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Lifestyle Collection: Leap of Faith Pays off for Teaching Couple

March 2022

Leap of faith pays off for teaching couple with farming in the blood

Andrew Carswell and Jo Hunnikin work in education. Both have backgrounds teaching physics and chemistry, though each has moved into executive leadership roles, which until last year saw them in two different Christchurch high schools.

However, being in lockdown, working from home and having time to reflect gave them the motivation to change their circumstances, as Andrew explains.

“I’ve always been a city boy, though with a family farming background in the deep south, hearing stories from my grandparents and father, I’ve always felt farming is in my blood, and wanted to go back and reconnect with that.”

Until last year that feeling took the couple to a 5.3 hectare lifestyle property in Springston, 30 kilometres south west of central Christchurch, which they bought in 2013 and where they raised around a dozen beef cattle each year.

“With all the disruption we have experienced in the past couple of years, we have thought more deeply about the kind of life we want, particularly in connection to the land. We considered moving further into farming. As our jobs in schools have been interrupted so much, we decided to bring forward those plans by a few years. With the upheaval from Covid, we realised we can do this sooner than we previously thought,” says Andrew.

They decided to take a leap of faith, looking for a larger property to enable them to raise more livestock. In September they found a 101 hectare bare land block at Otaio, 20 kilometres north of Waimate and 28 kilometres south of Timaru, listed for sale by Simon Richards of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Timaru.

“Simon is a straight shooter. We appreciated his forthright approach. He gave us good advice about how to approach the transaction, remembering that if we succeeded, the vendor would become our new neighbour in the district. We tabled an offer at the asking price, conditional on us being able to sell our own property,” says Andrew.

Andrew, Simon and Jo in Timaru

Simon also put Andrew and Jo in touch with John Davison of PGG Wrightson Real Estate, Lincoln, selling rural and lifestyle property in the couple’s local Central Canterbury patch.

“John understood our situation right away and realised how motivated we were. He knew what he was doing, and gave us specific advice to hit the market while it was still hot, and sell the property before Christmas. He indicated what he thought the market would pay, managing our expectations expertly, and recommended that going to auction was the best option.”

John marketed the five bedroom Springston home, constructed in 2013, as exuding quality while offering scale and scope for a modern family lifestyle. Its outdoor living, with expansive north and west-facing decks, sheltered patio and adjacent spa were strong selling features, alongside fertile paddocks and cattle yards.

Timing their run to the market paid off. Six bidders attended the November auction and the hammer fell at $1.915 million, comfortably delivering the equity Andrew and Jo needed to secure the Otaio farmland, with extra cash to spare.

Although a minor issue arose around payment of the purchaser’s deposit, John swiftly came up with an easy solution to keep the sale on track. Andrew and Jo were delighted.

John and Simon both bent over backwards to make sure things worked out. It was a domino effect with one sale dependent on the other. It all had to happen between us, and it would have fallen over if we didn’t have salespeople working as a team. We definitely made the right call going with PGG Wrightson Real Estate, sticking with them at both ends. We’ve dealt with a few agents, and these two are definitely decent, genuine people,” says Andrew.

The couple’s leap of faith worked out perfectly. The position of principal of Waimate High School became vacant, Jo applied, and was appointed late last year. Andrew has joined Jo’s staff, temporarily running the school’s agriculture programme, and planning to use the new farm for educational purposes in the years to come. He is also underway preparing to fully scope and stock the property in the spring, and ease into his farming career from there.


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