What You Should Know Before Building a House | Forme Homes

What You Should Know Before Building a House

Wooden House Construction Job. Caucasian Contractor Carpenter Finishing Building wood Beams Frame. Industrial Theme.

What You Should Know Before Building a House

Building a home, in partnership with a builder, adds a level of spice to a home purchase that’s guaranteed to amplify every emotional component of acquiring a new home.

There’s a good reason for this. Building a house ensures you will experience the joys, trials, and tribulations of every aspect of the building process. There are numerous processes you will undertake that aren’t required when purchasing an existing structure.

From the bureaucratic approvals processes, to selecting the grout colour of a laundry splashback, you will live it. You will come to understand how the dirt on which you intend to build can impact your design dreams and your budget.

In the following article we’ll offer some useful tips that will help you begin to construct the right home-build mindset. Like the foundations of your prospective new castle, the mindset you carry into the project will impact the process and final outcome.

Relative to the building information of which you should become familiar, this article is by no means exhaustive. Our aim is to present a modest list of critical fundamentals that, when applied, help to mitigate hasty emotive decisions, poor communications, and unrealistic expectations.

Before you begin the build, there’s a litany of things you should be well across before you start. Take the right actions before you begin and you can save yourself tremendous amounts of money, delay, and heartache.

Wood House Construction Job

Building a house is hard

When done by a professional team of builders, building a new home will still be a difficult undertaking. Consider your current family demands, work demands and financial demands, as well as the suitability and security of your current living arrangements. In many respects, a home build will become all-consuming and may well dominate your thoughts, and perhaps your schedule. It will certainly dominate your wallet.

When the rewards are high, as a home-build certainly is, you can expect that the process is demanding. There will most definitely be high levels of excitement. But there will nearly always be an element of stress and worry you may have anticipated, yet not fully grasped the level.

Despite the best of planning, delays and setbacks are standard considerations in a home build. The weather alone can cause issues that heighten stress levels. Depending on the type of home build you choose, budget blow-outs are also not uncommon. These things can and do escalate stress levels.

Be honest with yourself about how you cope under elevated levels of stress, and how the demands of a build might impact your emotional wellbeing.

If you are time poor, or experiencing high demands on your current budget, taking on a home build may be setting yourself up for unsustainable levels of stress.

However, that’s not a reason to stop the process. On the contrary. This is the time to research, talk to builders, and talk to friends and family who may have been through the process.

As you gather more knowledge and information about the process, you will gain confidence. Understanding goes a heck of a long way to mitigating stress.

With a toolbox full of knowledge you may find yourself with a greater capacity to take on a building project with your current life demands, without the risk of elevated stress levels. A solid grip of home building basics can offset the extra demands a home build places on daily living.

Create a budget for building your house

There’s a reason the budget issue follows directly after the blurb on emotional capacity. Invariably, the most common cause of elevated stress levels comes down to money, or lack thereof. For those with an open budget, this is rarely an issue. However, for the majority of us, budget and cash flow is the primary consideration.

Before you do anything, understand exactly how much it is you have to invest in a home build. Know exactly how much your realistic borrowing capacity is. Importantly, find out if you can borrow on top of that which you have already secured. It’s usually wise to have a contingency budget on top of the highest build estimate for a custom build, when working with most builders.

Different building companies have different payment methods, rules, and expectations. It is critical that you have the appropriate cash flow to service the builder’s expectations, as well as your regular living expenses.
It is also critical that you are disciplined with your budget. This is particularly true with custom builds, but project homes can create budget nightmares if you’re not careful.

For example, having established a total price with your project home builder prior to construction, the project is underway. Mid project you decide you want premium door knobs and handles, light switches, tap fittings, premium kitchen benchtops and premium balustrades.

These are pretty common upgrades. However, it is often unwisely assumed, that relative to the total build cost, these upgrades are not a significant burden on the budget.

You give the go-ahead without a thorough price check. When you receive the bill you realise to your horror, that your upgrades have added $25K to the price. “For a few knobs, taps and switches…”, you say, incredulous.
It’s important you understand that the price difference between a standard kitchen tap set and a premium one, can exceed a thousand dollars. The kitchen cabinet knobs you chose originally were $8 each. You’ve now upgraded to the $25 knobs, and included them in the laundry as well.

While the money is flowing out, it can be easy to say, “Ha…what’s an extra thousand in the scheme of things…” These “extra thousands” add up very quickly. It’s up to you to remain across the variations in budget demands. While the builder has a responsibility to keep you informed, the decision process is on you.

Tip: Stick to the plan, stick to your budget.

Be highly cautious of upgrades, particularly with fittings. Be disciplined with your budget and you can avoid the serious stress of budget blowout.

House building timelines - Australia

The next great stress generator aside from budget is time. Even the very best, most efficient builders are subject to time blowouts. If we’re to talk simple estimates, timelines you might expect after first day of construction:

Custom Homes: 12+ months

Project Homes: 7+ months

Time blowouts can happen for any number of reasons however. Poor weather is a classic, especially prominent in Melbourne. It’s not unheard of that poor weather can add months to a build. Another common issue is a break in the supply chain. Materials required may be out of stock, delayed in transport or defective.

Council may intervene with a contentious issue of some sort. This, too, can impact the completion schedule.

Tip: Understand that on a construction project, delays are common.

The stress and heartache can arise when you have your heart firmly set on a completion date that has limited to no flexibility.

People often have specific dates in mind for moving in. “We want to be in for Christmas.” “We need to be in by end October because we must vacate our rental.”

It is important to understand that the building gods may throw serious curve balls that delay your move in date. While poor planning can sometimes be the cause, often it is just bad luck.

Make sure you have as much flexibility as possible with completion dates. Be determined to meet your time goals, as much as your input allows. Be patient and have contingencies for time blowouts.

Custom build vs project home

With a project build, you select a building company offering a series of existing designs. A project home. You select the one that best fits your land and lifestyle and budget. These homes can be tweaked and worked with additions and options that better suit your taste and lifestyle demands.

The benefits of project homes are usually realised in time and cost. More often than not, you are presented with a base price. Following your additions and inclusions, and building site demands, you are offered a total price.

There is a heck of a lot to be said for knowing exactly how much you’ll pay, and exactly what you will get. It’s an extremely popular choice in Australia, well outnumbering those who choose a custom home.
It is critical that you understand all of the documentation, and that all information is given to you in writing. It is recommended you have an independent professional read this documentation.

When we’re emotionally attached to a project, such as a home build, we tend to read things differently. An independent professional reading offers a bias free assessment. Yes, it’s likely to cost, but it is likely money well spent, particularly if you’re not familiar with complex contracts.

A custom build is a scratch design. You present your design ideas and living demands to a designer/builder. Given the site limitations and engineering requirements, the architect comes up with a design.
You present this design to a builder. Usually, custom builds are undertaken by builders who specialise in custom builds. Some large, commercial building companies that sell project homes offer custom home builds, but not all.

Often an architect will recommend a building company. It’s a bonus (and common) when there is a strong relationship and history with designer and constructor.
Pricing and construction time scales here will vary significantly to that of project homes. A builder will provide a time estimate based on experience. This time scale should only ever be considered nominal and not actual.

Depending on the builder, it is common that you will be offered a couple of price estimates. One price will be a total, no more to pay from start to finish (excluding owners modification requests). The other, will be an estimated final price with a materials charge and estimated hourly rate.

For those with a standard piece of land, a modest budget and little experience in the building process, a project home is likely to be the better option.

For those with a more generous budget, complex land demands, and grand designs on a truly unique, architectural structure, the custom build is likely more suitable. A custom build is often better suited to those with home-build experience, strong contractual understanding, and the ability to communicate complex ideas and design requirements at a professional level.

House building approval

Laws, building standards, easements, strata, restrictions, boundaries, foundations, heritage…neighbours…there is a lot to consider.

It may or may not surprise you, but that Disney themed haunted mansion you have in mind for that land you just bought in an over 50’s gated community, is unlikely to be approved.

In all seriousness, there are many factors that will determine what you can and cannot build on your prize piece of land. For the uninitiated, this topic requires a manual all to itself.

Ultimately, however, you can avoid disappointment by understanding the local laws and restrictions before you start dreaming of your perfect home.

Firstly, there are national building standards. These are complemented by state requirements and local government requirements.

Generally speaking, the national building standards cover building quality and safety. Essentially, building a home is rarely a DIY prospect. It requires certified professionals across several disciplines. A good builder is well across this, and you’ll (hopefully) not have to worry about it.

For those building in a gated community, there will almost certainly strata requirements. In terms of what you build, there may be strict rules governing many features including fence height, and garage door style and colour.

The issues most of us are likely to face are relative to state and local government rules such as boundaries, adjoining properties, streetscapes, shadowing and clearing.

For example, in a street dominated by 1960’s single story bungalow style houses, it is unlikely that you will be able to erect a 3 story, modern architectural edifice, particularly if there is a protected tree growing in the middle of the vacant lot.

The rules can often seem a little arbitrary, and often appear completely subjective. However, common sense and some good advice might tell you that if your home design is radically contrasting to a more uniform streetscape, you should ask the question of council before your heart is set on design. A builder can certainly advise about this, but this is ultimately between you and official bodies such as council.

A project home in a new subdivision is far less of a challenge. So long as boundary requirements, overshadowing requirements, and any easement laws are met, there should be no problem.

Builders are generally well-versed in these issues and would be able to draw your attention to possible issues. Again, assume the onus is on you to check it out with council first, should you have any doubt.

A challenge that is often faced comes down to the earth on which we intend to build. Ground (the dirt) is classed. The class of earth has a large impact on what you can build, how you build it, and the materials you can use in the construction.

For example, earth that is highly unstable might only be suitable for a single story timber home on piers. You may have had a slab based foundation in mind, yet the slope of the site makes this impractical.

Yes, modern materials and techniques can overcome a host of a site’s geographical issues. But this is where cost can get ridiculous. It’s all well and good to spend half a mil on the exact house you want. However, it would hurt to have to spend another half mil on site remediation and foundations to make it possible.

Before you get your heart set on a design, make sure you understand what is actually possible, both legally, and practically. A builder can certainly advise.

Builder with blueprints near the wooden house on the construction site

4 Tips for choosing a builder

Selecting the right builder for you can be a difficult process. There are many big name, high profile project home builders competing for your money. Do you speak to all of them? What if you plan to go custom? How do I select a builder that’s right for my location and design? The most important thing is to not be in a hurry.

  1. Consulting with an architect, custom builder or project home company is free. For committed potential clients, good builders will, generally speaking , take you through the process in detail.
  2. Beware the hard sell: When you’re dealing with project home companies in particular, this is a sale for them. So make sure you peel away the market gloss and get through to the bare bones and fine print of any contract.
  3. Speak first to those whose work you admire: Visit project display homes. Check through the portfolio of custom builders. Ring around and start having conversions. And, if possible, speak to their clients. The more you talk to the professionals, the more confidence you can build, making the decision process less about mystery and more about a well-researched, definitive choice.
  4. Ask your builder about the issues they’ve faced: As you might expect, builders and building companies will show you their glowing portfolio of successful builds. Building is often fraught with challenges, setbacks, complex problems, and unexpected issues. Be sure to ask about the problems they have faced.
    Be suspicious if they’re cagey about it. Every builder worth their salt has faced really tricky hurdles that have added significant pressure to the job. Ask about the nature of their problems and how they were solved. Quiz them about the different hurdles they have faced, from regulation, to weather and outright mistakes.
    A perfect record is likely a false record. Problems are inevitable, and what defines a good builder and building company is how they address the problem.

6 Tips for building a house with a builder

Now that you’ve done your research, got all your answers, and chosen your ideal builder; we need to ensure what you build together is done right. This is where the real work happens. The benefits of building your dream home from scratch are significant and indeed numerous, but it is something you’ll have to be on top of to ensure your dream comes to life.

  1. What looks good is subjective: Beyond price point, opinions differ on what qualifies as premium. The $300 tapware the builder deems premium, you may believe to be ordinary. Make sure you’re all on the same ‘quality’ page.
  2. Visit the construction site: Don’t sit back and let the process unfold from afar. Get yourself some work boots and book regular site visits with your builder. This is your home and you’re paying plenty for it. Some builders aren’t so happy with owner visits. They’ll not tell you that, but it’s the truth.
    Seeing, touching, and feeling the construction process not only keeps you in the progress loop but adds to the joy and excitement of the process, which is for many a once in a lifetime experience.
  3. If something looks wrong, ask why: If something doesn’t look right to you, just ask the question. Many who are inexperienced with building feel unqualified and therefore reluctant to query. There are plenty of examples of timely questions from non-building professionals that have avoided costly errors. Ask!
  4. Get the design right from the outset: Make sure that you, the designer, and the builder are all on the same page about every aspect of the build.
  5. Do not skimp on quality products: Any builders will include fixtures and materials of ‘questionable quality’ to be competitive in pricing. Lower quality materials will save you up front but are more often than not a false economy inviting issues and costs down the track.
    Sometimes, builders will take this aspect for granted. If you don’t question brands, brand quality, warranties, and brand performance, it will go unchecked. Talk to your builder about fixture and materials brands they use and why. Be sure to do your own research also.
  6. Push to ensure your expectations are always met: Over the period of a longer build, particularly complex and large scale custom builds, you will hopefully form a strong relationship with your builder. This relationship can become quite friendly and informal.

While trust, respect and a jovial workplace are to be encouraged, it’s advisable to keep relationships professional. As the one funding the project, you are in charge. It is important you ensure the standards you expect are maintained.

We have a tendency to be more forgiving of shoddy work and performance when relationships become casual and informal. Keep the mood motivated, jovial and friendly, but ensure your expectations are always met. Ensure you are always informed and kept in the loop. Keeping the relationship professional, encourages adherence to professional protocols.

Couple signing property contract

Build your own home in Melbourne

Building a home in Melbourne is a great option. There are plenty of great builders competing hard to build your home. Many have highly streamlined processes to mitigate the time and stress burden on their owner, doing their best to focus on the excitement of building.

While inner-city land is at a premium (and extremely rare), there are plenty of building companies offering competitive rates to knock down existing structures. Often, the knock down is only a fraction of the total build costs.

Of course, for those wanting to vacate the bustle of city life, suburban subdivisions are continually on the rise. You will find that building a home exactly as you want it is far more affordable than building a problem ridden existing structure closer to town.

And therein lies the biggest benefit of building with a builder. Between you and the builder, you can design a home that not only meets your current needs, but also meets the needs of your family as it grows.There’s no need to endure the shortfalls of an existing structure.

How can Forme Homes help?

The team at Formes Homes has been in the industry for multiple decades now. Knowing all about the potential stresses a client can encounter, we’ve designed our business around making the home building process as easy and hassle-free as possible.

We wanted to keep the article as unbiased and transparent as possible. After all, this was intended for everyone and anyone interested in beginning their home building journey. We therefore ensured everything you needed to know before kicking off was included, not just what you needed to know when working with us.

Just a few of the things we do to make building your new home as stress-free as possible:

  • We offer a full service in-house design and consultation service.
  • We have professional services to assist in the design of your home, always keeping your budget and expectations in mind.
  • We provide colour, electrical and plumbing consultations prior to contract/construction. Ensuring we sure up all major decisions that need consideration prior to commencement, avoiding any potential budget blowouts.
  • We allow the ability for variations after contract signing, should you change your mind during construction.
  • We can keep you informed during each step of your build with your own dedicated account manager. You can be involved as much, or as little, as you choose to be.

We maintain that working with an experienced builder will allow you to get the home you’ve always dreamed.

Forme Homes is OPEN & operating under Victorian COVID-19 guidelines.
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