I Bought a House from a Boat
You truly can invest from anywhere
I’ve never been someone that anyone would describe as rich.
I’ve never been the beneficiary of an inheritance, and I’m not even a particularly good saver. However this one time in 2013 I bought a tiny house in rural New Zealand while aboard the Disney Wonder (A cruise ship).
For an 8 month stretch in 2013 between working for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line, I worked as a salesman for an insurance company.
During this time I lived in the kind of apartment that John Wick might forcibly enter and find dealers scrambling for their guns before being kicked to death.
The apartment has since been demolished, but living in a dirt cheap dealer-den did allow me to save my commission checks.
My money was building and I wasn’t spending it because I was home-depressed.
I’d just spent a year working at Walt Disney World and now wasn’t performing; the source of my only true happiness.
But I’d found another happiness, a bank account that was healthy for the very first time in my life.
On really sad days I’d open my banking app and just sit there refreshing the balance and see it re-confirmed that I had indeed saved money.
8 months of financially-healthy misery passed and I was eventually cast by Disney Cruise Line and brought back to America.
I was suddenly not depressed anymore, so I figured that it was time to blow my cash.
Dreaming of Property
It had always been a dream of mine to buy a house, and only months after boarding the Disney Wonder I was whittling away the hours scrolling through property websites and dreaming of cashing rent checks.
I knew that if I didn’t blow the cash on a house, I would blow it on American luxury goods.
So before I could do anything else with it, I used all of it as a deposit in a house in Wairoa; a small town in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
I’m an Australian citizen born and raised, so why did I buy in New Zealand? I hear you ask.
In those days New Zealand was sizzling hot for investors.
Back in the “glory days”, New Zealand had curiously lax real estate investment laws which had fostered a free-for-all bananza for savvy foreign investors.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand had no stamp duty and at the time had no capital gains tax.
It was tax heaven, and even without a New Zealand tax number (an IRD number) someone like me could swoop in and pick up one of the extremely reasonably priced properties that were ripe for the plucking.
If you could pay your deposit, there was no barrier to entry. I didn’t have something as simple as a tax number until a year later when I needed to do my first tax return in the country.
Those were the days..
I got this
So even though I was a cast member on a cruise ship that sailed around Alaska and docked in Canada, it seemed at the time that buying a property in a country I’d only holidayed in felt like a smart idea and something that would probably be easy.
It wasn’t smart, and it sure as hell wasn’t easy.
So with the smugness of a toddler I put an offer on and bought a decrepit 2 bedroom house in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful countryside. And with that, the property machine began slowly creaking along for what would last the next three months.
Making the Purchase
I wrote a 12 week settlement period into the contract as a condition of the sale because I was both on a ship, and in Canada.
I suspected that I might need more time than the usual buyer, and thank god I did.
In those days most forms needed to be physically signed, so I had to run back and forth to the post office physically mailing the forms I had printed off my ship computer, signed, then put into a first class envelope bound for the other side of the world.
Several forms had to be witnessed by someone from a very short list of trusted officials, only one of which lived in Canada.
Originally I had printed the list of trusted people and stuck it to my wall so that I could always have it on hand in case I ran into one of these professionals by chance.
One of the professions that was on the list was lawyers, so the second I found out that a bartender working onboard was actually an incognito lawyer taking a year to “find herself” I had her sign the form. Done.
It was after sending back that form that I was informed that the lawyer could only be trusted if they were certified by the New Zealand Government and living in New Zealand.
So it was back to the list.
The only person on the list I could conceivably find was the New Zealand Consulate General in Vancouver.
So out of necessity, I started trekking back and forth between the ship and the New Zealand Consulate in Vancouver where I’d visit the Consulate General who’d sign and stamp all my forms on an almost weekly basis.
Work, Post, Work, Post
The Disney ship I worked on would dock in Vancouver once a week to pick up excited Disney-loving guests, while I rushed downtown to have my forms signed.
We’d then sail away and spend the next seven days entertaining and delighting them before bringing them back to Vancouver where I would once again make the mad dash back to the Consulate with a pile of fresh new forms.
The Consulate General did all of them for $20, which at the time felt like a fair price, it was only years later while applying for my Chinese visa that I realised how insanely low this price was.
Thanks to her, I made my 12 week cutoff (only by a couple days) and the house was mine.
I was now broke, but I owned my first property; a property quite far away from anywhere I’d ever been in New Zealand.
But it was mine. All mine.
Curious what happened next? My story continues —
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