11 Feb 2018

Construction Update - February 2018

Today we visited our home. It's been about two weeks since we've gone inside. I'll drive past our home every 3-4 days, but there's always tradies onsite when I go past, so I can't sneakily go inside. 

When I first walked through the unlocked gates I noticed our presto cornice was on site. This cornice wasn't available with our builder's standard range and but was available from their supplier, so we were allowed to place a custom order for this cornice type. As plain as it looks, this was considered not standard. It'll be installed mostly in the rooms upstairs. We'll be doing the square set in most of the rooms downstairs.

All the gyprock walls are up! The rooms are starting to take shape. The front room is now looking like a decent size for hubby and I's office space. 
The laundry room has also turned out to be a lot bigger than I initially thought, now the walls are up. Everything else, I'm still doubting whether it's big enough 😜.

Sitting area. We're not sure what we're going to do with this space but it'll have a couch of some sort so you can sit down. 

Where our kitchen oven and stove top will be. The poles and wiring you see on the floor is for the sink, dishwasher and microwave that will be on our kitchen island table. The room you see in the photo will be the pantry, and the hole next to that is the cavity for the fridge.

When you walk inside our pantry, to the left will be storage space under our stairs. This is what it looks like at the moment. 


Can't wait until the stairs are put in so we can have a look upstairs. Hopefully, it's done by Friday as we've requested for our first walkthrough of our home then. Construction walkthroughs can only be done on a weekday, and I refuse to go by myself with both the boys with me.

View from the backyard. The scaffolding that our builder probably owns, (because they need it and a lot of it) but charge clients who build two-story homes for. This type of unnecessary cost that you know the builder is just charging for the sake of charging customers just blows my mind. 

26 Jan 2018

Home Build Update

Wow, Christmas and New Year flew. Yay!! Why yay? Because work stopped between 20 December 2017 untill 15 January 2018, and from a home builder's perspective that's a long time waiting for things to be done to your home. Here are some photos of the house before Christmas. 

So a lot did happen when they first put the slab down in mid-November. As you can see frames and roof were completed before their holidays.

This is what it looked like inside. Completed were most of the frames, wall lining, and air conditioning vents.

The main part of the house - the kitchen, dining and living. While we were standing here we started to feel the living spaces in our home felt ... small. We were even thinking, 'did they build the house to our size?' Cause our plans on paper makes our home look a lot bigger than it actually looks. 

This "left over land" doesn't help. Look at all that land we could have still utilised. When we were still reviewing our plans, I did suggest to Ian to make the whole house an extra 3m wider. But our architect family friend did rough calculations and he estimated it would have cost an extra 70-100K on top. At least we have a decent amount of space for a backyard. However, my husband and I are not gardeners so we wouldn't know the first thing about creating and maintaining one.

More space at the back of the house. The amount of space on the service side was a surprise too.

As we drove around the street we noticed our solar panels were installed at this point too. 

2018

The week before the builder said they would commence work again we thought we'd stop by and check up on the house. We were surprised to see windows, sliding doors and hebel walls were delivered onto the property, and electrical wiring started to be installed. 

During the tradies first week back, we got an independent building inspector to review the workmanship. We had minor concerns about the frame, and not building experts and first time builders, we decided it's best we get our own inspectors to get an objective review of the construction. There were minor things our Inspector identified, but overall he said there was nothing he would raise a major concern about with our home so far.

This week we went back to our home to see how the build was going. 

All the windows and sliding doors have been installed. I'm assuming this is the case upstairs too. There is a ladder to go up but I wasn't goint to climb up. Technically we're only allowed to be inside the home with the presence of our site supervisor. 

The ceiling insulation batts have been installed. Surprisingly everytime we visited our home there was always a lovely breeze but the batts will add coolness in rooms in summer and insulation in winter. 

Not sure if I've mentioned it before but our home is made out of hebel, not brick. Hebel is a type of concrete. If you think of commercial building, like shopping centres, they're made from hebel. I'm assuming they will still paint the hebel wall with the render colour we selected cause I don't think that's the colour we selected. 

Now that my son has started school for the year I can go past our home more frequently, sneak inside and take more photos, especially now there is more traction happening with the build.

15 Nov 2017

Our First Home Construction Update

(Taken 9th September 2017)

It's been about 2.5 months since my last post.

Thought I'd document things we discovered or learnt over past two months:
  • Document all the change or variations. The builder will miss items you discussed with them, not respond to all questions in your email, and they'll forget to follow up on things. We realised they could be interacting with a few clients at a time. We had to be proactive and double check everything, question difference in design and contract and get clearly written answers on all our questions before we signed. Even the small things we question, for example, comparing construction drawings versus the contract. If the drawing didn't reflect it on the contract we raised it. Most got updated but some they said wasn't necessary to be updated for whatever reason. We trust everything will go smoothly and to design but we made sure we had written evidence of things just in case of conflict later on. 
  • Master builders that build homes in the volumes avoid custom once off work/jobs. After our appointments, there were things we saw that we wanted to try and get our builder to do. They really avoid custom work, even if you're willing to pay for it. Some of the items that our builder couldn't accommodate: a slight decline on our stone island beach top near the sink for water waste, rectangle tiled drain waste, long handles for our sliding doors, and shadow line cornice. 
  • You'll start to find things you've missed or doubting decisions. Already I'm regretting not doing walk-in wardrobes in all the bedrooms. I'm second guessing not doing a butler's pantry and cabinetry in our laundry. Although we can add these items later on, it would be nicer if everything was done and matched day one. I'm questioning if there's enough natural light our master bedroom? Maybe we should have made the window bigger or added another window to another wall. Now I'm realising maybe I should have made the door to the pantry a sliding one. Do I really want all our walls to be white? I've just started reaccessing decisions.  
I can finally say our build has started. Our contract started we would start 2nd October but it wasn't until the 18th November we received an email stating our builder has everything they need to start building and a site manager was allocated to manage the construction of our home.

(Taken 9 November 2017)

We got a call from said site manager, about a week later who introduced himself and gave us a verbal timeframe of when things will start. He said the land will start to be cleared in preparation for drainage, electrical works then pouring of the slab. That's basically where we're at now. I believe they give the slab about a week to harden and assess whether the slab needs any additional work.

Hopefully, there will be more work done on the house between now and the holiday break. I'm sure the frames will be up so the builder can request for the next progress payment before Christmas. 


26 Aug 2017

Tips for Choosing What Colours to Select for Your Home

Today I visited the Colour Studio ... again. When we first went there I felt overwhelmed by the choices and options, but the more I go, the less overwhelming it becomes.

Another reason why I'm spending so much time there is because hubby's left me with the task of choosing the colours. We just have slightly different taste and he was like, "it's your domain anyway, and I know you'll choose only the best." I can't argue with that, so it's my task to choose the internal and external colours. On the flip side, he's deciding on all things electrical cause that's his domain.

Choosing every component of a home isn't everyone's cup of tea but if you are building a home you plan to settle and live in for a long time, there's merit in the effort. Just like doing your taxes, you could either view the task as something you're required to do and just lodge it, or you could view it as an opportunity to get an understanding of your financial pulse and really put effort into the task.

Even as I write this post I'm still undecided on some options and colours, however I thought I'd share my how or tips I've used to help narrow in on selecting colours for our home.
  • Visiting a colour and flooring studio frequently doesn't sound like a lot of fun for most people. But if you approach each visit with only looking at stuff for one or two rooms in your home at a time, instead of trying to look at everything, you're utilising your time more effectively and more inclined to stay focused when you're at the show room. This also helps with decision making as you're breaking down each component of the home into small pieces instead of trying to tackle it all at once.
  • Grab samples and take it home. I always grabbed samples of colours or materials I really liked. This allowed me to see how they all look together and allowed me to show hubby my ideas and get some feedback on stuff I wasn't 100% about. 
  • Stop looking at Pinterest. I realised Pinterest contains images of dream kitchens or bathrooms from designers homes. Designer meaning they're one of a kind, hence custom, therefore expensive. That beautiful wave shaped porcelain tiles you pinned might not be available at with tile shop your builder has contracted to do your (and the rest of the state's) homes. 
  • But do get ideas for colours or styles from sites like Pinterest or home magazines. Pinterest helped me realise my style personality. Just like someone might suggest a dress would look great on you because you have the height for it, doesn't necessarily mean it's your style. For example, I know wood or darker coloured cabinetry is very popular at the moment and even though they look great, when I looked back at my saved images, I can see I pinned and gravitated to all white cabinetry. So although those trendy wood accent cabinetry look great, I think I will stick to all white theme for our kitchen. 
  • Think about how each room will be used, where furniture will potentially sit in that space, and any additions you think you will be adding to the room in the near future. For example, I don't know what light fixtures I want over the kitchen island but I know I want three light points over the island table. Or how I use a hair straightener a lot so will need an electrical point in the bathroom near the mirror.
  • Keep it simple, stick to your original ideas, and stuff you liked. Chances are they're what you really want, you're just being confused by images you've seen, other people's ideas or opinions of other people.
Here are images I gravitated to and will probably try to replicate in our home. 

1 Aug 2017

Why We Went Over 100K From Our Base Price

Firstly, what you see in the display home versus the actual base design of that home is always going to be different. There is a reason why it's a display home. Master builders they hook you in with their beautifully designed homes which has extra rooms and upgraded everything. It's only when you ask for the base price you'll realise the basic design probably doesn't include the study room or the butler's pantry, and you're going to have to add those extras that you fell in love with at the display home. "Oh, you want handles for your doors? ... That's extra"

Right now we're yet to do our colour and electrical appointment but already we have gone over 100K from our home base price. I've mentioned previously we've been forced to have a rendered home, as this is a requirement for the area we are going to live in. So even before we made changes, already we've had to go over the base price by a few thousand dollars.

Here is a list of our notable home design variances:

1. Lots of Structural Changes

We moved walls to create bigger rooms. In particular, the bedrooms and entertaining spaces like the meals and family rooms. We plan to never do this again and we don't want to outgrow our home so we wanted to make the rooms as big as possible. Fortunately, we have a big piece of land and if it was up to me I'd make the house even bigger! Unfortunately, Hubby wouldn't let me. 

We also changed the structural location of our laundry. In the original design (and in the display home) to access the laundry, you had to walk through the pantry. We instead created a new room behind the walk in pantry for the laundry, leaving us with lots of pantry space too. Laundry spaces are considered a wet area, therefore tiled. Since this is now a big laundry space (2.7m x 2.4m) this also meant there was an extra cost for tiling too. 

Current design on website and display homes

Our design. Created a new laundry room. We know it's a huge laundry but it will double as a storage room too, hence why we didn't add any cabinetry in this room.

2. Third Garage

We have the land space and it's something we knew in five years time we would regret not doing, so we added a third garage to our home. 

3. Kitchen Upgrade

How it works with our builder is, after you have selected which home design you like, you select what quality fixtures you want to determine the starting base price for your home will be. We decided to stick to the middle range, which they currently call Sapphire range. However, we opted to get the Diamond range for our kitchen because we wanted higher end finishes for our kitchen. 

We also extended our kitchen benches, the island and moved our fridge cavity location. Refer to images above. 

4. Added Shower

The base design of our home didn't come with a shower on the ground floor bathroom. We expect and want family and friends over, and we want to accommodate our love for entertaining by adding this to our plan.

5. Extended Ground Floor Ceiling Height

Currently, the ceiling height of the ground floor for the Sapphire range is 2600mm we've extended the height to 2750mm.

6. Floor to Ceiling Tiling in Bathrooms

The kitchen and bathrooms were areas we are prepared to spend money on. They're spaces that are used every day so we wanted quality fixtures and finish. Floor to ceiling tiling is something we really liked and looks great when done right.

Other notable costs that caught us: 

  • Air conditioning. There was a promotion where we could choose either solar panels/power for free or air conditioning for free. Solar panels were always going to be something we would get very early on. We've seen their benefits from our parent's homes when they get close to nothing, or in credit when they get their electricity bill. And moving up north where we probably will use the air conditioner a lot well, we opted for the solar panels. 
  • Types of windows and doors. Front doors are surprisingly expensive. Stacker doors and awning windows are extra, so is making the windows bigger or glass translucent. 
  • Sliding mirrored wardrobe doors are extra. 
  • Home facade. They always make the standard facade basic and ugly. I'm sure the builders do this on purpose. So of course you're going to want a better designed exterior, which cost more than the standard.  
  • Council application fees.
  • Structural and building requirements such as earth works, electrical connection and drainage. 
  • The quote for our custom cornice order cost more than our Diamond kitchen! So we went back and reviewed which rooms we could exclude this cornice style in, such as the garage and walk in pantry to reduce this cost. 
Like I mentioned earlier we haven't even had our colour and electrical appointment yet - yikes! I just remind myself and my husband we're never going to do this again, so let's think of everything we want and depending on the cost scale back accordingly. Also, we'll be paying for this for 20+ years so the stuff we do really want just add it to the mortgage. 

30 Jun 2017

Our Home Tender Process

Firstly, an update we finally own our land!! It was finally registered and we settled last week. So of course now that it's ready, we want to start building as soon as possible. 

However, we're still going through the tender process. We have progressed a lot in the past few weeks but it has been quite a long process. 

Initially, I thought it's just about making sure walls, doors and windows are where we want it to be. But I've learnt it's also the time we need to be specific about the details we want in our home because firstly, this becomes the contract between us and the builder and any reviews and changes after we sign will be an added cost. Secondly, depending on the change they may not be able to do it because we didn't raise the request earlier and it's too late to make the changes. Thirdly, we provide the signed contract to the bank to reassess how much we actually need from them, so having a quote close to how much everything will cost will minimise surprises and monetary shortfalls. 

So we've already been deciding on things like what kind of floors we want, how our ceiling is going to look, and how we think we'll use our spaces. 

I thought I'd share some of the initial hurdles and surprises we've encountered to date.

Covenants 

What are property covenants? They are rules set to help guide or restrain how homeowners build and alter their property. All homes have it and it's established and policed by your local council. That's why depending on what you want to do to your home you may first need approval from your council to ensure it meets their covenants. The estate we purchased our land from has, in addition to the council's rules, their own covenant that we must abide by. This information was given to us when we received and signed our contract, but admittedly we didn't review and question every item. 

So now we learn first of all our home has to be fully rendered, no exceptions. When we went back to check out our land last February we drove around the estate to see if any homes were able to get out of this clause .... nope. Every home there was rendered. Even after we requested for an exception it was declined. Don't get me wrong rendered homes look great, but it is pricey, and then there's the ongoing maintenance cost to keep it looking great. So already we've had to spend 15K (this doesn't include the facade) on a feature of our home we didn't necessarily want. 

Flooring

I remember seeing a picture of a mutual friend's new home and loving her floors, in particular, the design of it. Actually, you can see her home as it was featured in Adore Magazine. Her timber floors were a herringbone design. I want this for our floors too! Our flooring design was non-negotiable for me and our builder can't do what I want so we're going to get someone else to do our non-wet area floors post hand over. 
(example of a herringbone floor design)

Ceiling

We wanted a shadow-line cornice for our ground floor space.
(example of how a shadow-line cornice/ceiling would look)

Initially, they said they could do it but then our builder's Construction Manager came back and said they refuse to do this type of ceiling due to issues they had with it in the past. I was really disappointed to learn this and expressed that to the builder. Learning this dampened my spirit a bit. I couldn't get over it. We were researching alternatives and although there was one, the supplier stopped manufacturing the product. In the end, we compromised with the builder to place a custom order for a cornice style that they don't offer but is available from their supplier. Still not happy but what can we do? 


Despite all these things, the arguments over priorities and taste, sleepless nights thinking about the details, it's .... fun! I love thinking about every room and specifying the little details we want. I've always said I'm kinda boring when it comes to style. I consider my taste to be plain, but modern and .... boring, but I'm surprised how much of an opinion I actually do have about certain things, or have a preference towards something. I get excited picturing in my head how each rooms is going to look cause we've designed it that way. 

It's exciting!! .... I just got to stop thinking about the ceilings. 

3 Jun 2017

Build Update

I knew building a home would take time. We've been warned and we expected the time it would take to build our home would be longer than what the builder or land developer says it will take. I'm not bothered by it, but I have to admit the time has damped the excitement of relocating. I'm sure once we do start moving the rush will come back. 

So an update post cause I've been reading other blogs and forums of people who have built homes and I enjoy reading and learning from other people's experience. If you are building or thinking of building check out Home One it's the whirlpool of home builders. 

When we put our deposit down for our land back in September they said it should be registered by Christmas. It's June already. However, we did get an email 2 weeks ago from the property developer advising us that they've lodged registration of all the land on our estate with the council and expecting about 2-3 week turn around for titles to be registered!

Woohoo! Finally some real progress.

This email was also a heads up to let us know to start contacting our banks to get our finances in order because soon after the land is registered they will want the rest of their money for the purchase of the land.

The bank application process has also been a roller coaster ride. Although interest rates have been the lowest it's ever been, banks have been tighter on lending. It's really no surprise, however frustrating never the less.

We've faced some challenges leading up to getting approved for a loan. Before we even started we wanted to know how much we could borrow so we weren't wasting our time looking at locations or homes that we could not afford. This is how we learnt how tight banks were being at the moment and even with substantial savings hardly any debt our serviceability was pretty limited. In hindsight, this was probably a factor which gave us, even more, confidence to pursue that "sea change" we've always thought about doing. If you can't afford Sydney you got to buy elsewhere right?

My advice when it comes to the finance side of things, go with someone who is going to work for you. Someone who will take the time to explain things to you over and over again if need be, someone who is honest and experienced. 

We've chosen a builder!! We choose the builder quite quickly. We were drawn to this one home because of how the stairs were designed. We dislike "grand staircases" - this is a personal preference ok. I dislike how a staircase and the void above one can take up so much space in a home. That's functional space you could be using. So the home we gravitated to was one where the staircase is kinda hidden behind the kitchen. I remember walking into this display home knowing it was a two story home, admiring the various rooms and then being surprised by discovering the staircase up to the second floor further down inside the home. We liked that feeling. I'm sure not everyone's style but was our deciding factor when it came down to selecting the home design.


We also realised later on it was a similar design to a home we looked at the first time I was pregnant. It was a one story home but there was a staircase behind one of the walls that took you up into the attic which was converted to a guest room, with its own ensuite and lounge area - it was a huge designer home. We always think about that home and we realised we gravitated to a design that was very similar. 

Although we selected an existing design home we've made changes. If we're going to live in it for the next 15-25 years we want to be comfortable. I don't want to be walking past a particular wall everyday thinking, "we should've moved this" - modifications like that. 

Of course changing the standard design costs money. Choosing high-quality finishes and making changes to rooms costs money, so whatever price you see on the website or catalogue for the home, expect to add another 100K to that price - and that's being conservative in my opinion. Yes, you can cut costs by doing some things yourself, if you know what you're doing. Yes, you can try getting more stuff included or minimise costs down by negotiating with the builder if you know what you're talking about. We've been fortunate to also know some people who are in the industry so we've had them review things for us, gave us the words to question costs, and validate plans. However, we're still at the mercy of the builders and their charges. I've struggled to comprehend certain things and costs especially when I apply my "Cam logic" to the situation. For example moving a room to the opposite side. My thought logic is 'I'm still paying for the room regardless why does it cost extra to relocate it?' Or another example is the kitchen island. When we measured the kitchen island in the display home against our plans, our one is smaller. To get the same size as the display home costs extra, but we're getting the bigger home design than the display home, so we've upgraded everything in the home, therefore, why is this costing extra? I get so defensive when they say things costs extra. 

So that's the update. Next week I expect we'll be asked to settle the land. After we sign off on the prelim design it will go to our property developer to ensure our design meets our covenant agreements. That's been an interesting experience too, I'll save it for a separate post. 
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