A Self-Built Weekender Cabin

Lucy and Nathan Hersey's tiny off-the-grid retreat, in regional Victoria.

Homes

A Home That Bridges Past And Present

A sprawling, eclectic home in regional Victoria, with its own mini pub!

This Week

Dream Job

The Perks Of Being a Food Writer, According To One Of Australia’s Top Restaurant Critics!

Senior restaurant critic at The Age, Gemima Cody, shares what it's really like to be a food writer.

Stays

A Delightfully Rustic, Country Style Getaway

Book your stay at the beautifully restored Airbnb, Marge's Cottage, in South Gippsland.
Amelia Barnes

Gardens

A Layered Garden, Designed Around A Liquidambar Tree

Ben Scott Garden Design have created richly layered garden in Camberwell, tailored to a Victorian home with a contemporary extension.

Family

Weaver Maryanne Moodie Reflects On Birth, ADHD + Her Coven Of Mothers

The mother of two reflects on parenting the most challenging version of yourself, and the 'birth' that lasts years and years – becoming a
Ashe Davenport

Architecture

A Home That Completely Transforms With A Few Quick Switches

Designed as an artist's retreat using mostly recycled materials, The Sawmill House by Archier is a home for all seasons!

Creative People

Treasure Hunting With Wild To Ware

Erin Malloy and Michael Tink fossick for gemstones in riverbeds around Australia, to create their ethical bespoke jewellery.

Interiors

A Nearly Demolished Home Turned Interior Masterpiece!

Junctions90 have redesigned this 1850s Melbourne house so it will never be demolished.

Architecture

A Contemporary Home Inspired By Heritage Architecture

Wolveridge Architecture balance contemporary design and art deco references, in Melbourne's Ascot Vale.
Amelia Barnes
  15 hours ago

Studio Visit

The Miniature Boat Maker Working Out Of An Off-Grid Shipping Container

Meet Captain Elise Cameron Smith – ‘miniature boat maker and builder of dreams’!
Sally Tabart
  23 hours ago

The Good Room

Rose Chong's Fabulous Rooftop (With Pool!) In Fitzroy!

Fitzroy's costume queen shares her unexpected rooftop haven, above her Fitzroy shop.
Lisa Marie Corso

Architecture

An Inviting Home Atop A Violin Shop!

Tsai Design and Sustainable Homes Melbourne turn a dark space above a violin store into a light-filled home.
Amelia Barnes

Sustainable Homes

A Heritage Home, Retrofitted To The Highest Sustainability Standards

The ‘Passive Butterfly’ house - a renovated weatherboard home, with 90 per cent reduced heating and cooling costs.

Homes

A Beloved Family Home, Re-Built From The Ground Up

After a freak accident destroyed most of their Narre Warren North home, Sarah Woodhouse and Brad Nicholls designed a new and improved versio...

Homes

A Personality-Filled Off-The-Plan Apartment

Imogen Milford's Fitzroy apartment brimming with local Australian art and design is proof that big design can happen in small spaces!

Similar Stories

Architecture

The Apple Crate Shack On The Apple Isle!

A $60,000 budget goes a long way in this ambitious project in Flowerpot, Tasmania.
Miriam McGarry

Homes

A Self-Built Weekender Cabin

Lucy and Nathan Hersey's tiny off-the-grid retreat, in regional Victoria.

Homes

A Home That Bridges Past And Present

A sprawling, eclectic home in regional Victoria, with its own mini pub!