Spring has arrived and we’re now more than comfortably set up on the property with all the creature comforts we could ask for but our building cash is almost entirely gone and we’re still a little short on some of the cost of our containers.

As soon as we worked out what the sale price of our house was, we started working on a budget that was as detailed as it could be.  To keep track of this, I started a Google Sheet that I can access from any computer or phone if it has the app.  If you aren’t using Google Docs, get on it.  It will blow your little mind and change your life!

Anyway, we were getting as many prices as we could on every little aspect of purchasing and setting up the land.  

Keeping track of this budget really was the only way we managed to get as far as we have but we still managed to miss things or blow out on some of the areas we didn’t get proper quotes on.

So I wanted to issue a warning to others on some of the costs we completely forgot about, or those that we really didn’t anticipate.  Part of me wants to give you complete transparency and share a complete break down of our costs incurred, but finances are meant to be private so I’ll share as much as I can.

Buying & Selling

The hardest part first up, was working out our fees and charges with the sale and purchase of our property.  Thank god for our Finance Specialist who gave us a detailed break down of every last cent we would need to fork out.

For the sale of our property:

Mortgage exit fees.  This is standard with any home loan but from memory, we had to pay a little more because we had only had it for a couple of years.  Each bank will be different but your Finance Specialist will be able to tell you what these will be.

Sellers agent fees.  Your agent will estimate your fees and give you the horribly complex way they are calculated before you sign up with them.  Make sure you do some research before choosing an agent.

Solicitors fees.  Get this quoted in writing and ask what additional fees you may incur.

Stamp Duty.  Yup, stamp duty needs to be paid when you sell a property.  It’s percentage of the sale price and there’s a few online calculators you can use to get an estimate on this.

Rates paid up until settlement date.  The rates stung us when we bought this house and almost stung us again when we sold.  Make sure you budget for this.

For the purchase of the land:

Mortgage deposit.  This one seriously, seriously fucked us over.  Initially the bank said they would be happy with a 5% deposit on our mortgage.  Which was awesome and was going to leave us with enough cash to almost finish the house.  Then they decided after having our loan application for 2 weeks, that they wanted a 10% deposit instead.  Like I said, fucked us over big time and left us with virtually nothing to build with.

Mortgage establishment fees.  There are always fees and charges involved in setting up a new mortgage.  They’re usually pretty minimal and your Finance Specialist will be able to give you all the details.

Mortgage insurance.  If you’re going for a low deposit, the bank will sometimes charge you Mortgage Insurance.  Don’t be fooled though – this isn’t anything more than a one off payment that you need to make.  Again, ask you finance guru for the low down on this.

Solicitors fees.  Again, get this quoted in writing and ask what additional fees you may incur.

Basic Necessities

This part we thought would be the easiest.  My Dad had just done the same sort of thing but on a much smaller scale so he had a heap of knowledge.  Our one main concern was our solar system after being quoted on systems ranging from $1,500 to $50,000, we were stumped.  We finally worked it out though, and you can read about what to look out for here.

Water tank.  This one was the easiest.  We got ours from a place at Woombye where they have made their own to order since the 70’s.  Top blokes who delivered it and positioned it too.

Off grid solar system.  Easily the hardest and scariest decision we have ever had to make.  This took up the biggest chunk of our cash and we literally had no idea what to expect.  Lucky, we found the awesome guys of Off Grid Solar Kits who held our hand through the entire process.

Gas hot water system.  We saved a bunch by shopping around on this and asking for a trade price (always worth a try) and we actually saved money here.

Septic tank installation.  We went with a conservative sized tank for us as we only have one bathroom and the installation of this was really straight forward.  Again we saved money on this by asking for a trade price!

Water pump.  Such a nightmare to source.  Any time I would mention to a pump shop that we are running from off grid solar so need really low usage, they would laugh and try to sell me a pond pump.  Thanks assholes.  Finally we found a great little shop in Gympie who kicked ass in the customer service department and really looked after us on the price! 

Bathroom essentials.  I had budgeted $200 for a dunny and bath which we saved big time on by purchasing some seconds from the plumbing shop we spent a fortune with.  At $50 each, I didn’t care that these brand new items were a little wonky – they were $50 and brand new!!!

Shit We Forgot

Yeah so we had quite a few “Oh Shit!” moment during the basic set up but hey, you learn from these situations and we now have great knowledge to share with our readers!  I think they key to dealing with these curve balls is to just roll with it, don’t freak out too much and do what you can.  If that doesn’t work – cry and laugh.  Crying to tradies really can help you out of a tricky situation and having a great sense of humor about the fact that you’re pregnant and peeing and bathing in a bucket makes all the difference.  (Different buckets.  Just to be clear.)

Okay, so here’s the breakdown of the shit we forgot to budget for:

Plumbing supplies.  We totally blanked on this.  We ended up spend $850 just in pipes and fittings to set up our down pipes into the water tank, grey water into the garden and everything for the septic trenching.  Oops.  Luckily we hit up Tradelink in Gympie who more than looked after us and now see  us for every little fitting we need from time to time.

Electrician.  This was a total surprise and wasn’t really explained to us by the solar guys.  We found out that they would only supply and install the solar system.  We still needed an electrician to come and install a switchboard, a double power point and an earth stake to see us through until our electrician mate could come and do our wire up.  Finding a sparky who was willing to work with a completely off grid system was a  WHOLE other adventure.  I actually just hung up on one guy mid conversation.  Total dick non believer.  I found a guy who was awesome! He even hovered around the solar guys to see what they were up to.

Water tank foundation.  This was minor but we did need to build a timber boxing and lay a gravel foundation for the tank.  We’ll remember that for the next one now!

Budget Status

Over all, considering we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing, we’ve done really well with the budget.  We’ve actually only gone over by 10% taking into account the areas that we’ve saved money in.  In building terms, this really isn’t much to worry about considering we didn’t allow for contingencies at all.

Hopefully we’ve shed some light on exactly what is needed to set up a pretty comfortable life off-grid and you can now avoid the same mistakes we have.

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