Meet Ruby and Pat - millennials who've made a tree change
Many millennials will struggle with the idea of buying way out of town just to enter the market, but it was necessary for Ruby Boynton-Boardman, a 25-year-old advertising art director and her 28-year-old carpenter partner, Pat.
Renting a rundown place in St Kilda, dining out and spending on drinks wasn’t helping them achieve their goals. “Together we hunkered down,” Ruby recalls. They hit pause on the dinner dates and wineries and turned to buying in bulk at markets and preparing all of their weekly meals. With some savings already in the bank and a year-and-a-half of solid hustling, they had a deposit for a home.
Planning for a tree change
The pair set their sights on the Melbourne outer-eastern suburb of Belgrave. “Most of the houses ended up being out of our price range and we were buying at the peak time in the property market,” Ruby recalls, describing it as a “hellish time”. They’d fall in love with a home only to realise the logistics were impossible or they’d been outbid again. It made the experience overwhelming. The competition drove them to Mt Evelyn, 37-kilometres from the CBD. Endlessly scrolling for “the right one,” Ruby eventually found it.
“The front room was just a frame. We were like, cool, we can do that…” Ruby recalls. Walking upstairs, the home became a serious contender. It had two huge windows and a large sliding glass door overlooking the trees. Ruby’s “heart fluttered” but she promptly told herself not to get too attached. But their vision helped. “We were looking for something that had good bones, character or what real estate agents like to call, ‘a tradie’s delight’. Somewhere out of the city with an abundance of fresh air,” Ruby says.
The winning bid
The house went to auction in April 2018. They had finance conditionally-approved and knew their limit. It was a tense process, but in the end, they secured the home for $547,500 – just a few hundred dollars from their limit. “When they said ‘sold’ we both felt the ground slip from under us. All the blood went from my face and I had to sit down. Pat squeezed my hand. We were both so scared.”
Ruby describes the feeling of diving into the unknown as “other-worldly”, especially as reality dawned: this was just the beginning, there was a lot of work to do.
Tackling a fixer-upper
“There were unfinished rooms, walls with some holes and the front room was just a frame. Downstairs was just a concrete slab with three external walls, Ruby says. Then there was the garden, a series of patches winding down the hill was overrun by blackberries and African daisies.
The couple decided to live in it for a few months to make sure the renovation decisions they made were right. They’ve since knocked out walls to open up spaces, moved the stairs and added more windows, but there’s a great deal left to achieve.
Is it worth it?
It’s a serious undertaking. One of the biggest challenges for Pat and Ruby is maintaining the motivation to work on their home on weekends, especially after long weekday commutes. “It’s a love-hate relationship at times because you want to be there and live in it, but we have to make money to build it,” Ruby says.
“We did lose each other for a brief time too. The overwhelmingness of the project just seemed to gobble us up and we stopped communicating,” she admits. They’ve since realised they have to tackle it as a united team.
The payoff is becoming increasingly obvious, too. “Waking up in the morning and looking out our window at the big gum tree. It’s knowing that what we’re standing on is ours,” Ruby points out. She takes regular “garden therapy” time and says connecting with nature and growing her own vegetables is a dream come true.
“We’ve come to realise that friends really enjoy coming and staying over. It’s been about adapting our lifestyle to enjoy the things we love, but in a different way,” she says.
To those considering doing the same, Ruby and Pat believe it’s essential to be comfortable with what you’re getting into. “To save and get into the market it’s assessing what you can do without for a while. To get ahead you have to go a little without and treat yourself on occasions, make them meaningful. It’s a long road but you’ll be thankful at the end,” Ruby concludes.
Follow Pat and Ruby’s journey on Instagram
This article first appeared on realestate.com.au
Learn about making sacrifices and the importance of securing your financial future in Nicole Haddow’s Smashed Avocado: How I cracked the property market and you can too, out September 3, 2019.