Building a new house is a huge investment and emotionally it can be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. Luckily I love the process! I’ve built three times and renovated a few times so learning how to stick to a budget (but not comprise on what I want) has taught me a few new tricks…
Here are a few ideas for you if you’re thinking of – or just about to build – a new home:
1. Make a Pinterest board and file all of your images in there
This gives you a good reference point. Also as you get carried away with the building and you start to get overwhelmed with the choices, you’ll be able to come back to this and sort yourself out again. You may find it hard to describe to a builder/plumber/chippy what your vision is for a room, but if you have an image ready then it helps.
2. Ask your builder if you’re allowed to add/change things during the process
I’ve built twice with a local builder who have allowed me to make changes during the process – like move a door, adjust the verandah, position the vanity. But I have also built with a project building company who does not allow you to make changes after you’ve signed off on your plans. This style of building can be a little trickier. If you’re not a visual person, then your planning stage is crucial as you’ll need to get everything sorted (right down to the position of a mirror in the bathroom) before the house starts being built. Make sure you are clear on this process before you sign off on anything. Ask your building company how much leeway do you have on minor things when the building process starts?
3. Make a non-negotiable list
Unless you have a bottomless pit of money, then start out with a list of things you MUST have in the house. Try and get that in to your initial costing. It’s hard to put things back in after your builder has gone to a lot of trouble to start your quote.
4. Don’t be in a rush to finalise your plans. Get an electrical plan
If you find it hard to read your plans and you can’t visualise every last detail, then it’s worth paying an interior designer or colour consultant to help you through this. When I was working with a building company I saw a few doozies being built. (Not the houses I sold of course!) Make sure you also get an electrical plan before you build (that’s if your builder won’t let you decide during frame stage), because some builders need you to have this decided before they start building. It’s important you think about the powerpoints! You can never have too many. It’s so much harder to put them in after you’ve built. I know that it’s common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think about this enough. Once your insulation goes in you can forget putting powerpoints in those walls – too hard. Also make provisions for tv points and power up high. These days all our tv’s (even in the bedrooms) hang on the wall. We put points up high in every bedroom as I knew my boys would have tv’s in their rooms eventually.
5. Think about the direction your home is facing – north, south, west?
This is a biggie for me! People just don’t seem to think about this enough. A few years ago my husband and I renovated a horrible old house, but then I fell pregnant with my 3rd child and we had no space to bring a new baby in to that house, so we sold very quickly and bought a house. In the end that was a bad decision, but that’s another story! Anyway, the house we bought (whilst looked nice from the front) was built terribly. The people who built it had poor advice on positioning the house on the block. It was a big block, but it was all wrong. The westerly sun shone straight on to the back verandah and you could not sit outside from 12pm in the day. I hated it! If the plan had simply been flipped then this problem would have been averted. So, BIG tip – make sure you know where your sun will be during the day before you finalise your plan.
6. Get familiar with using a spreadsheet on your computer
This is the place where I knew exactly how much things would cost as I added and changed things. You usually get a base price when building, but if you add anything, or take anything off YOU need to keep a spreadsheet. I used to also email this to my builder every few weeks (I’m a painful person I know!), but I had to make sure we were always on the same page and I did not want to be left with any surprises at the end!
7. Stick to similar fittings throughout your entire home
Keep it simple. Use the same tiles in bathrooms/laundry (maybe add an accent title here and there). Use the same sinks, light fittings and colours. If you are buying things in bulk (like tiles) you’ll get them cheaper!
8. Have some cash up your sleeve
Shop around for the best prices, locally and online. Ask your builder if you do find a cheaper vanity, or light fitting will he allow you to use that? Once you’re in the building groove you’ll be on the hunt for bargains. Never ever think your building project won’t go over! It always does. It could be that you need a couple of extra powerpoints, or the retaining wall is bigger than you thought once the block has been cut, or you see some tiles you’d love to feature. In every house I’ve built I know a few thousand dollars may be needed for extra things. I don’t tell my builder that! Ha! I keep it to the side to use if I have to. For example, in this house I wanted huge bathroom mirrors and because mirrors are fitted almost last, I knew I’d be ok to have them because I’d saved a little extra cash to pay for them at the end.
9. Don’t back down and settle
Don’t let a tradie tell you you can’t have something. They like things to run smoothly! You might need to pay extra for it, but if you want herringbone pattern in your tiles then don’t settle for anything less! Communicate this early on though so everyone is aware of your intentions. If you settle for something you don’t really like then you will regret it for as long as you live in that house.
10. Read every last detail of that contract before you sign it
Retaining walls and site cut always confuses people and sometimes the builder won’t know what this final cost is until they really get in to it. Most of the time they are right, but you still need to have your eyes wide open! Don’t forget to check that you get a clothesline, letterbox and you get all your concrete paths! Also check if you will be charged for every variation you make. Some building companies will also charge an admin fee for every change you make.