amandajv

Building on acreage in the Byron hinterland - so many questions

amandajv
last month

To my husband's eternal horror, I'd like us to buy small acreage in the Byron hinterland. We are a multigenerational family - my stepdaughter and her child, plus my stepdaughter's partner, would live with us on the property, but in a separate dwelling. So my dream/plan is to build a home for my husband and me, build a separate guest cottage for visiting friends, and for my stepdaughter and her family to live in a third building (this could feasibly be whatever residence is already on the property, as is quite common in that part of the world). I also need a workshop for my art hobbies but that could be an extension to a garage. I'm aware I would need council approval for new builds - one of the reasons I'm interested in acreage is to ensure sufficient land area to permit additional dwellings. My challenges are several: I've only been living in Australia a few years, so I'm struggling to find definitive information about regulations and permits for northern NSW, so I'd be so grateful if anyone could point me in the right direction.

Other questions I have are:

  1. what would be the best building materials for northern NSW? I want to minimise the need for AC but I know how very hot and humid it can get up there. And I also know that it can rain heavily, and parts are prone to flooding.
  2. where can I find out about the best firesafe practices?
  3. water tanks - any advice? I saw elsewhere on Houzz someone suggesting that several smaller tanks, while more expensive, are not as conspicuous as one large one. On a related issue, any advice about boreholes and the cost of having one installed?
  4. roofing - I'd like a raked ceiling to help with airflow - what is the best roofing treatment for a raked ceiling design in terms of insulation, noise, solar panels etc
  5. architects and builders - I spoke to a real estate agent near Byron recently who said all the builders are fiendishly busy so the earlier I find the right one the better...if you have any recommendations, I'd love it if you could share them with me.
  6. and finally, any advice/tips/warnings about buying and building on acreage would be hugely appreciated - even though I have been living here for over seven years and I have already done lots of research, I'm finding that the more I learn the more I realise how much I have yet to learn.

Thanks very much in advance.

Comments (33)

  • me me
    last month

    Do you have work in the area? Byron hinterland is very expensive; there are other more affordamble places around.

  • me me
    last month

    To anawer your other question, Byron Shire Council would be the people to contact about building permits.

  • amandajv
    Original Author
    last month

    Thank you....yes, I know it's very expensive, but we live in Sydney currently which is completely unaffordable for multigenerational families. Also my stepdaughter would ultimately work up there, as would her partner. My husband would be working from home. I'm hoping that I can DIY as much as I can to manage my costs.


  • Kate
    last month

    Start with a local architect. They can then point you towards builders and town planners.

    amandajv thanked Kate
  • fianou luca
    last month

    omg yes! I can help with lots of those questions, but i'll through it all I have more time. I'm a local girl, raised in NR. I live in kyogle. I have a great builder Nick Irving contracting solutions who I can't recommend enough. he's newly tree-changed here from qld and has time as he's building a new practice, but is very experienced and capable. he's been marvellous! you would need a property that has a multiple occupancy to have all those buildings, and you may find one for sale that already has them. they were traditionally used to allow multi-generational families to stay on farm, but many were developed into alternative communities with shares. they were for a time more like communes, but now operate more like eco-suburbs, and people just enjoy the cheaper rates and small rural land parcels.
    If you don't have a block in mind, check out areas between lismore/nimbin and kyogle. places like larnook, jiggi, bentley. they can be more affordable and worth comparing to the areas near the coast, also between lismore and alstonville. areas like rosebank and federal have similar properties but the hinterland pricetag. just depends on your budget contraints and desires. but happy to answer any questions. this is a unique part of the world and some things are a bit different. its subtropical and rainfall and humidity should be factored into your design. as for raintanks. its colorbond roofing and polytanks around here. you tend to get 10 yr cycles of rainier times and droughts. we're in a wet cycle right now. it also floods regularly so your property may get cut off, and you need to build your buildings on high ground.
    i have to put in s good word for kyogle... its further inland but lush and green and villagey. the things about this area is every village and valley has its own unique flavour, like a patchwork. byron side is definately more linen-pants ecopreneur insta. lennox to ballina is more insta trendy but less alternative. alstonville plateaux is more well-to-do conservative country, lots of pretty country cottages. nimbin is all-out alternative, lismore is a mix with a bug lgbtqi community and amazing cafes and art scene, theres a uni. there are more professionals. kyogle is more grassroots alternative, old-school country and slow-living. you need to find the place that feels like home and speaks to you guys, but its a very welcoming area. kyogle was on backroads this week too! Most professionals find work in Lismore or Ballina. my husband commutes thattaway but most towns are about 30 mins apart. he likes to joke that the only traffic jam is when he coincided with the jersey cows crossing the road for milking, but he drinks that milk so he likes that. north of kyogle you find some amazing large properties with multiple buildings around they are usually around $600-700k. anyway keep in touch, i'd like to help smoothe your path. lots of people have moved up from sydney over the last decades so you'll find plenty of people welcome you. my only tip is to let you know that in the country your social life is very much 'off the main street' its catching up with friends and joining community groups. in my village the 20 min chat in the street or over the counter is very much a tradition. i've seen people pull over in the street and lean out the car for a chat! my kids take music lessons from a guy round the corner who bought his house from people we know, so don't be put off if you drive through a village and it looks dead or the shops aren't all that. there's usually more going on. that said lismore is surprisingly cosmopolitan for an aussie country town. someone once put it to me, "in the city you have to work and buy your lifestyle... up here you live your life and make your community... yeah and you work too." I hope once you're up here we cross paths IRL. you're welcome for a cuppa anytime

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    i'll be back to share more later ok? you have more qs I can help with. there are amazing artisans and artists in this region. lots of galleries and opportunities to exhibit and grow as an artist. if your husband is less comfortable with alternative look between ballina and kyogle. we're probably the furthest inland you'd want. good luck!

  • me me
    last month

    Hi Fianou, I am also northern rivers. Just wanted to say that you described our lifestyle very well, I'm not so good at putting it into words.

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    Fires: Now they are something of a new phenomena, my best advice would be to have good insurance, an extra water tank for RFS use, liase with or join your local RFS, and make sure you have good mobile or ph coverage. As you will be new to the country your best plan will be to leave when there are fires and make sure your property is on a sealed road that leads to town. there are a lot of mobile black spots around the hills, a lot of properties struggle, they don't have nbn access and mobile coverage can be poor. You need to be able to get on the net and check for fire and BOM flood warnings. kyogle borders qld so we check qld and nsw. during the fires town halls are often set up as evacuation points but people often stay with friends or family.

    advice: Reflecting on what I've seen others do over the years (not quite mistakes but...). we want you to come and stay and be happy yeah? You'll feel like you've got plenty when you sell up in the city and see what you can afford here, you'll be tempted to sink everything into the property you like. don't. be prepared for a drop in cashflow and income when you get up here, the wages are not as high. Keep some money aside for the build and renovation. no matter what you buy you'll probably want to at least update the house. there's usually enough money to be made for day to day living it's that extra amount for a major renovation or build that will be hard. If you only spend time renovating or building once you get here, and don't get out and meet people and do stuff you'll find yourself bored or burnt out once the house is done and you'll end up going.
    People built a variety of house styles, you will have to determine the micro-climate of your property and design to that. Some places get winter frosts, or cold winds, some places have dry hot summer winds, some have coastal salt drift and rust issues (lennox!), damp and mould are definately a forest/lismore/nimbin issue. But generally the winters are short and sunny and dry (solar still works well) february is typically the monsoonal type rain and flooding time, but there are gentle spring rains and occasional hail. some people literally buy a country block and build a housing a estate house, there are those sort of areas too. goonellabah, spring grove, wollongbar, ballina, lennox. the houses will be more urban and new in those parts. But they are plagued with the usual, lack of air flow, poor aspect and poor solar gains and will all rely on reverse air con. Kyogle is a little cooler so we use fires in winter, but you may not in other parts.

  • siriuskey
    last month

    thank you @fianou luca for your very helpful run down on things to know, as you are aware we have been looking to move from the Mid Nth Coast to Northern NSW too., BOM is a very informative site that my husband uses frequently uses

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  • me me
    last month

    Here is a link to a useful book produced in northern NSW. Some libraries have hard copies that you could get on Inter Library Loan through your local library.

    https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/lup/living-and-working-in-rural-areas/living-and-working-in-rural-areas-handbook

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    if you check out property on the alstonville plateau that might suit? areas like tregeagle, teven, meerchamvale, rous mill, pearces creek, surround. Only a short drive to the beach, it's midway between ballina and lismore and both offer work opportunities for professionals, it's cooler in summer due to the breezes, there are small acreages scattered all over and gorgeous scenic vistas with big trees and rolling green hills. the roads are better than in the hills and its close to the pacific and airport for when you need to head back to the city. If I had to generalise the feel of the community....It's probably more chai latte and chardonnay than hemp and kombucha if that makes sense? There is a little gallery and plenty of creatives all over and the larger tafe campus is close by. i don't know if you have little kids in your family, but alstonville has a high school, ballina and lismore have a number of them. all the towns have primary schools and there are a scattering of small schools around the countryside which are a gorgeous personal way to be educated. i went to a 2 teacher 35 student school in pearces creek and its a lovely way to be part of the community and experience country life.

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  • siriuskey
    last month

    Agree to all of that, until recently our daughters inlaws had a Macadamia Nut farm in allstonville, lovely area.

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    i love this area... its really my home and where i feel good and i could write pages. my family tree-changed but moved back to the city, even my older sister was never really comfortable in the country. but i grew up bare foot climbing trees and digging the dirt and patting cows. all the kids i went to school with had different coloured hair and lots of piercings. there are so many different kinds of people here, and everyone has amazing stories. There were all these talented artists and musicians and actors that taught kids and shared their gifts after glittering international careers. we were very lucky. an airport shuttle driver once told me (of course he wasn't an ordinary bus driver) that the geology of the area has a resonance that makes people become their real selves. that can be a revelation, a relief or a burden, depending. Now I don't know if that's true, but certainly for decades people have come here seeking a more authentic life and whatever that means to them. i hope that helps you find the right place. and yes, that's a conversation you could have on the bus in the northern rivers. last time i was in my local cafe, the elderly group next to me was discussing how possible the theories about silurians was! I love it here.

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  • amandajv
    Original Author
    last month

    @fianou luca thank you SO MUCH for such amazing insights and information. We love this part of the world - we've been coming up two or three times a year since we arrived in Australia in 2013. We keep saying we should see other parts of the country - and we have - but our default position is the northern rovers. We have usually stayed in Lennox, and while in the early days we thought about Lennox as the place we'd move to when we were ready to leave Sydney, we've changed our minds. I follow the Lennox Facebook community page, and it's so disappointing to read about how the town has changed so much. We've obviously seen it in the time we have been vacationing but the Facebook page comments make it very clear that it has become overdeveloped. Not to mention some very dodgy real estate agents we've come across trying to even further overheat the Lennox market.

    As a result, we started looking further afield, also motivated by my step-daughter's decision to continue living with us for the sake of her child - my husband and I have co-raised her with my stepdaughter, and as she is still aa wee thing (4yo) separation is just not fair on her until she's a teenager - when she'll no doubt hate us all anyway. LOL. My stepdaughter is qualifying as a pre-school teacher and her partner is re-skilling as a psychologist and they're keen on the country life too.

    My husband and I have both lived in huge cities around the world, and in small towns, and we know that we really love the community spirit that comes with living in a small town. Both our families coming from farming backgrounds so this is a life that we're familiar with. He's also a classical guitarist and would like to teach some more one day when his corporate life permits. And his personality is definitely more oriented to the kind of chatting etc you described - he loves getting to know people, and chatting to everyone (I think that part of his hesitation is that we may find it hard to make friends but I don't think that's the case - every time we've been up there we've ended up having great chats to new people.) I'm also becoming increasingly phobic about traffic and traffic noise, which is another of the many reasons why I want to move to the country but somewhere close enough to swimming beaches.

    Byron is so not our cup of tea - and I really laughed at your description of the Byron type. It was really spot on. And I'm not surprised so many locals (in the wider northern rivers region) are concerned at how the 'influencers' have invaded and changed things. We definitely do not want to live in a place that attracts the paparazzi, movie stars, very rich people etc.

    I am really thrilled to read about some of the areas outside Byron Shire that I haven't really looked at - they sound fabulous. Of course a key thing would be internet connectivity seeing as both my husband and I would still be working probably - and I know from driving around the area that signal is patchy. (Having said that, where we live in Sydney it's frequently on the fritz so.....) Are there any plans to upgrade the infrastructure to improve connectivity?

    Your comment: many were developed into alternative communities with shares. they were for a time more like communes, but now operate more like eco-suburbs, and people just enjoy the cheaper rates and small rural land parcels - how would I go about finding out more about these? I've only been looking on the domain website (and some real estate agents' sites) and I've only come across one of those.

    In terms of fire safety etc - I'd definitely want to have additional water on site for the RFS to use when needed, and ensure that any dwellings meet and exceed recommended fire safety regs. We were actually in the area when the massive 2019/2020 fire season started so we got a first hand view of the risks and hazards.

    Finally (for now) one of the ideas my husband and I have discussed is renting for a while while we decided what we want and where we want to live. Obviously it's not easy to find the kind of place to rent that could accommodate two independent but connected homes but I have lots of time to find something. We don't plan to move up until mid-2022 at the earliest, but I wanted to start doing as much research as I could before then. What do you think of that idea? (Even if it was just for 6-12 months in a furnished place.)

    I would love to keep chatting - you and others here have been amazing and generous in sharing your knowledge and experiences - I really, REALLY appreciate it.


  • fianou luca
    last month

    if you contact a realtor with what your thinking they might be able to help you out. I know the kyogle ones would. Rob Horder from PRD would be worth chatting to. rental properties are hard to find, but sometimes there are properties that are for sale that you could rent while they find a buyer. Or try an air-bnb property and negotiate a weekly rate. Rentals are rare and expensive. its probably actually cheaper to just buy a temporary place, something simple and cheaper in town, maybe with a granny flat? and then sell or rent it out later as an investment.

  • fianou luca
    last month

    and when you come up next, pop by for a meal and I'll welcome you properly.

  • fianou luca
    last month

    check this out.
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-mixed+farming-nsw-georgica-700125938
    and this is one of my favourite spots. it was on my dream list. tower mountain is spectacular. the houses aren't much of anything, but its a spectacular spot.
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-acreage+semi-rural-nsw-larnook-135156938

  • fianou luca
    last month

    or something like this could be just what you are looking for.
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-lifestyle-nsw-keerrong-700112974
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-lifestyle-nsw-larnook-700125310
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-livestock-nsw-kyogle-700099970
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-acreage+semi-rural-nsw-nimbin-135033394

    if you set your real estate searches for 5+ bedrooms you'll get the properties with more than one house coming up. but they are pricey and rare. I think it'll actually be more affordable and easier to buy 2 separate properties in the same area.

  • fianou luca
    last month

    have you guys visited evans head before?

  • fianou luca
    last month

    looks like 2 qlders joined together. you could do something similar elsewhere?

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    I am getting so carried away with this... its been raining all day and we've watched a lot of tv. I have a 4 yr old too.
    But I promise this is the last one.
    the market seems inflated all over NR right now. I think its the COVID exodus. Our local realtor put up a notice looking for more properties because they have lots of buyers. I'm not sure if it will calm back down in a few years or just keep going up... its hard to say.
    I've spotted a property in wyrallah that is really large, seems they built a new brick house right onto the old farmhouse, and there's an art studio. But it's not exactly pretty.
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-acreage+semi-rural-nsw-wyrallah-135354642
    I have to show you this other property... its so unusual and nothing at all like what you're after. its right in lismore near the police station but I've always found it interesting when driving past. https://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-nsw-lismore-129890018
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-nsw-lismore-129890018

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    you know it's hard to gauge what properties are value for money, it's like with lots of bedrooms it just goes over 1m, no matter what condition the house is in or how many acres! some of the properties have over 100 acres some much smaller. take this one. Its a much smaller acreage, but it's all gorgeous and done and it looks like there's room for everyone. But would you prefer more acres? or more rustic? I can see why it's hard to figure out what to do! and I hope my ridiculously enthusiastic real estate postings have been helpful rather than annoyingly off the mark. At least I hope I introduced a few more areas to search. It can be easier to just put in your filters and look on the map, sort of work your way out from lismore or the beach. http//www.realestate.com.au/property-acreage+semi-rural-nsw-mcleans+ridges-134043078

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  • amandajv
    Original Author
    last month

    @fianou luca - wow, thanks for all the tips - I spend a LOT of time looking at properties - it's one of my favourite things to do each night before I go to sleep. I'll look through all the suggestions tomorrow when I need a break from work. Thank you so much once again...

  • fianou luca
    last month

    yeah i don't know why i got so carried away... no doubt you can search your own property lol! I hope I see you this way sooner rather than later. good luck!

  • fianou luca
    last month

    it's useless! i can't help myself.there's this property i saw i couple of weeks back and i keep looking for it and getting distracted by others... it must have sold.
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-mixed+farming-nsw-kyogle-700125798
    this one is value of money (comparitavely) at under 800k. it has only one legal dwelling and others not council approved that could be done up?
    https://www.realestate.com.au/property-lifestyle-nsw-kyogle-700103898
    This one has so many cabins and accommodation as its a holiday place. again, you're getting more for your money compared to further east, but it's not close to a town.

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  • fianou luca
    last month

    oh so now I finally find it.... i was looking yesterday and all. It's under offer, but you never know. Its close to town too. https://www.realestate.com.au/property-acreage+semi-rural-nsw-kyogle-129215382

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  • Alison Noble
    last month

    Glad to read you are aware how busy Byron has become it can take more than 45 mins to get from the highway to the town. May as well stay in Sydney.

    be aware that any acerage is going to take a lot of work to keep the weeds dow, lantana, camphor laurel, privet, etc,etc. The Northern rivers after all is subtropical and everything grows like crazy , including mould.

    The realestate photos show beautiful white painted homes, be prepared to pressure clean this every couple of months.

    aside from that it is a beautiful area and a welcoming place.

    The grand old 2 story mansion in Lismore is colloquially known as the “Junkies palace” it is very beautiful though


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  • amandajv
    Original Author
    last month

    Just from my post here I can see that people in the area are very welcoming - everyone has been so helpful. Byron is definitely out - I wouldn't even shop there - every time I've been there it's been so congested - as you say, Alison, may as well stay in Sydney. You have all given me so much to think about - I've had more useful information in the last couple of days than in all the stuff I've read/researched to date. Thank you all.