Shoal Haven Heads is a pretty quiet place, almost like stepping back in time to a small sea side village sitting hidden from view.
We welcomed the quietness, and got slowly to know the locals who were friendly and generally retirees or some with young families.
The children settled into school, we both got jobs, and life went on as we designed and commencing the dream home by the beach with 180 degree views across the ocean and a hop skip and jump to the waters edge.
But that was boom time in the construction industry, and we found ourselves, as we were owner builders, held for ransom by trades people eager to extract every last dollar and take advantage of the shortage of skilled tradespeople around, as there was also mining booms going on across the country that were sucking all the skilled workers to make their fortune.
Hence over budget, but pretty much on time, we finally moved in and commenced the long process of transforming it from construction site to home.
At that time property was sky rocketing in value, so whilst we wanted to flip the first investment property pretty quickly, we thought about an offer that was higher than what we had paid, but decided to wait for a stronger offer.
That turned out to be one of the worst decisions we ever made together and we would spend the next seven years lamenting, because in the next year, the global financial crisis hit, and no one could sell their properties for any love or money.
The talk around the barbecues rapidly turned from how much peoples properties were currently worth, to how much the market was falling, as all around the world stock markets crashed and real estate was being offloaded so people could meet margin calls, or else they had seriously gone underwater with equity and their bank loans…
As the investment property we bought was highly geared, we found ourselves existing to work just to service a serious loan, and the interest payments formed a noose around our necks that dominated every decision we made.
Then Jeff lost his job. It took him two days to tell me.I felt our world start to fracture and go into a tailspin.
Firms were going under and closing offices, and his was no exception.
One night he looks to me after several weeks of fruitlessly trying to find a job in the region and says
I will have to try and get something in Sydney.
He waits for my reaction, knowing it won’t be good.
But can’t you just take anything down here, I mean I’m earning good money, you can take a lesser paying job and…
He looks at me with resignation, and I know it is futile. We need every cent we can get to service the loan and for us to keep our heads above water until we can flog the blasted property.
How the hell has it come to this? I despair
Look, a lot of people are in the same boat, there’s quite a few people who have more than one property here, everyone is feeling it.
But how would it work, I mean you couldn’t commute every day, it’s three bloody hours.
I feel a knot in my stomach as we look across the deck to the ocean, watching the flash from the light house.
I’ll have to live there during the week, come back on the weekends. Look it’s just until we can sell the property and things start to improve ok. We just have to live with it, there’s nothing we can do.
I looked at him nodding, with a sense of dread that I didn’t quite believe this, but had to try and brave it out. We were stuck with an adverse fate, and stupidity in turning down the first offer on the property, now we had to try and make the best of it.
He hugs me and heads off to check the web sites for work, as I call out to the children to turn off the tv, time for bed..