WHEN we decided to look in and around Shepparton, Victoria, for somewhere to live, our friends, by and large, reacted with surprise.
"It's hot! It's dry! It's flat! It has a crime problem! It has a drug problem!" etc, etc.
Shep, it appears, does not carry the greatest name when it comes to places to reside in. Bearing in mind all the warnings received, when we first began to look for somewhere to live in the area we went to the local cop shop to ask for some assistance.
"Hi," I said. "We're thinking of moving here to Shepparton."
"WHY?" said the cop, rather incredulously.
He wouldn't/couldn't give us any information on good or bad suburbs so we went on gut feeling.
As you know we eventually settled on Mooroopna, or MooTown as I lovingly refer to it - just over the river from Shep. We found a nice home in a nice street with a nice lake just a couple of doors up.
Six months on we are well settled and are loving the climate - hot and dry saves money on the clothes dryer. Flat means we are saving on petrol. Crime? Not experienced any yet - which annoys me a bit as my Caprice is worth a lot more nicked than on the market. Drugs? Ditto (apart from my Scotch).
The immediate neighbourhood has been welcoming. There's Fred and Karen, Ron and Helen, Jean, Rob who's just moved up here from Melbourne and of course Kyle and Mel next door with the quietest baby in history, and who drop the average age of the street by a year or three.
We no longer have to plan shopping expeditions as everything - and I mean everything - is just "over the river" and "up the Benalla Rd".
About the only thing against the place was the water which tastes a bit ordinary and I've fixed that with an under the bench filter. Mind you, after Hooterville's finest, water anywhere else is decidedly second-hand.
Eating out is cheap too. We can do a roast meal for lunch at The Shepparton Club for a measly 10 bucks. It's a good sized serving in that it satisfies me - and those of you who know me in the flesh, also know that my gut takes a bit of filling. Or there's the Peppermill Inn, The Rissole and others that are great value for money. Of course a mixed community means a great variety of food styles and I've found the absolute best kebabs ever made, as well as lots of other culturally based food.
But it's what happens in Shepparton and surrounds that amazes us. The local rag out this week has a full page filled (in small type) with various events in the district - and that is just for January and February. The Shep Showgrounds run a major event just about every month. We have a car museum and a chocolate factory and are but a hop, skip from the Murray River. We have a hospital that we know from first-hand experience is great. In fact, outside of Myer and David Jones I can't think of anything we haven't got - except the exorbitant real estate prices of living closer to Melbourne.
In fact what we paid for our home up here wouldn't buy a pocket sized piece of dirt in Hooterville, much less the capital cities. Interestingly though, the rental return on properties around here is better than average. I've pointed out to our lads who will probably never be able to afford to buy where they would like to live, that an investment home around here is an affordable way to get into the market.
Buy, rent it out, wait a couple of years to gain equity, buy a second place, etc. Ten years and five investment properties later they will be able to buy a home anywhere they want to live. If you want to do a bit of work yourself you can get into the market around here for as little as $160k.
$220k will get you a rent-ready home. I don't know of many places in Oz with the infrastructure that we have, where you can buy at those prices.
For a place no-one likes, Shepparton is full of very nice people, a great climate and affordable living. Gotta be happy with that. Having been born and raised in Hooterville, that town will always be close to my heart. It's just that now it's sharing me with MooTown.
Take care of you,