A secondhand house for Cheslyn Rise

by Liz Beavis
After living in an old Queenslander in the Lockyer Valley for several years before moving to Nanango, Pete and I were convinced that we never wanted to own another one.  They are beautiful, but a lot of work to maintain and sometimes have a very odd layout.  The house that we lived in was raised up to allow storage under the house, and with 8ft ceilings, it was very difficult to reach all of the external walls to paint them.  It also had the toilet located off the porch as you came in the back door, which wasn’t very nice on cold nights!


We were also sure that we didn’t want a cheap modern house.  Our house at Nanango is made of a product called “hardiplank”, which is fibre cement sheeting moulded to look like wood weatherboards.  It doesn’t look like wood weatherboards, it looks like moulded cement sheeting (I have heard that you can get a nicer version of this, but ours seems to be the cheapest option).  The inside has been fitted out very cheaply with just plasterboard walls and tile flooring, with a raked ceiling.  Every time we want to hang a picture we miss the “VJs” (vertical join) boards in the Queenslander, you can hang a picture anywhere on the wall without worrying what’s behind the plasterboard!  When I go into other modern houses I notice how low the ceilings are, at least ours is raked, so it doesn’t seem so bad, but I miss the high ceilings in the Queenslander.


We were planning to build a new house, but when we looked at the options, we really couldn't decide anything, from cladding to internal walls, nothing seemed to suit us, being that we wanted quality, it seemed like we would be saving for years to afford what we wanted.  Actually we were leaning towards rammed earth construction….. and then we found a second-hand house.  We weren’t really looking for one, but Pete loves his realestate.com.au, and was checking out houses and land in our area when he found a small Queenslander for removal, only 15 km from Cheslyn Rise.  We looked at the photos online, and then we went for a visit in person, and of course we couldn’t resist a sweet little Queenslander, so we made an offer and now its ours for removal. 


Our second hand house, ready to move....
When I called the council to ask about the removal process, the lady asked me if it was a secondhand house.  I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but I suppose it is secondhand.  It feels good to recycle it, we could never afford to fit out a new house with VJs, but this way we get the walls we want, and no fibre cement cladding!  The best part was when we talked to our neighbour and it turned out that his mother grew up in that house, so I’m glad that we could keep it in the general area. 
While it initially seemed like a cheap option, and I hope it will still end up being cheaper and quicker than our well-built new house, its probably not much different to buying a new relocatable or cheaply built hardiplank or brick house.  I wouldn’t normally go into details of the cost, but as we have gone along, there have been a number of small unexpected costs, just because we didn’t know the process very well, and I thought by listing some rough figures here, it may help others to plan their house removal project.  Please remember that these are estimates only based on our experiences and your own costs may be very different.


The house itself only cost us $10,000.  Removal 15km and restumping is just under $40,000.  Those are the two major costs, but there are quite a few other small unexpected costs involved in getting the building approved for removal from the site and then approved on the new site.  These will depend on the council at each end of the move, but to give you an idea of what to look for:


  • Soil test and wastewater plan– about $1000 (depends also on travel to site, most are in metro areas)


  • Council bond - $17000 until the building is 'sound'
  • Council fees – nearly $1000


  • Drawings of the building – about $1500


  • Engineering drawings and energy efficiency – about $500


  • Certification – at least $2000


  • Plumber to disconnect at site - ?
  • Engineer’s inspection – about $1000


  • Owner builder permit – about $150 (even if you aren’t actually planning on doing anything to the house yourself, its best to just get an owner builder permit, as you will be coordinating all the contractors.  Any work over $11000 requires a permit, unless you have a “lead contractor” with a BSA licence) - and then $340 for the actually permit!  You also need to do the White Card construction induction course (I already had that one at least). 
Its surprising how quickly this adds up and makes a $10000 house more like a $70000 house and that’s before you do the rest of the work on the new site.  In order to get the final building approval, the following may be required, depending on the council and the state of the house:


  • Septic and plumbing connection


  • Re-wiring (even if this wiring is ok, this is an opportunity to put power points and switches where you want them, most Queenslanders were built prior to electricity, so the wiring done later can be quite odd).


  • Water tanks


  • Energy efficiency requirements (eg insulation, solar hot water)


  • Owner builder insurance


  • In some areas you have to also replace the roof sheeting
This is our project so far, and I can’t wait for it to all be over and I can show you the finished house ready for us to move in!  We’ve only had the contract for a few weeks and all the work to find out what needs to be done and engaging contractors has been crazy, but often with this kind of thing, if we don’t just jump in and start something we would still have been procrastinating over the type of house we wanted.
If anyone has any removal house or general building tips to share, please go ahead….  So what do you think of our second-hand house?

1 comment

  • linnie

    I love the idea of buying secondhand houses. That is the biggest single recycling action we can do! :)

    We bought our beautiful Queenslander style home about 25 years ago, and we’ve never regretted it. She was 72 years old when we bought her, and we just realised that her 100th birthday is coming up in a couple of years. :)

    We were still living in Sydney, but had bought our land months previously and had been looking at many old secondhand homes parked in a giant house-holding lot on the way up to Brisbane, but we hadn’t seen THE one, yet. We finally found her in a local paper advert, and hubby flew up to see her. I had to trust to lacklustre photos, but it was obvious that she could be a beautiful home! We missed the arrival of her first 1/4 portion, but were here for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.. With people posted at the corner of intersections in the nearby village we received phone updates, and had the kids down at the bottom of the newly formed driveway almost bursting with excitement whilst we awaited her arrival. We watched her weight almost tip over the truck that had carted her the 75kms from Ballina when the driveay leaned a little, but an unbelievably tiny old model tow truck pulled the whole lot back on course. Part 2 parked alongside Part 1, then we watched the 3rd and 4th parts arrive, decided what orientation could best fit on the site, and watched them wind her back together!

    The home removal team that delivered her laughed about all the cockroaches they had seen scrambling off or being shaken from the house and truck. I was grateful that they’d dropped off before reaching here, and they mostly had :D

    She needed lots of work. The reroofing and stumping was done by the removal team, but then there was a good deal of reconfiguring rooms (back to how they had been, as it turned out :), fitting those rooms out and painting the whole lot.

    And we love her!!

    As you mentioned in your post, you couldn’t buy all that VJ board for less, and our builder/step-father noted that this was the cheapest way to ‘build’ an old house with character and genuine materials. The fact that the old house was made with hardwoods is especially good news, too. :)

    You asked if people had any sugegstions or insights? Well, because we were still 10 hours south when this place was being prepared for the house arrival, and whilst we had the permaculture fellow out to assess the place and create ‘zones’, we had less input into it ourselves. There are a couple of things we would have done differently, just in terms of septic/absortion trench siting and etc, as that now interferes with the siting of shade trees that would have been very welcome. But, really, we continually work at retrofitting this place to be more thermally relevant to our subtropical location and a warming planet. In two decades we’ve created a now self-generating rainforest, and have established a very decent number of fruita and nut trees, as well as edible perennials poked in here and there, wicking bed veg gardens and an ever-increasing medic garden. I’m busily planting up a lot more small bird friendly habitat as the bellbirds and noisy miners have scared many of them away, and every day we look at this place with immense gratitude and an “oh, but if I plant that here” or " I just need to build …". We love this Life, in this home and on this land. :)

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