Handy Home Building Tips

 

Whether you're building a home for the for the first time, or consider yourself a seasoned professional, these handy home building tips may prove to be of benefit to you.

From choosing your block of land, though to choosing a builder, I do hope these tips are helpful to you. 

Enjoy!

| Choosing a block of Land

Choosing a block of land, to build your new home upon, is easy - right? You find a block in the right area, at the right price and you make an offer. Job done, right? 

 

Well, this is way most people buy a block. However, if you'd like your new home to be more comfortable & more energy efficient, while maximising the available space, there's a few things you may wish to consider before jumping in at the deep end. 

Lay of the Land

Flat blocks are the most cost effective to build upon. Earthworks costs are kept to a minimum, leaving you more money to build your home. And we all need more money to build our homes! 

 

However, many of you are tempted to buy sloping blocks because they're more interesting, or perhaps you may achieve a nice view. In many cases, in view of potential views or land size, such blocks are more expensive. 

What many of you often fail to consider is the cost of building on such land. To enable a house to be built, there's usually a good deal of earthworks required to create a flat section to build upon. Typically called a cut & fill, retaining walls may also be required to hold back soil. Such works can cost tens of thousands of dollars, money which you may not have budgeted for. The cost of earthworks can be estimated in advance of your purchasing the land. 

Block Orientation

Block orientation is the most common aspect to be overlooked by block purchasers. It's also one of the most important aspects to consider, as the orientation of the land can have a significant impact on your enjoyment of your home and the cost to run it. 

There's a simply rule of thumb to go by. Live north, sleep south. This means that its ideal that the living areas of your home are orientated towards the north sun as much as possible. This will ensure your home is filled with natural light during the day. And in winter, your home will attract as much warmth from the sun as possible. Ever lived in a dark, cold home? That's because the orientation wasn't considered prior to building. 

The opposite applies to the bedrooms, we don't want these rooms heating up during the day. Therefore, our bedrooms need to be orientated towards the south as much as possible. 

Paying close attention to block orientation makes our homes more comfortable, while being more energy efficient. Getting this right will mean the air-conditioning & heating can be used far less, thus saving us money. 

There are always exceptions which throw a spanner in the works. One common exception is views. In such cases, there are ways by which we can handle this to ensure we're still delivering a comfortable, energy efficient home. In fact, no matter how bad a home is orientated, we can deal with it to deliver great results. However, such results can cost many thousands of dollars. So best you do your homework before you buy the block. 

Location of Services

With most new blocks of land, the location of services usually don't present an issue. However, this isn't always the case. Older blocks and new blocks can present some nasty surprises which will have a negative impact on building your home. In addition, sales people aren't usually obligate to tell you about these surprises.

Services, such as a main sewer line, could be running through the block you're wanting to purchase. Usually running across the back of the block, sewer lines can also run across a corner and down the side of the block.

The issue with sewer lines and other such services, is that they require protection. As such, sewer lines have a buffer associated with them. This is an area of land, either side of the sewer line, which cannot be built upon. This buffer is called an easement, and it can chop a good deal of usable space off your block. Such easements (area of land which cannot be built upon) are usually 3 - 4 metres wide. So, check for any easements.

Other Potential Nasties

In addition to the main offenders above, there's other considerations which can have an impact on the cost of building on a block of land. Again, some of these issues don't become apparent until after you've purchased your block.

BAL (Bushfire Attack Level)

A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) is a means of measuring the severity of a building’s potential exposure to ember attack, radiant heat and direct flame contact. It’s measured in increments of radiant heat (expressed in kilowatts/m2).

A BAL is the basis for establishing the requirements for construction (under the Australian Standard AS 3959-2009 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas), to improve protection of building elements from bushfire attack.

There are six levels of ratings applied. These range from "BAL - LOW" though to "BAL FZ". Depending on the rating applicable, there could be significant costs associated with building your new home. If you're considering a rural block, the best advice is to ensure the spot where you'll build is, at least, 20 metres away from clumps of trees.

Restrictive Covenants

Restrictive covenants aren't something sales agents are legally obligated to tell you about, its a case of doing your own due diligence. And so you should, as these little nasties can kill the ideas you have for your dream home.

Some time back, I was engaged to design a home in Bicton. With awesome views of the Swan River, my client obviously wanted to take full advantage of these views. During the design process, it became apparent that restrictive covenants applied to the block, and my client wasn't even aware of this.

In short, these covenants dictated that a new home could not be built back beyond a certain distance from the front boundary. This covenant was registered by the previous owner of the block, who happened to own the neighbouring property. He wanted to ensure that any new build would not restrict his own views of the river. 

Did the Real Estate Agent, who sold my client the block, tell my client about this? No. is he legally obligated to? No. if he did, perhaps this would've had a negative impact on the asking price. Buyer beware! 

While restrictive covenants are not usually applied to new blocks, its always best to do your due diligence to ensure there's nothing standing in the way of building your dream home. Restrictive covenants are usually registered with Council. A simple check can save you a great deal of pain and money. 

| Home Building Budgets

 

Building budgets are one of the more common issues we come across when designing new homes. Primarily, this issue arises because many people don't realise that building an individually designed home is more costly than building a display home. After all, its only natural that people look at display homes as a guide for estimated the cost of building an individually designed home. This is a mistake. 

Display homes are built by project builders. These are much like production-line homes and, as the homes have been built in advance, every last cent has been accounted for. In addition, project builders buy for less and pay their trades a reduced rate due to the on-going volume of work available.  

When it comes to establishing the cost of building individually designed homes, there are some basic rates we apply to ensure the homes we design do fall within budget. However, these rates can vary immensely subject to the size & complexity of the build and the selected finishes. 

The upside of having your own plans is that you're able to shop them around various builders to achieve the best possible deal. I work with building budgets daily, feel free to call me fro a chat about your home.

 

| Owner Building

Owner-building your home is a great way of saving money, while often ending up with a better quality build. When we build our own homes, we do tend to ensure things are done better - even over-kill. 

However, you'll need to be cashed-up to owner-build because banks no longer like lending to owner-builders. 

In short, it's estimated that an owner-builder could potentially save as much as 20% on the cost of building their home. I've heard reports of even higher savings, but this would be exceptional and not necessarily true. This is providing the owner is hands-on and doesn't make any expensive mistakes. 

 

| Home Building Estimates

Every home we design needs to be estimated by builders to ensure our home design is on target. In most cases they are. In some cases our design blows the budget. This is why we guarantee the results in writing. If we blow the budget, we'll amend our design, at no additional cost to you, to bring it back to budget.

Having said this, let's look at how budgets are blown. The most common reason is that some clients want more than their budget will buy. I mean, we all want this, but some clients have great difficulty in making sacrifices of space and/or finishes. As much as I do guide my clients along the way, some just choose not to accept that they can't have their cake and eat it too. 

The cost of building a home is made up of three main elements. These are size, quality of finish & degree of difficulty. 

In respect of size, this make sense to most of us. The larger the home, the more it will cost to build. As for finishes, you can buy a set of taps for $25 and you can pay $250 and even more. This applies to all components throughout the home. Cabinets, doors & door furniture, floor coverings and so on. 

When it comes to complexity, this relates to the external walls & roof design. For example, most display homes have simple wall outlines & roof lines. The more complex these are, the more the home will cost to build. Site access can also play a role in the cost of building a home. If access is tight, the home will cost more to build. 

In addition, not all builders price their homes equally. While often within a certain range of each-other, there can be a huge variation in price from builder to builder. This can be due to a number of things. In some cases, builders actually quote high if they don't really want the job. But at a higher price, they'll build it. 

 

| Choosing a Home Builder

There are Builders and there are Builders, and each Builder is usually targeted at a specific market. There are the Project Builders who are more like a production-line building company. There are individual Builders, smaller builders who often work from a home office, and there are Builders in the middle and above both of these levels. 

There are Builders who won't touch a home valued below a certain price bracket and Builders who charge an arm & leg just because they're established in a particular market. 

Choosing the right Builder for your home is certainly something we assist with. However, at the end of the day, the choice is entirely yours alone. What's important is that you feel you'll get on well with the Builder. If you clash, on a personal level, this isn't the Builder who you should choose. 

Talking with friends & family about their experiences with particular Builders is a good thing to do. In addition, talking with the clients of the Builder you have in mind is also recommended.

 

While most Builders we have in WA are excellent, none are perfect all the time. Every Builder has issues, from time-to-time, related to a number of unplanned events. This could be the loss of a Supervisor, a new Trades-person or simply one of those jobs on which nothing seems to go right. As I said, most builds actually go very well.

The measure of a Builder is not so much about mistakes, as much as it's about how they address these. Just today, I was talking with a fellow about his previous building experience. Building through one of Perth's better known companies, there were issues. The sad thing is that these issues weren't addressed until the Builder was threatened  with legal action. This is an unfortunate event and no Builder should act in such a way. However, the issues were addressed properly and the client was very happy with the final product. 

As I've bee in this industry for over 30 years, I know some great individual Builders I can suggest to you. However, depending on your budget, I may also suggest Project Builders to you. There is a Builder better suited for each home. 

 

| Why Boyd Design?

The truth is, I could ramble on forever about why I sincerely believe your new home should be a Boyd Design. 

My designs are stunning and appreciated all over Australia and around the world. I'm passionate about what I do and passionate about my clients doing the right thing by themselves. I'm an open, honest communicator with my clients' best interests at heart. In addition, I include the landscape design and meaningful, written guarantees are your peace of mind that all will be well. 

However, if we don't click as people, all this means absolutely nothing. I've sat down with people who, I'm sure, believe I'm a nut-case. I've met with people who are absolute snobs, obviously considering themselves better than others in just about every way. In addition, I've met with people I simply don't click with. This is all good, we're all unique and we don't all get on - nor should we. There's nothing wrong with this, it is what it is. And whenever I've ignored the warning signs, I always wish I hadn't. 

So, who are my ideal clients, you may be wondering. Well, if I wore an Italian suit, a pony-tail and drove a convertible, you can probably imagine the type of people I'd tend to click with. Yet, this is so far removed from who I am that I clash with such people. In truth, I'm a genuine, down-to-earth fellow who is an honest, open communicator and I consider myself non-judgmental. To look at me, in person, you may actually be surprised that I design stunning homes - some of which are worth millions. I am who I am and I love being me. 

Therefore, if you're a down-to-earth person, we're going to get on just great. Your financial worth makes zero difference to how I'll treat you and certainly no difference to the love & care I'll pour into the designing your new home. No matter if your building budget is $250k or $2.5m or more, I'll treat you no differently. Your home will be designed with the same dedication & passion I pour into every home I design.