Things to Consider

I think everyone has some regrets when going through the building process, things you learn to do better the next time (though a lot of people say, "never again").  Here are some of the things I think are worth considering:

If I missed anything you found from your build, please comment on this page!

It's not the deal, it's the overall cost that counts

Don't overlook a builder just because the starting price is high. You have to get the builder to provide a quote that is as close as what you want including modifications to floorplan, building materials, flooring, etc as you can get. Make sure you provide a realistic allowance for things not included on the quote. Then you can compare them. We found that for the same sized house, the costs came out fairly similar in the end. The one thing that is hard to compare is site costs, I don't know why they can be so different when a supposedly independent engineer specifies what your site requires, lets just say nothing is really free. (Another builder was advertising free driveways, I went in and asked for one... I didn't get it as I wasn't building the house with them... go figure!) We didn't want tiles. Some builders offered timber flooring as an alternative, Rawdon Hill gave us an allowance for the tiled area, others would not (it was 'free').

Try to imagine how you will use the house

Our lighting plan was pretty good, but there were some things I had to ask for, like a switch at both ends of the family room for the lights. Some builders don't double switch the hallway light, so you spend your life shuffling back and forth between the switches. You may like to have a switch for the bedroom light next to the bed (or have pendant lights instead of bedside tables). Will your favourite furniture fit against that wall? Consider the location of the hot water service in relation to the tap that you really don't want to wait for hot water from.

Lights are part of colour selection too

This is one of our regrets. We changed from down-lights to pendants, battens, or fan lights in some of the rooms where we wanted the lighting to have a bit more character, which is fine. But we didn't go to the lighting store to find our lights until after the contract was final, so now that we have the lights, we want to modify the lighting configuration a bit - but we can't change it now without incurring a penalty cost for making changes, so we will wait until after handover and change it ourselves. Another thing to consider with lighting is that there is a new building regulation that requires a maximum of 5 Watts of lighting per Square meter in the house.

Don't be afraid to walk away

I am told it is common for people to conduct negotiations with multiple builders at the same time. It's a difficult decision to make and sometimes you don't have all the information until you are a good way through the process. We walked away from two builders who we weren't comfortable with, and now we couldn't be happier. Had we continued it may have still been ok, but personally I don't think building a house should make you feel uncomfortable... paying for the house, now that's another matter.

Look to the Sun

Houses are all going greener (minimum 6 star energy rating soon).  The sun is a very important part of being able to achieve this.  Does your block allow for a good section of roof that faces the sun (here in Melbourne that is North or as close to it as you can get), this will help with solar hot water or solar power generation. Other orientations can diminish effectiveness or viability. Will you get a good amount of light through the windows in the winter months, but shade in the summer months? Do you want the morning sun in your bedroom, kitchen or meals area? Will your entertaining area be comfortable to be in at the time of day you would want to use it? Are your building colours trapping too much heat (eg a dark colorbond roof will gain a lot more heat that the lighter shades) I'm not an expert in all these areas, but making a house passively efficient can be much more cost effective than adding active measures later on. For example a living room with large north facing windows may not require much heating in winter. Most builders don't seem to address these issues, so it is up to you.

Time is not your enemy

The building process will take as long as it takes. We were told it would take 4 to 6 weeks for the plans to be approved, but it could happen in as little as one week. 6 weeks later we were told we needed some more information and that approval would take a further 8 to 12 weeks. Ok, so we pushed the issue with the builder, but only because we just didn't understand where things were, how things worked and we felt like we had to dig the real answer out of them. Then a loophole was found and all was well; plans approved. The point is that the contract stage takes a lot of time, just relax and use it to make sure that everything that can be right, is right... Once the contract is final there will be penalties for changes (work loading, or straight out fees). And once they start building, they don't like to pause.

It's your house

If you really want something, then you need to ask for it, push for it, or find another builder who will. Also you can't expect the builder to think of your every need, or know what you want, or even warn you about possible issues, you are not a child, you have to watch out for yourself. For example, the lady in the lighting store claimed that most builders don't put enough lights in for non-cave-dwellers so they get a lot of new home owners coming in for more lights. The builder has a minimum standard to meet, you may have different standards you would like met.

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