DATE: 29/03/2021
CATEGORY: Blog, Mortgages, Stories of reinvention

how to create an inspiring home and life

It’s been a year of lockups, lockdowns, and lockouts. With travel off the cards, many of us are turning to our homes for sustenance and inspiration. Inspiring home life is what NZ House & Garden magazine is about. Kiwis are their voice: our houses, gardens and lives are their inspiration. So, you can imagine how super excited we were to have our home in The Bay of Islands featured in the February edition of NZ House & Garden.

Just as we were coming out of lockdown last year our home was photographed by the fabulous Jane Ussher. Jane is one of New Zealand’s foremost portrait photographers. In 2009 Jane was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to photography and was inducted into the Massey University Hall of Fame. 2021 saw the publication of four more books one of which, Nature-Stilled, is a finalist in the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

So having Jane photograph our home, garden and life was quite a big deal. You can view the article online—we know you’ll love her photos (including many of Cassandra’s paintings) and, if you are considering a move or planning to remodel your home, we hope you find our story an inspiring read.

It takes audacity, passion and courage to transform a vision into pulsing reality. Leaving behind the known and jumping out of the comfort zone to live somewhere new and make it on your own can be a difficult, daunting and stressful process. With our move to the Bay of Islands in 2015, Cassandra and I made a great stride for freedom and followed our soul’s yearning.

We love Wellington but we were ready for a warmer climate. We drew up a manifestation list, wrote down all the things we wanted in a new move, and pasted it on the fridge. Along with excellent weather and peace and quiet, we wanted to be surrounded by beauty and nature…and no more than 10 minutes away from a good coffee!

Read the full article in the February 2021 edition of New Zealand House and Garden here >>.

would you like to leverage your lifestyle?

Increasingly clients are looking for advice as to how to achieve their next step regarding where they want to be over the next five years. For a lot of people that means moving town, or city. It may be a change from an urban setting to a lifestyle block, or from a large family home to a smaller apartment.

People’s needs are constantly changing and therefore their property ownership preferences need to change with that. With leverage, there’s often risk because you may need to take out bridging finance, for example, between selling and buying.

In our case, what this meant was going unconditional on a new purchase before selling our Wellington-based properties. Doing our homework and background research was vital because to ensure success any risk has to be measured. The only way you can measure and quantify the risk within reason is to quantify the probabilities of both success and failure and doing the research so you don’t fall prey to assumptions.

We embarked on a market assessment of the area, and also investigated whether the property could be leveraged further before we purchased. So, we looked at future potential. For example, we looked at the possibilities of putting other dwellings on our 10-acre lifestyle block and spoke to the Far North District Council about possible re-zoning considerations. Six years on the rezoning is now becoming a reality. Thinking about the future growth potential was an important consideration in alleviating any initial concerns we had about the considerable investment.

Fortunately for us, the market had plummeted three-years earlier in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008. At the time we purchased property prices in the Bay of Islands had yet to rebound. in 2021, the market is flourishing. We purchased the property at a rock-bottom price—further evidenced by the owner’s insistence we never disclose the purchase price. Fair to say, they took a bath of over $2million. Great news for us.

One definition of leverage means making a small initial investment—either from savings, credit, or borrowed funds to gain a very high return. At the time the purchase was beyond anything we had conceived or felt comfortable with.

At the time of having our offer accepted we both went, “Oh, f**k!”  However, doing our research and taking a calculated risk has since yielded considerable returns. So, don’t be too afraid to stretch…a little, or a lot. Act with audacity—but do so safely. We felt the fear and moved anyway. Looking back, it was a super smart move that will reap major dividends.

here are a few step-by-step things we did that may help you build your courage muscles

have a vision

Get clear about what you want and where you want to be — sure that everyone agrees. Use that vision to develop your success strategies. Often with a property change comes a career change or how you generate your income. You have to look at the components that impact success factors.

A great vision strategy we adopted was creating a manifestation fridge. We kept our dreams alive by tacking pictures of the property and other affirming inspirations. One of the many phrases we pasted was, ‘Thriving Up North.’ And that vision has come true. The financial years since swapping my pinstriped suit for shorts have been the biggest, most financially successful in my career as a mortgage expert.

The manifestation fridge kept us focused and hopeful—even when the negotiations to purchase looked like crashing.

align yourself with successful people

Smart people leverage off their relationships with those who are more successful than they are, or who have achieved the lifestyle and career goals they aspire to. It’s an awesome strategy. Aligning with savvy people means you benefit from their experience and wisdom —and their learning lessons.

Many of our clients who have made similar lifestyle moves have told us that our great escape inspired them to make a move. Like one couple who moved to Nelson with their young family. She balances commuting to Wellington with working from home, while he has made a career change—leaving a toxic role he hated for one that he loves and allows him to care for his children.

leave nothing to chance

Leverage off the expertise of a team of trusted advisers. It’s not a time for the Kiwi do-it-yourself mentality. Making a move is often too big a task, or too overwhelming. Your leverage team may include your mortgage adviser, your insurance adviser, your lawyer, and depending on whether you are self-employed or not, you may need a great taxation adviser. Having an excellent team of people that you can tap into is instrumental in minimising risk and getting where you want quickly and safely.

You’ll find a handy list of our star performers on our website here>> https://www.awesomemortgages.co.nz/mortgage-experts/

It comes back to, as I’ve always advocated if you’re disciplined, focused, and clever you can achieve great results. But if you are working with a professional who has been there and done that, and can cheer you on, you can achieve absolutely outstanding results.

As a mortgage adviser, my role does tend to broaden at times where I am very much acting as a sounding board, a source of inspiration, as well as a source of advice and practical solutions—including risk minimisation and dream actualisation.

If you are going to be vulnerable for a temporary period between shifting properties or buying and selling, and you’ve got a greater debt level, then having risk protection is really important.  It comes back again to probabilities and to taking measured moves rather than punts and gambles and leaping without first planning.

new story. bold legend

Our first step was to really make sure we had a sustainable way of earning a living before changing locations. So, we built a bridge by looking at how we could use our skillsets and still generate income outside of a major centre. This was all pre-Covid! Who knew, soon working from your home-base would be the new norm.

Pre-Covid, we had set about educating clients and gaining acceptance. Nobody did business via Zoom! We quickly learned that our savvy clients didn’t want to waste valuable time in traffic going to an office or have their privacy invaded by our going to their homes. Technological advancements meant working remotely was win-win.

Even though we were generating significant income living and working in a major commercial hub like Wellington we felt, “well why can’t we raise the bar even more—but pay less in terms of the cost of housing and other living expenses?” And we’ve more than managed to achieve that vision. The change in earnings has been phenomenal—a real voyage to the stars!

By moving to the Far North the quality of property we have up here is far superior to what we left behind in Wellington. It would be incredibly challenging to aspire to own the property we have— we certainly wouldn’t have the views, the privacy, and the lifestyle.

We wanted to up our income, have a better lifestyle, have fewer expenses going out and a better standard of living accommodation. For us, that was the first step.

The second step was, in the early stages, clarifying what sort of property we wanted to have. We drew up a list which included: we wanted more passive income in the future. We wanted something that was subdividable, we wanted to be in an area where there is potential for higher growth in terms of property values. And we wanted to be no more than 15-minutes from a good coffee! We are Wellingtonians, after all!

We really struck gold! Not only does the far north have great coffee, but some really awesome eating spots—places like our happy place, Charlotte’s Kitchen in Pahia. Plus, five minutes down the road from us is an award-winning boutique winery and brewery, Kainui Road. It’s another of our happy places, especially when they have jazz and other edgy performers—like Opal Ocean, UB40 and Fat Freddy’s Drop, who played recently. In 2020, the owner of Kainui Road opened The Plough & Feather—an English Gastro Pub with a Northland twist. Their mission, they share on their website is to “celebrate the culture, history, and stories of the people and land around us through food and drink.” Cheers to that!

The next step, once we got settled, was that we wanted to modify and substantially upgrade the property. The house was built in the solid-nineties and the bones were excellent, but we wanted to modernise and future-proof it. To get to that next level we embarked on a major renovation project.

We built bridges with contacts and expertise, engaged several architects, sourced the best builders and other experts in their field to make our vision and desire for excellence a reality. Once again, we used funding and leverage cleverly because we still need to have access to money. We are no different from our clients—just because you work in a car yard doesn’t mean you drive a Rolls-Royce.  Just because you work with finance all the time, doesn’t mean you have endless chests full of dosh.

Doing the landscaping meant bringing in some big boy machines! Here’s a shot of one of the 30-year old Nikaus from Pitt Island arriving several years ago. We’ve now got a total of nine of these giants gracing our home—the native wildlife love them.

Renowned landscaper Jonathan Fulton looked pretty chuffed with the results—as he should be. Having pro’s with the right energy and vibe is so important to success.

We were careful to preserve the bones of the original building—with this rimu ceiling who wouldn’t. Lifting the depressing blue carpet and polishing the original concrete floor was all this beautiful lounge needed.

…Oh, and a point and click instant fire!

But the dreadful kitchen had to go! Go! Go!

The architect’s addition of a butler’s kitchen is stunning!

Pushing back the wall a tad in the ensuite bathroom was smart too—and getting rid of the black and gold Hugh Hefner dated tiles.

But one of our true joys is the pleasure we and our guests derive from this stunning bathroom

At night we can throw back the door and hear the Kiwi’s call. While soaking in the bath, looking up at the Milky Way and stars in the overhead opening sky roof, then out to the sea, sometimes they see these elusive birds. And sometimes they find a magical feather—as Cassandra did when she took this photo.

so, where to from here?

We are at the stage where we’re generating a significant income from our work and have a location independent way of earning money. Initially, the first priority was earning dollars within New Zealand, but away from a main centre. 98 percent of our business still comes from Wellington, but we do it all remotely from The Bay of Islands.

We don’t do any mortgage business locally. Why? We made a conscious choice that we didn’t want to live and work in the same city as our home. We wanted to keep our Awesome income and our lifestyle separate—especially as we live in a small town.

One of our favourite sayings comes from the lyrics of an Eagles song. “I dream I’m on vacation, it’s the perfect career for me.”

By not succumbing to having an office locally, or going off to client visits, we get to work and play at home—enjoying the views and most days dressing like we’re on holiday.

Our goal was always to maximise our asset, by generating income from the house. We still want to maintain our location-independent businesses, but this time while living offshore for part of the year.  This still requires money management. Leverage of assets. Leveraging off debt. And leveraging off opportunities—all the while scanning the horizon for risk and further opportunities.

Travel inspires us and fills up our tanks, given the at times stressful nature of finance and handling people’s finances, working in other inspiring locations, gives us the energy and wellbeing boost that enables us to get the awesome results for our clients they recognize us for.

Covid has stalled our travel plans for now—yours too, no doubt. However, we are reminded of a past article in MindFood Magazine, which encouraged its readers to make the most of their hobbies. For Laurie, that’s butterfly research. In 2020 Laurie received the great honour of having a butterfly named after him and appearing in a prestigious Japanese research paper written to share the scientific importance of his new discovery.

For Cassandra, happy hobbies include writing romances under her pseudonym, Mollie Mathews. Plus, this year, in the midst of Covid she opened her own art gallery, Art@Rangitane. And look who called in—the mega-talented, fabulously fun celebrity chef Jo Seagar. Jo is now also the “I’m tickled pink” owner of Cassandra’s abstract painting, Love Story.

As we share in the February edition of NZ House & Garden the vision is to showcase Cassandra’s joy-inspiring works of art and that of other mega-talented local artists. Cassandra’s super excited about her upcoming group Easter/Anzac Day exhibition, Return to Love, featuring abstract paintings by Cassandra Gaisford, botanical photography by Jane Ussher and sculpture by Grant Gallager. At Art@Rangitane, Kerikeri, Bay of Islands.

At the same time, we’re devoted to our clients. We love our clients! We love inspiring them and helping them realise their dreams. It’s a win-win. So many people have told us they read the February edition of NZ House & Garden and are creating a manifestation fridge!

manage cashflow

Careful money management is the queen of leveraging successfully. You absolutely have to maintain access to cash—either through savings or borrowing.  This may be through ensuring you have the right type of mortgage, for example, flexi-facilities in place; leveraging off the equity of your asset; or ensuring you have the maximum leverage in place before you toss in your high-stress-salaried job or change careers.

Once you change income streams it’s much harder to then work backwards and go into the bank and say, ‘’we want more debt.” Bank’s don’t loan off visions, potentials, and dreams. They like to see regular income going into your funding account. If you’re self-employed, this often means a three-year proven track record of profit.

Recently we’ve heard of several people who came unstuck. One woman in her 60s, leveraged off her house in Wellington and purchased a new freehold home in Whanganui. She had no mortgage, but with her move came a new career as a self-employed business owner.

A vital mistake she made was not leveraging off her, then, regular salaried income to secure rainy-day funds via credit card approvals or having a flexi-facility in place. She’s now struggling to make ends meet—tarnishing the otherwise savvy move she made by paying off her mortgage.

We’ve seen that numerous times when people have gone about it in the wrong sequence. Similarly, we know of a very savvy older couple who recently embarked on a major sub-division project. They were earning a very good income and had fantastic equity in their Auckland property. They left that income, made a lifestyle move to a new city, went contracting for a short period of time, then decided they wanted to embark on a new project. They wrongly assumed their lender would transfer their credit flexi-facilities.

Nope. It was a big mistake.

A costly mistake.

No bank, including their existing bank with whom they had enjoyed an over forty-year hassle-free relationship, would lend them any money. The old income history was wiped because their new endeavour was seen as a new venture.

They could have averted that and forward planned to be in a position of control.

Again, that’s why having a trusted mortgage adviser, yields gold.

the leverage lifestyle mindset

Creating your ideal leveraged lifestyle – whatever that might look like for you—takes grit, patience, optimism, resilience and, perhaps surprisingly, pessimism. You need to look at what can go wrong, as much, if not more than what can go right.

However, by leveraging expert advice, time, money, and knowledge you can unlock your ultimate lifestyle, not just in business and work, but in your personal life too.

For us, this means the joy of working and living anywhere in the world. But with a view from the office like ours and due to the marvels of modern technology we seldom want to leave. Thriving up north, definitely! So if you too dream of a move, we hope our story of courage, perseverance, luck, determined effort, and gratitude inspires you too to dream the impossible and make it happen.

Live life with audacity. Heaven favours the bold.

We’ll leave you now with a few sage words that sum up our new life philosophy.

“All I want is a minimum of commotion and an unimpeded view of the ocean.”
~ A.R.D. Fairburn


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