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.


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. 


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)


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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