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Posts: 10
Location: Western Australia
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Hello there all, I am looking for some input into an opportunity that has presented itself to me. All critiques, ideas, opinions and thoughts appreciated. I am located in Western Australia, so will be generalising about climate etc.

I have been approached by a friend who has a property sitting idle she would like to see lived in and for the work to begin on turning it into a self sufficient retreat for herself and friends. It is a 27 acre property that was a piggery and then a riding school in a previous life. It has a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house, with scheme water, connected to the electric grid and cook tops running off bottled natural gas. It is un-lived in and been empty awhile, and was bought out of a liquidation auction. As you would expect it needs work.

The idea was that myself and my partner could potentially move in and live rent free and pay our own utility bills, in exchange for us starting to fix the place up. We're exploring the idea as the idea of living rent free for even 6 to 12 months is very appealing.

We would appreciate any opinions or input into the situation, or if anyone has done something similar previously, how it went for them, any problems they encountered and the like.

Thank you in advance
 
Posts: 171
Location: western n.c.
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sounds pretty cool, but only you can answer that question. Living rent-free is one thing, but how much work you plan on doing vs. compensation for your time and energy is another... How good of a friend is this person? If they are a true blue really nice person that will realize your efforts to rejuvenate and fix up a property are worth more monetarily than you would be paying in rent and will return the favor someday, then personally I would go for it if I didn't have anything else to do. If I had a property like that and did not have the time to fix it up myself, I would be looking for someone to do what you're doing, however I would also be making a deal with that person that they would always have an open door there if they needed it and not just for the time they were there fixing it up.... such as, a few years ago I had an offer for some acreage in elko nevada, I was trying to find someone I trusted to go there and build an earthship in exchange for them getting their name on the deed as co-owners, I wouldn't expect someone to do something like that and not get something tangible out of it, obviously I would be coming out ahead just by having a cool eco-retreat to go to whenever I wished. I couldn't find anyone before the offer expired so it never happened. I was too busy rejuvenating this farm in the mountains to worry about another property myself.

so what I'm getting at is, unless this person is super cool and trustworthy enough to return the favor to you somehow, rebuilding and fixing up a house/property is probably not monetarily worth a year of rent if you count the time you would be working there as labor you could be getting paid for, however if the person is trustworthy and nice and would have an open door for you forever in exchange for your hard work then that might be a really neat and fun project.

I do dislike to be so focused on the "bottom line" but I've seen similar situations go bad for folks before, they'll spend alot of time fixing up a property and when they're done, the host comes up with an excuse to not be friends with them anymore thereby severing ties and any further obligation to repay their work. If someone did that for me, depending on what is being done obviously, I would offer to let them put up a little cabin that they could come stay in whenever they liked, but I would also put a stipulation on it that they do not live there forever for free as well... Your best course of action is to think about what you want out of this arrangement and to be very frank with the person about it, don't leave anything up for assumption. I'm not necessarily advocating drawing up legal contracts, but having a very specific agreement with someone AND knowing that this person is honest and trustworthy would be good enough for me if I were in your situation.

Good luck and have fun!
 
M Foti
Posts: 171
Location: western n.c.
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I'd like to add that if I were in the situation of the owner, I would be making sure that you didn't pay for anything other than your utilities, meaning not one board, screw or nail would come out of your pocket going towards something that you do not own. If you have to start buying construction materials for this other person's property, then to me that would be a very bad deal, your time and energy could be spent towards getting money for a place of your own... Of course here in America we have abundant land that is comparitively cheap when you look at europe or most other countries, I have NO idea about australia and the availability of land, although I would expect that land prices would be similar in rural areas...
 
pollinator
Posts: 1127
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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What you describe sounds like what we call caretaking in Hawaii. Caretakers are very common here since its not uncommon for mainlanders to have vacation homes in Hawaii, for the snowbird types to live here only 6 months out of the year, or for locals to have a second property for investment or future family use. And there are the elderly retired needing some assistance.

There are all sorts of possible agreements and it's wise to have the basics in writing with signatures notarized. But most people around here just have verbal agreements and sometimes it has ended with misunderstandings. Most of the time the arrangement works out fine, though.

Many caretakers now video the property before moving in, taking a witness with them. Plus they make a detailed inventory and verbal description of the place which both parties agree on. This prevents many accusations that have plagued caretaking in the past.

Some caretaking positions here only last a few months, even weeks, but others can become very long term. Our neighbors down the road have been living there as caretakers for close to 30 years. I know of several caretakers who have been in their positions for over 10 years. So sometimes its benefits both parties for a long time, especially if there are two housing structures on the property with privacy for both.
 
gardener
Posts: 7489
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I'm near the end of a situation that hasn't worked at all. Almost two years ago. I ran an add saying that I had an unused cottage available for someone who wanted to get some garden beds going and cut pathways around the property. No rent. In twenty months, the couple who moved in, have done nothing that I couldn't get done in a good week. They just sit there day after day or they go on extended vacations. My place has become a pit stop. They run around getting money from parents and the American welfare system and drop in occasionally to unload more garbage gleaned at junk sales. Every neighbor is a little mad at me for bringing parasites to the community. They have borrowed tools, and sought help of all sorts but they never reciprocate.
 
M Foti
Posts: 171
Location: western n.c.
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as dale put it, that definitely goes both ways!!! being a landowner myself I would possibly be open to a scenario later down the road for a longer term arrangement, however right now we enjoy utilizing WWOOF as it helps us with a LITTLE BIT of work, gives 'city folks' a fun experience and is just fun to host people with different lifestyles and world views, almost like travelling without going anywhere... For the original poster here, it is important that their work is not taken for granted and for landowners it is equally important to make sure that they are not moving in parasites that will never leave and have no shame...

when doing something like this we need to consider how much the rent would be on that property... 400 a month? 800 a month? How much can the person earn working a job during that time? Trading labor for rent is usually lose/lose, but it can work out with the right people involved!

if this person is a friend it may be 'bad form' to ask them to sign a legal document, however that is up to you! I know if I were in a situation like that, I would feel uncomfortable signing anything, BUT I would want very frank verbal agreements and would never enter into it without feeling like I knew that person very well.

sorry for being redundant here haha, I'm just bored, it's raining outside
 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I'm near the end of a situation that hasn't worked at all. Almost two years ago. I ran an add saying that I had an unused cottage available for someone who wanted to get some garden beds going and cut pathways around the property. No rent. In twenty months, the couple who moved in, have done nothing that I couldn't get done in a good week. They just sit there day after day or they go on extended vacations. My place has become a pit stop. They run around getting money from parents and the American welfare system and drop in occasionally to unload more garbage gleaned at junk sales. Every neighbor is a little mad at me for bringing parasites to the community. They have borrowed tools, and sought help of all sorts but they never reciprocate.



Yup. Your situation is probably more common than the overworked tenant. It is HARD to figure out that balance. and whether the tenant actually has the ability to DO the jobs the landlord WANTS.

If the expectation is to act as guard dogs just to keep the copper thieves away and they let you just do some permie-ish stuff as you want, that is one thing. If they expect you to be a full-time designer and project manager, that is something entirely different.

You need CLEAR terms for how to end the relationship, I have often seen these end abruptly when the tenant put enough work in to make it look nice and they decided to move back or sell it.
 
M Foti
Posts: 171
Location: western n.c.
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I'm completely ignorant about australian laws but here in america it is possible to find a place with owner financing, sort of a rent-to-own thing. These are usually not advertised and have to be sought out, but they do exist and with a run down or dilapidated structure on them, a tenant can come out quite well with the "owner" being able to really choose who gets to live there. This situation can work out quite well if everything is on the up and up with both parties. If I had just a little more land, I would be doing this. We could do the rent to own thing and that rent would pay almost all of our household bills allowing us to spend more time working the land preparing it for future income rather than worrying about walking the line between paying bills and working the orchards.

I personally can't stand the thought of renting, it seems like such a waste of money although I understand that other options are not always there for folks...
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 7489
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I've spent years living at job sites and other free places mostly because I abhor rent. My arrangement with the useless tenants could have been very good for both of us. I would have gladly kept them for several years if they were productive and not so weird.

The cottage was supposed to be surrounded by gardens by now. I will move there part time in the spring and it will be available to friends. On the few occasions when I visited my land while these people were home, I've never been invited in for coffee. When they see me coming down the road, they draw the curtains and pretend to be away. I sleep in my van, while they sit by the fire. I'm moving in. If they aren't gone by the end of February as agreed, I will remove the doors and the heating system. I fully expect to inherit a pig mess.

Not once in my 49 years have I been offered an opportunity to live somewhere nice like this, with the expectation that I put in only 10 hours a month for the privilege. They have put in about 20 hours in total between the pair of them.

This is the view from the upstairs. And another of the front lawn.
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Flick Johnston
Posts: 10
Location: Western Australia
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Thank you everyone for your advice and experiences. We've decided to go ahead and move in, and have started doing things around the place already. We're pretty motivated and the owner is comfortable with us generally tidying up and demolishing things around the place that need to go. I think it will get more complicated when materials are required to fix things and create new spaces. I can see lots of possibilities having now finished my PDC, but matching them with the owners vision may prove challenging.

We've discussed turning half the piggery into a house which we could have access to, but it's a long way down the track yet. I have potentially found some part time work in the area as well which works out great.

We are taking lots of photos of things and changes as we go, and are also keeping a short diary on what is accomplished on a weekly basis, as a way of keeping track of the amount of work that's put in.

The finances may cause dramas. Trying to find a solution to who pays, as when we need something the owner isn't always available to go get it and bring it to the property as she lives an hour away and works full time. At the moment we are holding receipts as there are things we need done quickly that are pretty cheap fix it jobs but need to be done before we can move in.

Here's to hoping the next 12 months works out for the best. Thanks!!
 
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