We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but recently several things changed in our lives and we realised a big move could be a reality.
In quick succession my kids moved out of home, my husband retired (he had run a wholesale nursery on our property), I was made redundant from my job as editor at Gardening Australia magazine, and we sold our property here at Kurrajong.
As I am now a freelancer, I didn’t need to stay in Sydney for work and my husband just wants to garden and go trout fishing.
When news of our Sydney sale leaked out, friends in Tassie started emailing possible gardens. Inspired by what we saw (a mortgage-free future in a beautiful garden) we jumped on the computer to trawl the real estate websites for more options. Several possibilities appeared. Without too much more thinking we booked airfares to Launceston, a hire car and a charming bed and breakfast cottage for our three-day hunt.
We decided to focus on the northern part of Tasmania, searching west from Launceston and organised appointments with local real estate agents.
I didn’t think we’d find what we wanted straight away. Indeed the prudent part of me said we should be renting somewhere to make sure we liked the proposed new lifestyle and to be in a better position to find what we wanted. Living there too may give us time to better understand the Tasmanian market, but what was the harm in looking before things got too much colder?
A few home truths
While the real estate market is booming in Sydney and Melbourne and other parts of mainland Australia, the wave doesn’t appear to have reached Tasmania yet. Indeed, some people told us that prices hadn’t changed in northern Tasmania since 2008. Most of the agents we spoke to said that things had been very quite until the last few months and that some properties had begun to sell that had been on the market for a long time.
Tasmania is probably the cheapest place to buy in Australia – especially out of the main centres and away from the coast. Certainly there were lots of cottages for sale in our search zone from $200,000 to $350,000 but these didn’t have the garden or setting we wanted. Many of the more expensive houses we came across had been for sale for a long time.
Many desirable properties carry mainland price tags and are unlikely to be sold to a local resident. The owners of period houses know they are most likely to sell to a mainlander and are willing to sit out the year or two or more that it will take to find the right buyer.
What we saw
Longford House (a Georgian sandstone building) was a tad out of our price range, but there were lots more properties that weren’t.
We had decided on our list of boxes (to be ticked), which included a garden with an orchard and trees, good soil, water, a view, an interesting house in good condition and easy access to an airport.
We also wanted somewhere safe for our two dogs and clear of potential logging and mining, especially given the recent change of state government in the Apple Isle. A river or stream was optional, but not a deal breaker.
We crossed a charming Victorian cottage off the list when we discovered it was next door to a piggery but we loved the beautiful garden around a 1950s cottage. It ticked just about every box (including the stream). The garden had been on the market for over 15 months but the owner wasn’t interested in offers so we reluctantly moved on to leave him to wait for another mainland buyer to come along.
We also saw a 1970s house, completely and beautifully renovated indoors and set on 28 acres of land. I could see myself living there. It had pristine bushland, river frontage (with two large grassy meadows), a terraced garden and was just 40 minutes from Launceston airport. Then, to make it even harder to decide, we saw a renovated period house near Cressy (so, very close to the airport) set in a beautiful historic garden with a trufflery, vegetable gardens to die for, and the best potting shed I’ve ever seen.
We also found a woodland garden set in a hundred acres of grazing land but decided that, while it was romantic, it needed a lot of work and we stared longingly over the fence at an exquisite garden around a 1930s house in Deloraine.
Then we hit the jackpot – a Federation house set in an acre of established gardens near a tiny village and surrounded by grazing land. It is under 30 minutes to Devonport and about 80-90 minutes to Launceston airport (admittedly a bit further than we’d planned).
We made an offer, booked a building inspection and to our total amazement found ourselves owners (well, by the end of July when we settle) of a truly beautiful home in Tasmania.
We know Tassie is cold (in summer as well as winter), we know there’s water between us and the rest of Australia, and we know it won’t be easy to wave goodbye to friends and family and to this part of the world where we’ve lived for more than 20 years. But hey, there are no fruit fly or termites in Tassie and they don’t have foxes. I can grow peonies and clematis and harvest my own apples and greengages. And, if only a small percentage of the people who’ve booked our spare room turn up, we won’t have much time to miss our friends!
Now we just need to pack up, book the pugs on Jet Pets and find a home for four aged chooks and a bantam rooster.
Our house in Barrington can be seen on Domain. The charming bed and breakfast cottage at Mole Creek is Blackwood Park. For the houses near Launceston contact Peter Stackhouse. For Wychwood at Mole Creek.