In 2017, my wife Kate and I started on a journey to build our dream home at Cape Paterson in Victoria, Australia. This is our story.
By Richard Keech
First visit: hook
In February 2017, Brendan Condon presented at the monthly Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) discussion group where he spoke passionately about The Cape, a sustainable housing development at Cape Paterson on Victoria’s stunning South Gippsland coast. Off the back of this presentation I organised a group of BZE folk to visit The Cape on 18 March.
I talked Kate into coming along too. At that stage we were not on the look out for something for ourselves – merely curious. My curiosity was professional as well as personal. I work as an energy-efficiency consultant, and I’d spent years making our c1913 weatherboard home comfortable and efficient.
We were inspired on that day by the sheer brilliance of Brendan’s vision for a more sustainable way to live. However, what we weren’t expecting was the wild captivating beauty and potential of the place. It was the type of place we barely dared to imagine we could live. And beyond the simple natural beauty was a vision of sustainability with community at its core.
At this point, The Cape had only about three finished dwellings. These were in what we came to know as Stage 1. We looked at two completed homes (known as Oaks and Cutlers), as well as one under construction (the ‘Ten Star’). We were shown the community garden, and heard more about the vision for an estate where and water energy efficiency are built in, and nature is right on our door step.
The Site. The Cape development is on an old farm of 40ha, adjoining the west site of the existing village of Cape Paterson. On the south edge of the site is the coastal heath and dunes, behind the beach we now call Second Surf. When we saw it first, it’s undulating grassy and elevated. To the south and west there’s not a building in sight. From the higher points, there’s 180 degree views of the sea to the south.
Stages. At this early stage, the developer’s vision was to make the next stage of the estate further to the west of Stage 1, at the north end of the site. Their intention was to leave the most elevated and appealing house sites – those between Stage 1 and the beach – till much later as Stage 7.
Follow up: line
The seed was planted in our imagination. It seemed fanciful. But what the heck. Let’s see how this plays out. We returned to The Cape in May for a look by ourselves. We started to imagine how this might work for us. Could we afford it? What would it mean to commit to this as a place to build a home?
On this visit we learned the developers had decided to pivot. The land for Stage 7 was suddenly on the radar as Stage 2. We understood this was to ‘release pent-up demand’. What this meant for us was that, potentially, our timing was right to get into Stage 2 at pre-release.
I think it was on the drive back to Melbourne on that second trip that we realised we’d really try to do this.
Five-year plan. We started to see how this might work within the story of the rest of our lives. We imagined a five-year plan to pivoting our family suburban life to one more focused on The Cape. It’s 2017 and we still have two kids at home. The rough plan was that, in the course of about five years, we’d:
- Build at The Cape;
- See the kids leave home;
- Sell our city home;
- Buy something much smaller in inner Melbourne as our city pad; and
- Spend more, and increasing, time at The Cape as we approach retirement.
By downsizing in Melbourne, the hope was (and still is) that we’d be able to pay off the debt incurred in building at The Cape.
Third trip: sinker
The following weekend (May 21) we met with Brendan Condon to get serious about choosing a block. Stage 2 sites were pegged out. Some sites were identified as reserved. We were invited to take our pick from the rest. First in, best dressed.
We were spoilt for choice. The sites at the south end were much closer to the beach and were tucked in behind the dunes. On these sites, any sea view would require a two-story construction. Plus these sites were about $30k more expensive.
At the west end of Stage 2 were some lots which were near the park corridor up the centre of the development. Great prospect for close views into nature, but lower down, and no sea view.
At the north end of Stage 2, were some elevated sites just down from the chair at the top of the hill. They were further to the beach, near a car park, and more exposed. But amazing views at ground level. And a little bit cheaper.
In the end it was the view that clinched the deal. So lot 66 was our choice.
So we went back to the sales office and committed to a holding deposit. We had secured our little piece of The Cape.
At that point – May 2017 – Stage 2 was just some stakes in a paddock. We weren’t in a hurry. The civil engineering works would take about a year, we were told. We could wait. And save. And imagine what we might build.