When building a house there are a lot of options to consider.
Building a new home can be exciting, and being an owner builder can have many rewards and be very gratifying.
However, owner building is daunting for some people, so you need to make sure it is the right fit for you before you start.
Virtually every step throughout the construction process comes at a cost, you can have your dream house on your dream piece of land and still have saved money.
I am writing this blog to give you some in-site into the building process whether you choose to go through a building company or manage the construction of the home yourself.
I have been in the building industry for over 50 years through all aspects of building.
I have found that building a home is both rewarding and fun to do, as long as you follow some simple steps and be willing to take advice from others with more experience.
A lot of the time the trades person on site is a great mentor if you ask questions along the way.
Option 1: Hire a Builder
Hiring a construction company seems like the easy path to building a new home, however there are pitfalls in this and you need to do your research.
The short answer is that a large number of builders are not easy to deal with after the construction starts, so you need to make sure all the paperwork is correct, the design is what you want and that you have no changes to the home along the way.
Builders have a mark-up of around 20-25% on variations, no matter how big or small. Variations can come in the form of changing the colour of grout tiling or adding another full-size room.
Do not sign anything with your builder until you have read all the fine print. If there is anything that you do not understand, ask for advice from an independent builder, consultant, or obtain legal advice. Remember once you have signed a building contract you cannot normally back out if you change your mind. There is no ‘cooling off’ period.
Second, ensure that everything important is confirmed in writing and keep a copy.
Before you sign a contract or pay a deposit, ask your builder the following questions. It could potentially save you $$$$$$$$ and avoid costly legal bills.
Deposit and Pricing:
Once your plans and detailed specifications are finalised, your builder will prepare a contract. The contract should set out both parties’ responsibilities, and importantly, a progress and payment schedule.
How much is the deposit and how much will be kept should we not proceed?
At what point will we have the final price?
Can you give us a price before we pay a deposit?
If we pay for things like soil test and property information, do we get these reports to own should we not proceed?
Finding the right block of land for your new home is an important decision. There are a number of considerations when choosing the size and location of your land to ensure you can build.
If you agree to pay for preliminary information like a soil test, property report and levels, you should ask your builder the following questions. If the answers to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you will need to obtain a cost for each that will likely sit outside standard inclusions.
Do I require an engineer-designed foundation? (You may require this if your block is on reactive soil or close to the coast.)
Do I require protection against termites?
Does the storm or septic water disposal system need to be engineer-designed?
Are retaining walls likely to be required?
Will there be soil/fill that needs to be taken away or brought onto the site?
Will there be services required to receive distant connections?
Plan & Design:
Can I bring in my own plans for you to price?
How many plans do you have in your range?
Can I modify your standard plans and at what cost?
Will you inspect our block before we buy it to ensure it’s suitable for the kind of house we want to build?
What is included in your floor area total? The square meter area of a home can be measured in different ways. Some builders could include decks, eaves, patios or paved areas.
Will you provide a comprehensive design consultation service? What will this include?
Will you provide modern visual design aids and access to professional designers to help me achieve the ideal plan that I want?
Will you help me to find out if there are specific requirements or restrictions regarding our home’s location on our block, and are there any protective covenants?
Will you give me a simple concept plan with my quote before I pay my deposit?
What energy rating will my home be aiming to achieve?
Where will the midday winter sun enter the house?
How much summer afternoon sun is going to enter the house?
Where will the view (if any) be visible from inside?
Are there long runs for the hot water and if so how will wastage/lag time be reduced?
Is your quote comprehensive in its inclusions?
Can you explain what is not included?
What soil classification is allowed for in your standard inclusions for foundation and slab design? (Some builders often treat even simple excavations and earthworks as extras.)
Will my colour selections be carried out locally?
What heating and cooling is included?
What floor coverings are included?
Do you have a soil test allowance in your standard inclusions?
Does the contract or quote include any provisional sums? (These costs could be a an estimate based on a mixture of guesswork and calculation that are not fixed and will change once they have the final price from their supplier.)
Have you included full drainage and other service costs or have you listed them as a provisional sum? (This could be listed as a provisional sum which could rise considerably.)
Are you trade certified and affiliated to a recognised industry body such as HIA/MBA?(Australia).
Can you show me through any homes that are currently being constructed, or any completed homes? (Here you can check the quality of workmanship of existing customer homes.)
Can you provide me written testimonials from past clients?
Is it a fixed build time?
Will you pay me money if you are over contract time? (This is also known as liquidation damages.)
What exceptions enable you to extend the contract time with no liquidations damages payable?
What health and safety processes do you have in place?
What contractors do you use?
Do you have a dedicated construction coordinator who will personally manage all sub-trades on my site, keep me informed of progress and answer my questions?
Can I speak directly to the registered builder who’s ultimately responsible for my home construction?
How can I be sure your company is financially stable?
Who does the builder acquire home owner warranty insurance from?
Does this insurer cover loss of deposit, non-completion and defects?
Does the builder have min $10 million dollars public liability insurance, and construction insurance adequate for your home?
What is the maintenance period?
Lastly - Although many of these questions are technical in nature, it can be beneficial for your knowledge so that you can accurately compare quotes.
Is the supply of concrete pumping included?
What wall and ceiling insulation is included?
Is a three coat paint system included? Using whose paint?
Is sarking to roofing included?
Are COLORBOND® down pipes included?
Are eaves standard on our chosen design?
What type of toilets and basins are included? Are they china?
Is obscure/safety glass to ensuite and bathroom included?
Are there plan-specific overhead cupboards to kitchen included?
Is a gas (electric in some areas) boosted solar hot water system with two solar panels included?
Is the rangehood ducted to natural air i.e. not recirculated?
Is termite treatment included and what system is used? Will maintenance be required??
Is trenching and conduit for service connections included?
Is ceiling plaster fixed onto metal battens, reducing the risk of warping and cracking?
Are steel lintels with bricks over the garage and windows included i.e. no high maintenance timber in-fills?
At what stages will you be able to inspect the works?
Option 2: Owner Builder/Manager
The best way to owner build is simple as being the manager of the project.
So, you oversee the construction and let the tradesperson do all the work. They spend years learning their trade so as a manager you control and organise the construction rather than work on site.
This is a much simpler way to build and you will save $$$$$$$ and have a high-quality home finished in a very short amount of time.
In fact, an owner builder working as the project manager can build the home much faster and much cheaper than a construction company.
Kit homes are a popular way to go when building, as kit home companies present themselves as a cheaper faster way to build as the home is prebuilt in a factory, and you just need to assemble onsite.
However, this is not always the case, you should do your pricing and quotes to get the true answer. But as I show you later a kit home can in fact cost you more than hiring a builder. I will present you with some better options so you can get the true picture.
House or Dream Home:
Building your first home is fun, but somewhere in all the excitement it could be easy to overlook things. Forgetting something isn’t necessarily a disaster, but taking the proper time to plan everything well will help you avoid any potential disappointments.
One of the things many first-time owner-builders forget to think about in advance is making a list of non-standard inclusions that could enhance the beauty and comfort of the finished construction. Including better extras can make the difference between merely having a house and having a dream home.
Although this blog is designed to be a brief introduction into choosing the best solution for your new home. I will make it quick and to the point about the options you have and the best way to choose what suits you best.