This couple is making their beach shack dream come true
When Lyndall Murray and Jono Waghorn sat next to each other on a flight from Exmouth to Perth, they never could have known that the fateful seat allocation would eventually lead to a romance and an unconventional property partnership.
Lyndall, 34, a customer experience director at tech start-up, The Merrier, and her electrician partner, Jono, 34, are refurbishing a beach shack in Evans Head on the New South Wales coast. But unlike many couples, Lyndall bought the property with her own $100,000 deposit, while Jono works full time renovating it between construction contracts.
Getting the deposit
'It was very important for me to establish financial independence,' Lyndall says. In 2014 she moved out of a home she had purchased with her ex-boyfriend and recovered slightly less than the $30,000 she'd invested. To save, she moved to a Byron Bay sharehouse and spent $180 per week on rent. 'I hadn't lived in a sharehouse since my early 20s so it was a transition that felt regressive, but I had a goal to buy my own property and this was part of the sacrifice.'
Later, she moved to a $360 per week studio. Jono, who's from Victoria, would come and visit. He was already in the property game, renovating a home in Rye on the Mornington Peninsula. 'At the time I was considering a townhouse just north or south of Byron within a 45-minute drive, but after striking a deal with Jono that would see him renovate the property in exchange for rent-free living, this shifted the type of property I was looking for,' Lyndall says.
'From January 2017 to July 2017 I knuckled down saving every penny I possibly could, but I managed to balance this with picnics on the beach with mates instead of nights out on the town,' she adds.
After missing out on a property in Clunes (inland from Byron Bay) the pair returned to a focus on coastal areas and found Evans Head, a 50-minute commute from Byron. Lyndall reckons a highway build that's currently in progress will reduce the commute to 35-minutes and hopefully add value to the area.
Lyndall and Jono found their property and estimated that it was worth about $470,000, but asbestos removal would be pricy – circa $20,000 – so they used that as a bargaining tool, eventually settling on a sale price of $457,000. They used Lyndall's $100,000 deposit to secure it in July 2017.
Tackling the reno
This is Lyndall's 'first renovating rodeo', but after transforming a dilapidated, beehive-infested 1970s Rye beach house, Jono was suitably qualified. They engaged asbestos professionals to remove the toxic waste ($18,000) and a roofing specialist completed the roof ($9000). Jono is doing everything else himself.
'We spent the first nine months, pulling down walls to create open spaces, removing the asbestos and replacing the roof. If I run out of money we default to doing the jobs that don't require a lot of cash,' Lyndall explains. When funds were low, Jono converted the old garage into a self-contained studio so they could stop renting. 'We moved into the studio in March this year, and we plan to Airbnb the space once the renovation is complete,' she says.
'We've turned an old washing machine drum into a makeshift fire pit. On Fridays we burn a fire, have a beer and reflect on the week. In the future when I'm cooking in the completed kitchen and enjoying the adjoining deck, I think I'll look back on these days as making the experience,' Lyndall says.
It also helps that 'Gumtree is Jono's best friend,' according to Lyndall. He's sourced free materials, mature golden palm trees. Even their new puppy Chilli is a Gumtree find.
Building a bloody bright future
The long-term plan is to stay in the home. 'Jono didn't get to live in his Rye house after transforming it, he moved to Byron to start a life with me. So, I see us enjoying the fruits of his labour for a few years,' Lyndall predicts. Although they've also talked about 'getting rid of the bank', selling both properties and taking on a new project. Currently, Jono is living expense-free, so Lyndall would get the profit, but they'll review when it comes time to pool resources. 'Having our financial independence helps keep our relationship fun and exciting,' she says.
If the couple's story has you scrolling coastal listings right now, Lyndall says, 'do it, but within your means'. She believes too many millennials get caught up in city home ownership and overstretch themselves to get into the market. 'My advice is to look for a career pivot that might allow you to work remotely. Reduce your mortgage overhead, it'll help bring balance to your life. And don't be afraid of the commute, podcasts are your friend. The time in the car can be used to expand your mind.'
Follow Lyndall and Jono's journey on Instagram: @evans_head_reno