Tree change relieves financial pressure and creates a brand new life
Living in the Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne, you’d be forgiven for thinking Delrene and Malcolm Stone already had a tree change lifestyle of sorts.
Del had grown up in Nunawading (an outer Melbourne suburb). After a stint in America and recovering from divorce, she bought out her ex-husband’s share of their house in leafy Tecoma, surrounded by trees, with a creek running through. Then she met Mal and Tecoma was home for 15 years.
But, like many couples living in the suburbs, the Stones were struggling under the burden of a hefty mortgage. Mal is a self-employed painter and Del worked for a building company. Both worked hard but realised they’d become slaves to their mortgage.
Commuting across Melbourne was taking longer and the Dandenongs are dark and damp – not ideal for a painter like Mal! Besides, they wanted a place of their own to make a fresh start.
So they started renovating to eventually sell and move to the country, where houses would be more affordable. Both working full-time, the renovations were slow and their mortgage remained stubbornly high. When a local real estate agent first valued the house, they still had a lot of work to do.
One day, Del saw an advertisement for the Regional Victorian Living Expo (where I was presenting on how to successfully move to the country), and went along to see what regional Victoria had to offer. We got chatting and Del bought The Great Life Redesign and the Dream It! Design It! Do It! DIY Sea Change Program, before heading home to tell Mal all about it.
Turning possibility into a reality
Armed with their Sea Change Location Locator, they spent many weekends visiting different places. Weighing up the pros and cons, they considered towns closer to large regional centers with better work prospects.
They soon fell in love with Maldon, near Castelmaine, Bendigo and Maryborough. With historical small town charm, character homes, friendly people, potential for work and relatively low house prices, it was the town they’d been looking for.
When the agent returned to see how they were going in September, he told them to stop renovating! He already had genuine buyers who would want to put their own stamp on the house.
Once committed, everything fell into place quickly
An ‘open for inspection’ saw 20 groups through, building inspections and 3 offers way over what the Stones thought they’d get for their Tecoma home. They accepted an offer with a long settlement and an option to rent, to be sure Maldon would be right for them.
Further weekend visits provided the certainty they needed. When Del mentioned Mal to the locals, she was repeatedly told, “Oh, your husband will have no trouble getting work here – we need a good painter.”
That Maldon is a ‘dog friendly’ town was a bonus!
They soon found and bought their perfect future home – a charming weatherboard cottage on ½ acre. 1.2km from the center of town, it’s rural but not isolated. Mal moved in to start renovating, with Del travelling up on weekends to meet people and settle in.
Staying in Tecoma for 6 months (to honour a commitment to her former employer), provided regular income and gave Del time to adjust.
Like ducks to water
Fast forward 3 months and the Stones couldn’t be happier.
With their mortgage reduced by a whopping 75%, the burden of debt induced stress is gone. They are loving renovating their new home at their own pace and already have plans to extend in the future. Who knows, it may one day become a B&B.
On a typical day you’ll find them both up early to take Spike and Bonnie for a walk. Their home overlooks a historic reserve with kangaroos, birds, trees and a stunning view.
The once neglected garden has now been cleared and 70 new native trees and plants are putting down roots.
Maldon embraces the Stones
Naturally friendly, the Stones have made the all-important effort to make new friends and become part of the community and it’s paying off.
Chatting to fellow dog owners, she’s also picked up a casual cleaning job. Although looking for more permanent office work, she’s flexible and happy to help out. Importantly, she’s realising one of the biggest benefits of country living – there is no rush.
Whilst painting the house next door, Mal discovered that a plant nursery is opening soon. The local Bakery may need a barista and a new connection in Bendigo is sharing Del’s resume to connect her with job opportunities.
When they placed an advertisement in the local paper for Mal’s painting business, the editor called to ask for an interview. Introducing them to Maldon, the article highlighted Mal’s experience painting heritage homes.
Even the editor asked for a quote to paint her family home in Castelmaine and as the business takes off locally, Mal is finishing up work in Melbourne.
When Mal first arrived in Maldon he was recovering from back surgery and offers of help were instant when he mentioned his back.
Local Maldonians stop their cars for a chat and people wave even if they don’t know you. Tradies working on their home provide introductions, connections and recommendations and Spike and Bonnie are proving to be wonderful ice breakers.
Del’s Top 5 Tree Change Tips
The Stones tree change has been a success and Del kindly shared her tips to help you ‘bite the bullet’ and make the move:
- Be clear about what you want and set goals
The Dream It! Design It! Do It! program provides a simple, structured approach, posing questions the Stones may otherwise not have asked themselves. Their answers helped them create a step by step plan.
- Take time to do your research
With clear criteria about what they wanted and needed (including a library and a good vet), Del and Mal were able to easily compare different options. Their research provided certainty and confidence that Maldon was the right choice.
- Don’t assume that it’s going to be a bad thing for your family
When I originally spoke to the Stones, Mal was concerned that his family may not support the move which meant moving further away from his Mum who he is very close to.
In fact the opposite has turned out to be the truth! Close friends, family and Mal’s Mum are over the moon and admire their courage. They put in the leg work and did what they wanted to do now, instead of years down the road.
- Take opportunities as they come along
Accepting the offer on their Tecoma home was the ‘point of no return’. Del’s willingness to do different work is opening up opportunities she may not previously have considered.
- Be realistic and organized
That Del is a well-organised, prolific note taker meant the move was stress free. They know it will take a while for Mal’s business to take off locally, but they’ve got an interim plan to maintain their cash flow and it is working.
While Del believes they’ve been lucky their move to Maldon has worked out so well, I suspect the Stones have created their own luck.
“I can’t tell you how good it is to get in the car and drive through the countryside to Castemaine. Watching kangaroos grazing and eagles soaring, I can’t believe how fortunate we are to be living a lifestyle like this in this beautiful countryside – it’s just amazing!”
So… now I’m wondering, what’s stopping you from making your own move?
It costs nothing to find out what it would take and, who knows… it could be the best decision you ever make.BOOK YOUR FREE DISCOVERY SESSION