There are so many things you need to think about before, during and after you enter into a contract with a builder. There are essentially hundreds of components of varying size and scale that must be done by the right people, to the right scope of detail at the right time. Every scenario is different and your own circumstances and your block of land that you are building on will have a major impact on your decisions. Your specific situation will determine which of these things are more or less important to your success. But each will play a role.
For the purpose of this article I am going to name what I believe are 7 critical and fundamental things that you need to consider when building a home.
1. Cost and Budget. The single most important thing for you to know is your budget. If you already have your block of land then the next step you are considering is between a Project Home and a Custom Design process. Your budget and your site will determine the decision so you must understand the total cost of construction in each scenario that you measure.
Different Builders approach the process in different ways and this can have a major difference in the full and final cost of your building project. Know exactly how much you have available to spend and exactly what each solution is going to cost. Total construction costs need to allow for landscaping and finishing both internally and externally.
2. Custom Design or Standard Design. A Standard Project Home design is generally going to be quicker, cheaper and simpler to deliver. But always consider a Custom Home solution. Try to avoid getting a Project Home Builder to tailor a design solution to your needs. They are not skilled or resourced to do this effectively. It almost always ends in tears. If you know you must tailor a design solution then get a qualified Building Designer involved. Your building site will often determine if you are going to need a Custom Designed Home. Any site that is odd shaped or has a serious slope on it will likely need a customised solution.
3. Research the Builders and make a shortlist. Then go to work in seeking out their past projects. Recent projects are the best ones to measure. Find out if you can talk to recent customers so you can find out questions regarding the 3 core outcomes: Budget (did they include everything in the price?) Time (did they start and finish when they promised?) Quality (was the house built with a reasonable to high level of quality?).
4. Inclusions and Exclusions. Detail is everything in the building industry. So, when you have a set of plans and they are suitable for your site (whether standard or custom designed) then the next thing you have to consider with each and every builder is what is included in their price and what is not included. Builders take a different approach to pricing inclusions and you must learn all you can about the process of Provisional Sums and Prime Cost Allowances. These items allow the builder and you some flexibility in price outcome. But more often they result in the price going up from the original preliminary price. Pay attention to all the detail.
5. Quality and Price. In every industry, there is a direct correlation between quality and price. Sometimes it is perceived and sometimes it is real. The building industry is one where it is most certainly real. If you are shopping on price then you must keep it very simple and work within a realistic framework. One that is usually provided by many of the quality Project Home companies out there. You cannot expect champagne on a beer budget. If you try then you will be disappointed. That is why the first point I make about cost and budget is so important. Know your financial limitations!
Products and materials designed for the building industry are mostly designed to keep the initial cost down. Understand that your home will wear over the years and just like a car you must service and maintain the parts. The lower the initial quality of the parts and products, the quicker you will be replacing them. Choose wisely.
6. Time is Money. The minute you buy your land the clock is ticking on your bank balance. Interest and holding costs are your silent and secret enemy. You may be paying rent or you may be carrying an existing mortgage or a bridging loan. Some advice; Plan well and execute quickly. Factor time into every decision you make and question that you ask. “How long will that take?” should be something you ask at the end of every conversation. Too often a design and construction project will take much longer than was originally planned and that was due to poor expectations and unplanned decisions being made on the run. One tip would be to delay settlement on the land if you can and whilst that is happening really work hard to get your builder lined up and ready.
7. Read and Understand your Contract. Like I have said before: Detail is everything. Often builders will use one of the many Standard Contracts. These are issued by the HIA or MBA. They can vary though but only in accordance with the law. Look at every section carefully. Understand what has been included. Check that the latest set of plans are part of the contract. There will be a number of appendix type documents. Check that they are the final and approved copies of your: Plans, Engineering and Specifications.
Read the Contract carefully. Ask questions. Get advice. If some part of the contract has been ruled out, ask why?
So, plenty of homework and legwork if you can find the time. Understand that you will almost always have to compromise. If you are building a new home or undertaking a major renovation project then you are about to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are lots of good news stories out there. But there are also a few bad ones. So with that type of investment ahead of you, do your research and ask lot’s of questions. It could save you a lot of time, money and stress.
Good Luck with your Building Project. If we at House Builders Brisbane can assist in any way then please don’t hesitate to give us a call.
So, you are planning on building your dream home. Well the first thing is to find the dream block. The land or site that you build on is one of the most critical factors to affect design and cost of construction.
For the purposes of this article we are focusing on Residential Home Sites. Sites that are being reviewed for potential development have another long list of criteria beyond this list and we will deal with those in other articles.
As you begin your search remember that no two pieces of land are identical. Even two blocks of land that have the same dimensions can and often are different for other reasons.
If you are in the market to buy a block of land and design and build your dream home then here are some good tips to help you get started.
While blocks on a slope can have distinct advantages with views etc, they can also present some challenges. As your home will be either cut into the slope, or built high out of the ground then there will be additional costs involved in construction for drainage, retaining walls, sub floor construction, etc. If you are considering a contract with a builder for a standard design (eg. from a display home) then you will find that most will simply refuse to build on a significantly sloping block. I have heard many stories of woe from people trying to achieve an effective design that takes into account a reasonable cost estimate.
The slope of the block can often affect the height of the roof. Council’s have restrictions on how high a residential home can be built to and how many designated floors. These rules are very technical and the degree of slope will affect the outcome.
2. Planning Controls, Overlays and Covenants
These issues have caught many people out who were planning to build their home. While you may think you have found the perfect block for your dream home, it is always possible that specific planning controls will mean that you may not be able to build the home you want.
It is wise to use the pre-design services of a Building Designer to determine these constraints before you commit to the purchase. Development Covenants can also restrict the type of building and building materials that are allowed. Covenants are generally shown on the title so be sure to check your purchase documents and get your conveyancer to confirm existence of any such covenants.
3. Soil Condition
Conducting a soil test as early as possible could be the best investment you make. Before buying your own block of land, ask your agent if the block or subdivision has had a soil test completed and if so ask for a copy or make the provision of one a condition of the sale. A soil test can determine if your foundation material will create additional building costs (eg: if they find rock, deep fill or highly reactive soil) and these costs can sometimes be significant, so best to be well prepared before you commit to purchase.
4. Effluent Tests
Effluent Tests are more relevant to rural properties that do not have access to a main sewer line. If you need a septic tank or some other Home Sewage Treatment Plan (HSTP) then it is worth knowing how effective your soil is for drainage as it can make a huge difference to the costs of installation.
Different councils have different rules and each block of land that requires a HSTP system has to have the soil condition assessed specifically as part of how the council will determine what system will be allowed for your site. It pays to do some research on any property that requires a HSTP.
5. Bushfire Controls
While many people love a bush setting, most councils have increasingly strict conditions placed on buildings constructed near potential fire risks. If you are in the maximum rating zone then it could add tens of thousands to your build costs. Again, it is wise to seek the advice of a qualified Private Certifier who has specific local knowledge in relation to these council bushfire control requirements. These requirements can and will affect design and costs.
If your block of land is affected by Bushfire it will have a BAL rating. The Building Code of Australia allows for specific building methods and materials to comply with each BAL rating area.
An easement is a section of your property that is clearly defined on your title plan and title documentation and you generally cannot build on or over an easement. It either pertains to access to other property, future road access or current or future services/utilities.
It is imperative to establish if there are any easements that exist on your block so that you can determine where your building can be placed. You must also determine exactly what the easements are for and the affect or constraints they have on your design and construct outcome.
The rules around easements are very technical and can be costly. Or they can be complete game breakers.
Establish what utilities are available at the street for you to connect to. Confirm gas, telephone, power, water, sewer and stormwater. In rural blocks of land, this is crucial and the absence of one or more can add thousands to the cost of building and to the cost of living!
If your road is unmade then find out if the Council has plans to pave the road, because when they do, you will be paying for your share! Again, a very costly exercise, and one you will have no choice in. If you are buying off the plan find out all you can about the access roads to and around your future property.
9. Previous Use
If possible (and if you have any instinctive concerns) you might like to try and find out what the previous use of the land was. You might be surprised and such discoveries could raise health concerns, etc.
For example, I have had clients who have found a block of land for sale but previously it was used in an industry that was environmentally unstable. The soil testing found that there were high levels of contamination in the soil. So, this site would have to have a lot of work done to strip away all the contaminated soil and replace it and then get an approval from an environmental expert prior to construction. Suffice to say the clients did not proceed with the purchase.
10. Orientation and Driveway Access
The orientation of a block of land is its direct relationship to the sun. Where is North? Where will the westerly sun be at it’s harshest in the height of summer? Where is the driveway crossover? Is the driveway pre-determined or will you have the opportunity to determine the placement?
The design of your home and the cost to heat and cool your home is directly related to the aspect of the site. As sites get smaller and smaller it provides you with fewer design options so understanding the long-term impact of the aspect of the site is a good thing to know before you get started.
Your dream block of land might already have a house on it. What then? Some really important issues before you consider buying a site and then demolishing the house:
a. Is the house protected by a Character Zoning Overlay? If so you may not be allowed to demolish.
b. Is there any evidence of asbestos? This is critical.
c. What are the foundations of the house?
Sometimes the right house on the right site has some value in that someone might pay you to lift the house and remove it. They will then re-sell it elsewhere.
If demolition is your course of action do some research before you buy. Make sure you can demolish and get an idea of the costs involved.
Want to know more? Need some help?
Call House Builders Brisbane and ask about our free consultation for prospective New Home Builders. We are happy to help in any way we can before, during and after you have purchased your block of land. Getting that right will set the scene for you being able to build your home in a stress-free and efficient manner.