We looked through most of the main builders we could find for a plan to suit our needs and our block. Nothing was perfect. We signed up for PD Churchill and started making the minor modifications we were allowed. One thing we didn't like was the bedroom on the angle as it created awkward corners in the en-suite, one option we could think of would make the bedroom layout more like the PD Camberwell.... so we went to see it... and couldn't think of why we didn't choose it in the first place.... so we switched. Again the modification process. Except this time the changes we signed on for were not possible, we told the sales guy - he didn't listen, so we left. Call it a personality clash, or a company culture, whatever, we just felt as if the building process was running out of our control and faster than we were comfortable (eg, start signing the pages before fully seeing what you are signing for... I know it's more efficient, it's just less comfortable). We eventually got our deposit back after following up with the accounts manager (who was the best person at PD I dealt with).
So we figured we needed an almost custom design. NBG stated that they would look after us to that end. We took the Montclair plan and re-arranged the whole front half of the house. Through many months of back and forwards we eventually got to the head office. Whereupon we were asked to sign the contract and pay the next level of commitment based on the original Montclair plans. Not happy, but "it was the only way forward", or "we get the remainder of our deposit back and go away". Months later, plans still not right, and we had totally lost confidence in where we were heading - the plans and the company. We left our $3000 deposit behind in search of something better.
We revisited our short list and went to see Rawdon Hills' Montague. We liked the house, the sales lady, and the way you could get approximate costing for changes at the sales office - and the costs for modifications were very reasonable. The best thing is they didn't have a "promotional pack", so if you didn't want something they included you received a credit towards what you did want.
Here's a short timeline of the process since:
- 5th Feb 2011, initial deposit paid to Rawdon Hill.
- 26th Mar 2011, contract signed.
- 16th May 2011, our plans were approved.
- 15th June 2011, site start.
- 28th June 2011, our concrete slab was poured.
- Relax. The whole process is most likely to take longer than you wanted, expected or were told that it would.
- Check the plans. It's your contract. Don't ever assume that the builder will magically read your mind, or follow spoken instructions instead of the plans. (and the numbers on the plans carry more weight than the lines, so check them too)
- Look for your own needs. Have a good idea of what you want that is different in specification level to what the builder offers and raise it until it is addressed in writing. If you wanted a different heater system installed, don't expect the builder to ask specifically about it at the appropriate stage.
It's been a long post, but it feels like a long process to get here so it seemed appropriate. Future posts should be shorter and include more pictures.