Why more Australians are ditching the bills for an off grid lifestyle
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Why more Australians are ditching the bills for an off grid lifestyle

Going completely off grid is better than you think

By Mercedes Maguire
Wed, Nov 2, 2022 9:32amGrey Clock 3 min

B ek Morris knows she doesn’t fit the image people have of an off-grid dweller. In fact, it was less than two years ago that she was glamming up in her trademark 1950s style and filling her schedule with get-togethers at cafes, bars and events.

But she traded the heels and hair rollers for jeans and boots and swapped restaurant meals for food she grows and raises herself on her south western Queensland property.

Morris, 39 moved to her property from Brisbane in February 2021 following a relationship breakup. The city rental squeeze provided little option for a home that would fit several vintage cars, her online vintage clothing business with huge inventory, a few dogs and her 12-year-old daughter. So, she looked further afield.

She found a cottage 150kms west of Toowoomba and she put down a deposit sight unseen despite the fact that it had no running water or electricity. It changed her life.

“When you live off grid, everything is a challenge – you have to change your whole mindset and how you do nearly everything,” Morris says. “I spent the first few weeks collecting pieces to set up a small solar system for power, which I added to over the past 18 months as I could afford it, and I have an inverter generator to run on rainy days when there’s no sun.”

She says off grid living is not for the faint hearted.

“It’s not a trendy thing to do and it can be extremely stressful, expensive, and physically demanding,” she says. “In the past 18 months I have raised sheep and birthed lambs, raised chickens, processed and eaten them, grown and preserved my own vegetables…built an office and a big shed for the cars, fenced acres and acres, planted gardens, chopped up tonnes of firewood and continued to raise my 12-year-old daughter on my own.” 

Living off grid essentially means you are not hooked up to any established utility systems like power, water or sewage and instead you get these services from solar panels, wind turbines, rainwater tanks and composting waste systems. Many who live off grid also choose to grow and raise their own food sources.

There are no figures on how many Australians live off grid, but experts estimate it’s around two percent, a figure that has grown since the pandemic forced people to re-evaluate their lives and what’s important to them.

And while you could soon see the end to rising utility bills, Canstar estimated it would cost the average family around $20,000 to $25,000 just to set up a decent solar system and backup generator. So it should be seen as a long term investment.

“It used to be viewed as something that only greenies or hippies did but in the past 15 years it has really grown legs,” says Dr Rachel Goldlust, a research fellow in environmental history at Victoria’s LaTrobe University who wrote a PhD titled Going Off Grid: A History of Power, Protest and the Environment. 

“The movement is not new but this last wave came out of the 2008 financial crisis when the idea of housing that was not a huge mortgage strain became increasingly attractive. The debt issue has put it back on the agenda.”

Whatever the motivation, the consensus seems to be that living off grid is not for the unprepared, nor should it be undertaken lightly.

Peter Georgiev, director of design consultancy Archicentre Australia, says building an off grid property is about more than finding a block of land with a great view. He says a thorough site analysis is critical in the initial stages.

“I have seen people go at it like a bull at a gate; emotion takes over, they find what they think is an ideal site with a beautiful view only to discover their block is close to a wetland, for example,” he says.

“You have to start by asking what fundamentals you’re looking for and then have a conversation with an environmental planner or land surveyor and even a geotechnical engineer to understand things like the soil profile and the hydrology of the site.”

You should also check with the local council in case you need permits to approve any off-grid construction, for example. These can vary from council to council.

Sydney architect Simon Anderson built an off grid home in the Blue Mountains (pictured) because he and wife Kim Bell wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible. Top line features include solar panels on his roof and a 27.6kwh battery; a 30,000L rainwater tank (with further storage under the deck) and a worm farm sewage system.

“There have been times in winter when we’ve woken up in the morning and we’ve had to make coffee over a camp fire outside or had to cook outside because we couldn’t power the oven,” Anderson of Anderson Architecture in Surry Hills says. “We have to watch what we use sometimes but we want to live within our means and that takes little sacrifices sometimes.

“It’s definitely not for everyone.”

Photography: Nick Bowers

See more stories like this in Kanebridge Quarterly, available to buy now.



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New research suggests spending 40 percent of household income on loan repayments is the new normal

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Apr 25, 2024 3 min

Requiring more than 30 percent of household income to service a home loan has long been considered the benchmark for ‘housing stress’. Yet research shows it is becoming the new normal. The 2024 ANZ CoreLogic Housing Affordability Report reveals home loans on only 17 percent of homes are ‘serviceable’ if serviceability is limited to 30 percent of the median national household income.

Based on 40 percent of household income, just 37 percent of properties would be serviceable on a mortgage covering 80 percent of the purchase price. ANZ CoreLogic suggest 40 may be the new 30 when it comes to home loan serviceability. “Looking ahead, there is little prospect for the mortgage serviceability indicator to move back into the 30 percent range any time soon,” says the report.

“This is because the cash rate is not expected to be cut until late 2024, and home values have continued to rise, even amid relatively high interest rate settings.” ANZ CoreLogic estimate that home loan rates would have to fall to about 4.7 percent to bring serviceability under 40 percent.

CoreLogic has broken down the actual household income required to service a home loan on a 6.27 percent interest rate for an 80 percent loan based on current median house and unit values in each capital city. As expected, affordability is worst in the most expensive property market, Sydney.

Sydney

Sydney’s median house price is $1,414,229 and the median unit price is $839,344.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $211,456 to afford a home loan for a house and $125,499 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $120,554.

Melbourne

Melbourne’s median house price is $935,049 and the median apartment price is $612,906.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $139,809 to afford a home loan for a house and $91,642 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $110,324.

Brisbane

Brisbane’s median house price is $909,988 and the median unit price is $587,793.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $136,062 to afford a home loan for a house and $87,887 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $107,243.

Adelaide

Adelaide’s median house price is $785,971 and the median apartment price is $504,799.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $117,519 to afford a home loan for a house and $75,478 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $89,806.

Perth

Perth’s median house price is $735,276 and the median unit price is $495,360.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $109,939 to afford a home loan for a house and $74,066 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $108,057.

Hobart

Hobart’s median house price is $692,951 and the median apartment price is $522,258.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $103,610 to afford a home loan for a house and $78,088 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $89,515.

Darwin

Darwin’s median house price is $573,498 and the median unit price is $367,716.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $85,750 to afford a home loan for a house and $54,981 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $126,193.

Canberra

Canberra’s median house price is $964,136 and the median apartment price is $585,057.

Based on 40 percent serviceability, households need a total income of $144,158 to afford a home loan for a house and $87,478 for a unit. The city’s actual median household income is $137,760.

 

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