It was almost a year ago now that my husband and I finally got a pre-approval for a home loan, after trying for over 6 years!
We were looking into buying an established house, and then a townhouse within a resort (but the strata was over $12k a year), so we were back at buying an established house. But we struggled to find something within our price range and budget that didn't need work done to it or had a pretty decent (and not squishy) bathroom.
But we couldn't find one that we fell in love with.
We then thought about buying either a block and building on it or a house and land package. We were out at Woolgoolga (where we have been wanting to move to for 6 years) and found the perfect house and land package that was well within our budget (and meant a little left over at the end for incidentals).
But when we enquired that afternoon, the contracts had just been put through and signed and was no longer available.
We felt a little disappointed that we missed out, but on the way home I decided we would call into the display home at North Sapphire Beach and just ask if they had any others coming up in the area within our price range.
The sales guy said there was actually a bigger block of land that was also cheaper that had come available that morning (due to finances falling through) and if we wanted a bigger house than the other house and land package offered that it was certainly affordable... all we had to do to secure the block so it wasn't available to anyone else was pay a deposit of $1000 which we did on the spot (we weren't letting this one go).
So fast forward to November and the land was finally registered with council, which meant we had 28 days to finalise our finances and sign the contracts, which happened a couple of days before Xmas... what an expense Xmas present to us!
So it wasn't until March this year that the slab was laid and the framework started, and we have been told last week that we are at the 4 weeks to completion mark, and I just cannot wait!
But during the process of building, especially as this is our first house and we have never built before, there were some things that we hadn't factored into our budget or allocated money to, and I thought that I would share these in case they help you too.
#1. You start paying electricity bill when the house starts getting built
This one really shocked me, I remember receiving the electricity bill and was from the same company we were with now but was in my husband's name, so I was pretty confused. Then I realised that it was a bill for the connection and installation of power to the site and that we needed to pay a second power bill during the build. This certainly wasn't in our budget, as we didn't realise.
#2. Budget in an extra 2 months of rent to allow for delays
When we bought the block and paid for the house plan deposits, we were told that we would be in our house by June, which was what we really wanted. We are now halfway through July and the house still has a lot of work to be finished and ready for us to move in.
#3. If you are renting, consider cheaper options to live to make building and living easier
If you are a two income household (we are a one income household) you might be able to afford to continue paying both rent and a mortgage, and could afford the mortgage repayments as they increased as the build progressed. For us the last couple of months it has been rather tight. Our weekly rent is almost equal to our weekly mortgage repayment and it isn't leaving much money for other bills and food. We wished we had of thought to sell our furniture or put into storage and possibly move into a cheaper place or look into renting a room off of someone. But while it would have made things financially a lot easier, as my health has declined over the last year I am liking having more space and privacy being sick... so if I wasn't sick we would have really considered cheaper alternatives. But you might also have parents or family that you could rent a room off cheaply too... the more money you can save will help you in the build.
#4. Really know what is and isn't included in your build
When we were looking into building the house we made sure we clearly knew what was and wasn't included included so that we could factor and budget for incidentals after the build. While we received a free kitchen upgrade it included all the appliances except for a dishwasher. Other things that weren't included in the final build were air conditioning, turf, fencing, landscaping, tiles on the front and back patio and blinds. We also needed to add in additional power points and aerial points as there is never enough included.
#5. Ensure that there is insurance on your house from the moment construction starts
One thing that was a peace of mind was that the builder had their own insurance they took out at the start of the build that covered the house for any damage during storms and the build process, or if vandals broke in and trashed the place. But knowing that there is insurance helped ease a bit of worry, as it is so much money you're putting into building a house that you want to make sure that it is protected if the worst was to happen.
#6. Ensure that your insurance is ready to kick in a couple of days before the hand over of keys
A friend told me of a story where a couple received their new keys and upon inspecting their house they noticed that their kitchen was stripped and stolen as well as other things. They had insurance but it didn't kick in until the day the keys were handed over and the builder's insurance lapsed. Such an unfortunate thing to happen and would be heartbreaking, so I have been getting quotes from insurers already to make sure the house will be covered before the keys are exchanged.
#7. When buying furniture or planning your space, take your house plan and measurements.
I excitedly went and shopped for furniture to fit out our new house, but luckily I took a copy of the house plans with me so that I knew just how big each room was and how much space I had to fill. It saved me from buying too big of a lounge.
#8. Prepare to need to upgrade somethings as the house comes with very basic versions
When we went to the bathroom showroom, we 'sampled' the toilets and bath that came with the house as a basic and realised we needed to upgrade. I felt that a chrome bowl and lid might be more economical in the long run and I wanted soft close lids to avoid being woken by the slamming and banging of the toilet in the middle of the night. The toilets were also rather low for me to bend over and empty my stoma output so I upgraded the toilet to an 'accessible height'. Russ also tried out the bath and he felt a little crammed in it, so we got a longer bath with a headrest so that he can comfortably fit in the bath and not feel cramped.
#9. Before the build starts make a inspiration board
There was about 3 or so months between when we paid our deposit to secure the house plans and when we had the appointment to choose everything for our house. Only thing was that appointment where EVERYTHING for the house got chosen was while I was 800km away in Sydney in hospital and my husband had to choose it all on his own. But what really helped him was knowing that I had been scouring pinterest for ideas of colour schemes, or searching through google images and saving pics for inspiration, and we had even found different design apps that allowed you to choose your roof type and colours, bricks or render and garage which Russ had saved on his iPad. So armed with his iPad he headed off to the colour appointment and said "this is what my wife has in mind, can you help me to choose as close as possible". But it was helpful knowing what colours I wanted beforehand.
#10. Try and allow money for turf, fencing and blinds
I mentioned earlier that turf, fencing and blinds wasn't included in our build, so we had to try and find ways to allocate the money for these. We spoke with our bank and borrowed to the capacity of what the bank would loan us. But we also sat down and worked out a priority of what needed to be paid first. For us we felt that we needed to have the turf laid when we moved in to avoid dirt being blown into the house, but that we can gradually buy the blinds as we save up over the coming months with the exception of the blinds for our bedroom and loungeroom as they were a priority. With the fencing, we received a letter/contract from the council saying that our neighbours had requested we pay half the fence and if we didn't pay in 30 days they would take us to court, so this was something we have had to pay early on to not only ensure friendly neighbour atmosphere but to avoid court costs.
#11. Consider buying giftcards to coles or woolworths for those weeks where money is tight
Before we started the build and when we had a little extra cash in the bank we decided to use this money to buy giftcards for our grocery shop for when we knew times would be tight during the build. We also knew that if we didn't plan ahead there could be times where we were struggling to find money for food. I am so glad we had these giftcards though, as it has certainly come in handy to buy groceries. I have also been extremely fortunate to have received financial assistance from Redkite this year too in the form of giftcards to coles, which has been a lifesaver. I underestimated just how tight money will get when you're a single income household and you are building a house while paying rent and bills.
#12. Go into the tiler supplying your build and play with tile orientation
One of the first things that we did after we secured our house plans was go into the tile shop that was supplying the tiles to our build and see the tiles in our range that we could choose from. Our builder had set tiles that were in their price allocation range and we could only choose from those, but if we wanted more expensive tiles we could have just would have been at our cost. We were pretty lucky that the tiles we wanted for our house were within the builders range. So we went into our local Beaumont Tiles and saw the tiles in person and got an idea of texture or gloss, but it was good to see the tiles contrasted with say the wall tiles of the bathroom. What was handy, was that Beaumont Tiles had this software that they could choose the tiles you wanted and a room layout and you could see on the screen how they would look. Best of all you could change orientation of the tiles and see what you liked better.... Once we knew the layout and orientation we liked, we then printed off the sheets and I am so glad that we did... It is 5am and I sitting here waking myself up to go and visit the tiler onsite to make sure he knows the tile orientation we want. Without those sheets or playing around with the tiles I would have had no idea... so I am glad that I did, as the tiler only called me last night after 5.30pm to arrange to meet today.
I am sure that there is more to add to this list, so I will continue to add to it and edit it as I think of new list additions. But for now, I hope these 11 tips help you if you are considering building a house.