Monday, 28 July 2014

Finalising choice of house to build on our block

We have a ~650sqm block, 14m frontage x 45m length. This immediately limited our choice of houses to build because the block just isn't wide enough. We had lots on our wish list for our home but the basics came down to a 2 story home, 5+ bedrooms (master bedroom upstairs at back of house), 3+ toilets/bathrooms, a pool, a study, separate zones for kids, a large kosher kitchen (2 ovens, 2 dishwashers, 2 sinks and a huge island bench for kids to eat & gather around), a large dining room to accommodate large meals but not too big that it was never used, a relaxed lounge/living area open plan near the kitchen, we didn't want the tv in the open plan area if possible, lots of windows and natural light in kitchen/living area, a good sized garden with an area for veggies and area for kids to play.

After looking at various custom builders & volume builders (Metricon, Carlise, Porter Davis, etc), it came down to cost and our budget. The design we picked was Porter Davis' Sandringham 45.
Upper Master Suite Option - Standard floor plans

The Porter Davis sales consultant (ADJ) was really helpful and was willing to help with all our changes and requests. We went to a meeting with him with a full page of requests which he said were possible or we were to discuss at Tender meeting or with our allocated Building Coordinator. We wanted to customise lots of things as you will note on any volume builder display home they are FULL of upgrades and customised things to make them look amazing. Everything you see you will need to ask if that is standard or upgraded.

Tips for going through display homes
- Take loads of photos of everything. Forget about the furnishings and look at the details
- Window sizes,
- Window positions,
- Type of window openings, remember if you want to leave a window open when you aren't home and it rains you really have to have awning windows. We changed almost every single window in the house. Some we wanted more of a clear view out so made them top opening awning windows. The bedrooms we made bigger and centered windows. The overlooking window in top floor kids room has to be opaque due to council guidelines and was tiny and high so we completely changed that.
- The windows on the front facade cant be touched so we selected the facade based purely on the type of windows we were going to get. We didn't want a balcony on the upper floor as we saw this as wasted space and not fussed over the image of the house.
- If you have a choice between A&L doors and Stegbar, I would highly recommend the A&L doors they are solid and gorgeous. PD wont let us have them as we have a prestige home which they have a contract with Stegbar; but their cheaper homes are allowed to have the A&L doors. Really really annoyed that the prestige home are allowed the better doors, what a ridiculous decision on their part to sign a contract for poorer doors for their more expensive homes. Grrrrr
- Doors. We increased the internal roof height of the lower and ground floors so therefore all the doors had to have their height increased downstairs, we didn't bother with upstairs.
- The front doors that come standard aren't that nice so we were allowed to pick another from the Corinthian doors range. I really want the wide solid door like the pivot door but at $3k I have compromised to another door, yet to be decided. Colours appointment soon and decision has to be made.
- look at the floors and carpets and colour choices throughout the home for your style preferences
- look at the lighting ideas they have done. Down-lights are upgrades, we are budgeting plenty of $ for the LED down-lights. It will be a large outlay at the beginning but are told it will pay off in the end.
- check out the cabinetry of the display home. wardrobes don't typically come with anythings but a shelf and hanging rod. We will do this post handover to save money. They told us that its cheaper to do afterwards and not them.
- Kitchen choices, shelving, cupboards, sinks, splash backs etc look at everything and my guess it is an upgrade, budget for it if you want it to look like display home.

I find it so hard to visualise the display home on our block especially as they floor plan we've selected doesn't actually have a display to view. Often the display homes are on tiny blocks and we are hoping we have enough room still for our pool and area for kids beyond the alfresco.

Things that we selected and altered at time of signing the sales form and paying the $2k deposit.
- increased kitchen bench tops, altered the kitchen by adding cupboards and areas for extra DW, sink, oven, moving fridge from butlers pantry, waterfall bench top
- rain water tank
- solar hot water included
- changed all windows, double glazing
- added under stairs storeroom, a hallway cloakroom,
- evaporative cooling, I don't think Melbourne ever gets hot enough for long enough to justify a/c to whole house. We are installing a pool so that should keep us warm also the fact that we have to have 6 star energy rating and have positioned windows, extended eaves, have semi thought about natural solar heating in winter and cooling in summer. we will consider prewiring and installing noggin for future ceiling fans in room that may require extra cooling however evaporative cooling has fan function not just cooling function.
- Little things like niches in showers and thinking about extra taps, gas points for BBQ, lighting ideas
- insulation we wanted as much as possible with soundproofing
- we closed over all the feature holes/windows in walls between study and lounge.
- we added an extra 2 rooms/areas to the house, one will be an alfresco & the other will be a dining room (like adding an enclosed alfresco).
- we selected the Dream Big promotion, the Miele kitchen promotion, and the flooring option.

## Oh it wasn't until we signed that the sales consultant mentioned the build start date couldn't be until November (this was way back in May). What a massive disappointment, no wonder they didn't offer to mention this prior to taking our $2k. We then looked into a custom builder to see if they could offer the same and start earlier - no luck, much more expensive for only a month or so early build.

Now we had to wait for our paperwork to be sent to PD east office. Wait we did until I got on the phone and started hassling them as to when I would be contacted by the head office about appointments for Tender and then colours, electrical & tile appointments, and then the final Contract meeting. The sooner all this is decided the sooner we might be able to get to start early as someone else may not be ready in the October or even September with their land title/mortgage etc.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Demolition fun

The trees are no longer standing and now the logs await my dad to chop up for fire wood. I was going to do something creative with them as I love Pinterest but don't know if I have the skill to pull it off (table top or stump seats etc). 



The kids loved removing some of the hideous but possibly handy tiles to use on an outdoor mosaic idea near the clothesline or something (Pinterest inspiration seeking now). Even if we never use them we had so much fun banging and boys loved unscrewing doors just for the fun of it. I sold some blinds, pendant lights and a wardrobe. Going to up cycle an old mirror and reframe it.

I've got loads of mulch to transport & use on our rental property so I don't have to weed again. Also have to dig up lots of plants to use around pool in our rental, I can't stand the thought of all those plants going to tip when the excavator arrives. Saved some bulbs today too and found some pots.

Happy to say no one had any injuries today despite the freedom they had with hammers, screwdrivers, chisels, nails, spade & fork, and lots of broken bits. 

Settlement on our land and house

Buying a house can be stressful at the best of times but being in a new city with 4 young kids, running a household and settling into life is some what of a challenge. I LOVE challenges and lucky for us, I do my best work when I'm under pressure and busy.

Settlement on our land was a few weeks ago and all of us know paperwork, administration, applications and waiting can be a drain. Signing all the papers. Sending mortgage papers back & forth between Melbourne & Sydney, wont do that again. Previous owners delayed settled again, new dates. Typing errors on documents. Delays and miscommunication with lawyer and finance team saying different things were common and annoying but fixable.

I will try & document all the things regarding demolition needed to be done.

Quotes for demolition teams - this can vary extensively and yes they all want to make money from your house. I got 4 quotes and the business that we decided on was because they had great customer service and advice. The prices ranged from $13k-19k.  A few things to remember to ask
- include removal of any old fencing
- include removal of any trees, stumps and roots,
- insurance
- Demolition permits to the council most demo companies will do on your behalf. You must provide them with proof of ownership (ie proof of settlement date, Land title or letter from lawyer), also a site plan which includes things like council property (power poles, telstra pit, electrical pits, trees on nature strip etc). Our builders had not done a site survey at the time of this application so I did it. It has to be accurate and detailed, so a quick online study of what was needed helped me finish this.

- Asset protection permit from council. I had to apply for this separate to demolition permit. More $ and they take a $2k deposit which we don't get back until after the work is complete.  NOTE: Take LOTS of photos of current state of footpath, curb, driveway, electrical pole, council owned tree on nature strip in front of house. I've heard lots of stories of council keeping $2k even though damage was already there, I've now got proof it was there before hand (lots of damage already on our site).

- Asbestos shed - I had to confirm the company I picked use authorised removalists to avoid any health risk to neighbours and their employees. Removing this was included in the quotes.

- Tree removal. For some reason our council don't have a tree protection policy & after several conversations all saying the same thing, I didn't need a permit to remove our big semi dead old pine tree because we weren't subdividing the land and building a single dwelling on the block. The demolition team included this in their quotes however due to the size we decided to employ a professional tree removal company. The Tree man and his team were well equipped to remove the old pine and discovered it has been severely struck by lighting in recent times carving out a 20cm wide, a good 15cm deep and several metres long gash down the truck of the tree. Once they sliced up the truck you could see the burn marks covered most of the core of the tree. The removal of this tree and grinding its stump along with a few others was several thousand, I hope the excavators can remove the rest of the stumps and trees from the block.

- ABOLISHMENT of services - get your applications in EARLY. It took several long winded conversations to various people at various energy companies to actually find out who our suppliers were and what I actually had to do to get the gas and electricity removed. Ultimately in our area United Energy do the abolishment but it must first go via the current or prior energy supplier.
- Energy Australia seem somewhat knowledgeable but it still took various departments to get through to the right person who sent an email saying fill this in and email it back. Pay your disconnection fee after a bill comes to you and then wait 20 business days for the meter to be removed. Ours went through easily and electricity was removed within about 2 weeks.
- Red Energy, I'd never heard of until I was speaking with United Energy who told me this was our prior provider. So a few transfers within Red Energy customer service line I eventually got a guy saying we will send you an email with the form. 5 days later I still hadn't got that email. A few phones call later I had a woman tell me that its a different department that actually send the email with the abolishment form. wtf? Eventually 8 days after original phone call I got the email with the form. I filled it out sent it back. I got a confirmation of received abolishment application a day later then nothing happened. 2 weeks later I ran asking when I pay for the abolishment cost and confirmed when it would be done by. It is now 20 business days post the application and the gas meter is STILL there.... that will be tomorrows job and annoying long phone call.
- Telstra & Optus cabling removal. So technically I am meant to get an electrician to remove these from the house as they are both no longer active. However I'm yet to do this and an electrician friend said you can just cut it and tie it to the telephone pole outside our block. The demolition company said they will do this form me!
- Plumbing - water and sewer. After chatting to various people I have the option to remove my water meter but this will cost $ & applications to reconnect but if I just get a plumber to cap the sewer and water the meter stays put and re-connection easier than reconnecting to the main sewer line again. The demolition team have a plumber they use and I will do it via them. I will also get the plumber to relocate the water meter 600mm which is the maximum distance I can do without needing applications, $, and taping into the water main in the middle of the street.

- Electrical pit application to united energy was next. More forms more details more money and more time. I await to see if this is done. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

The start of a journey

Do I start at the beginning or just dive into today?

In brief we arrived in Melbourne and could find a home to buy ready to move into, so we bought a house that we will knock down and start the journey to build a big family home. Very happy we got our house not at an auction avoiding the bidding wars with others who want the same as us. Suddenly we were thrown into the idea of building our home, sounds glorious and fun, once in a life time opportunity of building a family home, and getting exactly what we want; reality is never like our dreams.

We started looking at Metricon Homes as they have a great name and several friends in our area have built with them and are really happy with the results. Also looked at private builders and Glenville Homes however we have a budget and most custom homes building what we want in our area cost $800k plus. After living in Sydney for over a decade we've barely drove more than 3km anywhere regularly, what a shock it was to be in Melbourne and have days of driving 30km here and 20km there to get to all these display home villages. On the surface all the display homes look amazing with interior design packages and finishes that cover up the reality that these are bulk builders and finishes to detail vary extensively.

We decided to start looking at floor plans rather than just reputation and appearance after going through so many homes. Carlise Homes & Metricon look great but the floor plans just didn't work for us. We wanted a very large dinning room area and a big kitchen area as that is the focus for our family - food, kids and entertaining on Friday nights. We went through a Porter Davis Home and knew that their floor plan could work for us if they were willing to make some changes.

 Most people say don't expect volume builders to help with changes, they don't like doing them and you will pay excessively to make these changes. They are right but also wrong. We have made lots of compromises but Porter Davis has made changes for us so we've decided to build with Porter Davis.

So far I don't know anyone else who has built with them in our area, we are the odd ones out, have we made the wrong decision? We will find out soon I guess. If their state sales manager is smart they will be wanting to do a good job in our area and get a good name and reputation. The volume builders make their money with upgrades and extras, we live in an area which is full of knock down rebuilds and they could start to make their money here. It is exactly what Metricon Buildings are doing, and they are doing it well. I do hope we haven't made a bad choice in choosing Porter Davis (PD).

Their sales person (ADJ) was amazing and very knowledgeable, patient and experienced in the building industry. Had it not been him I'm sure we would have gone to Metricon.
More posts soon.