Buying a house in 2021 is a challenge for many with housing affordability in Australia having broadly declined since the early 1980s.
That’s largely due to the fact that while housing prices have soared in recent decades, wages have not kept pace. That leaves first homebuyers such as Eloise, 33, and Matt Collins, 45, with limited options.
Just a few years back the couple were living in their own sweet, albeit small apartment in Newport, Victoria, but dreamt of buying land and building their own freestanding home where they could live and raise a family of their own.
“We knew we wanted to do that,” says Eloise.
“We felt passionate about it. So much so we did a list of pros and cons. We went full nerd,” she adds with a laugh.
The couple’s ‘nerd’ list considered their budget, location, style, size and also included subcategories of what they were willing to negotiate on and what they categorically were not.
TASMANIAN DREAM HOME
Once complete it became clear that Tasmania was ticking a lot of boxes.
Eloise grew up there and her parents and sister still lived there, so they would have support with the babies they were planning to have. The land available was incredibly beautiful and, equally if not more importantly, was inexpensive when compared to other states.
Some years earlier Eloise and Matt had stumbled across an ad for a heavenly block of land roughly half an hour out of Launceston.
They’d both loved every aspect but were unsure at the time about making such a significant move. Having finally made up their mind, they went back online to check and were delighted to discover the land was still up for grabs.
Matt checked it out in person and reassured Eloise it was perfect in every aspect including the price, a bargain $149,000.
“Only Matt had seen it but I trusted him,” says Eloise.
“All I had seen were pics … but we were both excited. We had a real vision for what we would create.”
‘WHAT HAVE WE DONE?’
When Eloise first sighted the block, however, she felt a little different.
“The first time I saw it I was a bit like, ‘Oh my God, what have we done’,” she reveals.
“Afterwards we drove back to Launceston and I was quiet for an hour. All I could think was, ‘What if we have bitten off more than we can chew?’ ”
Eloise had told Matt she would call him from the land about 10am. By 2pm he was still waiting for her call — and getting increasingly worried. But when she did call him and explain her worries he was able to reassure her and soon, they were back on track.
Matt built a small shed on the land and the couple moved in.
They met with an architectural team and discussed what they wanted and explained they had a budget of $250,000. Then they approached the bank to see what they could borrow and discovered they would be allowed to borrow $210,000 only. The couple decided to stick with their architectural dream and instead cut back on materials and finishes where they could. The plans came through and the couple was utterly delighted.
Then, came the hard work.
SLOW AND PAINFUL HOUSE BUILD
The building of the house, which Matt decided to tackle mainly himself, was a slow and occasionally painful process.
“It was a real journey,” he says.
“I’d have liked to have been 10 years younger if I’m honest. It was exhausting.”
The process was also slow with Matt working full-time during the week and building at the weekend but three years later their dream build was a reality.
And what a reality it is.
The home is glorious and Matt and Eloise are over the moon. Their three small children (yes, three) are also enjoying their home and the expanse of land around it.
“We look at it with rose-coloured glasses now, but there were definitely some very hard times,” says Eloise.
“We were so exhausted, we had a new baby, then a second baby and I was alone a lot. There were times when I was doubting myself, thinking ‘What on earth are we doing?’ but we always came through it. We always turned a corner.”
Today the couple and their gaggle of little ones (Roscoe Louis was born just weeks ago) are loving every second of life in their modern Tasmanian house.
“It’s a beautiful experience waking up here, in this house, every day,” says Matt.
“I take a moment every day just to appreciate what we have. Even during the build I’d stop and look around me and think I am so grateful for what what we have and what we’re doing here.”
THE GRAND DESIGNS AUSTRALIA PROJECT
Owners: Eloise and Matt Collins, plus kids Trixie, 3, Raff, 20 months, and Roscoe, newborn.
The brief: ‘Do whatever you want, but make it cool and not particularly big’.
Budget solutions: Matt, a talented carpenter, built virtually everything himself. The couple also opted for less expensive accessories in some areas.
What we love: Everything.
How to budget build:
● If you have any building skills get in and use them. If you know any handy folk, ask if they will pitch in.
● Be prepared to make sacrifices. Italian tiles are lovely but consider what else you’ll have to give up.
● Work as a team. Building can be stressful and you to be on the same page at all times.
from the past decade
Eloise and Matt’s build will screen on Foxtel’s Grand Designs Australia on Wednesday, April 14.