- Know where you want to build: If you are building your own home, think about the area you want to live in. Close to the family? Close to work? Near schools, shops, or facilities? A compact, low maintenance site on the city fringe, a family home in the suburbs, or a rural retreat with plenty of room to move? If you are considering an investment property, look for good transport options and other infrastructure. Less popular suburbs that are located near prestige areas are potential growth hot-spots.
- Know your budget: Your budget is the key factor in what to build and where. For most people, it will be the first consideration in the decision-making process. Be sure to take the time to meet with industry professionals early in the process to help establish a realistic budget and then to make the best use of the budget you have. Poor design choices can make your home not only uncomfortable but also more expensive. An experienced builder can help you make effective decisions. They will help guide you as to where you can save a few dollars and where you absolutely should not cut corners.
- Know your block: The land you choose is crucial to your new home and your budget. Different Land Title types (generally either Torrens Title or Community Title in SA) have different requirements for service connections (electricity, water, sewer, etc). Torrens Title is the most common title type in SA and must have its own service connection points, whereas Community Title allotment will normally have shared service connections. In either case, make sure the locations of service connections are clearly identified as these may not be immediately adjacent to or accessible from your block which will mean extra costs.
Some areas have encumbrance requirements that must be adhered to. These are common in new land developments where developers may outline acceptable façade styles, materials, color pallets, plan sizes or other restrictions to maintain an overall build standard for the development. Ask the land agent if there are any encumbrances on the land, and clearly explain any associated requirements.
Easements placed over a portion of the land may limit where you can build on the block. For example, existing water, gas or other infrastructure within the property may be protected by an easement. Ensure the land agent identifies if there are any easements on the property and what implications it has for your property and your future plans. Sloping sites and poor soils can impact footing costs and build costs overall. This is important so it will be covered in the next topic.
- Know the quality of your land and build your footings right: Footings are the first part of a house that is built and are very important. The costs of your footings will depend on the type of foundation soil on your property and the slope of the land. Adelaide soils generally experience significant seasonal movement but some areas are better than others. Before you commit to buying a block, engage an engineer (if you are already speaking with a builder they will be able to help with this) to do a soil report and level survey. As well as showing the slope of your land, this will also provide indicative footing sizes which will provide enough information for a fairly accurate estimate of the footing costs. If you are talking to a number of builders make sure that the footing costs you are being given are realistic. If one builder is way more expensive or way cheaper than the others then ask why, what is included, and how accurate is their pricing.
- Know where to find a good builder: A good place to start is reputable online review websites such as productreview.com.au, where real people write about their building experiences. Reviews on Product Review are generally only from verified purchasers so you can have some assurance that they are genuine feedback rather than phony positive or negative reviews. Trade associations like Master Builders Association and HIA are another good source of referrals, and also ask your friends who have built and happy with their experience and their home.
- Know what you want: Being well prepared and knowing up-front what you want to achieve ensures the very best outcomes. Think about how long you will be living there. Three bedrooms might be fine for now but will you need something bigger soon? Visit as many display homes as you can to see what design elements work best for you (this will also give you a good look at each builder’s quality). Develop a ‘brief’ for your project which communicates to your builder exactly what you want. Start with a ‘wish list’ of features and note which of these are essentials, and which would be ideal if your budget allows. Also, take note of different builders’ standard inclusions. It might be that a builder is a little more expensive but already includes a lot of extra features as standard rather than expensive added upgrades.
- Know that it’s OK to ask questions: Find out as much as you can about what is being included in your price. Both you and your builder would rather everything is clear up-front to avoid misunderstandings down the track. If there is something you are concerned about or something that isn’t clear then feels free to ask.
Here are some important questions to ask the builder.
- Who supervises the build?
- What service is included after completion?
- Do any display homes show the standard inclusions or are there lots of high-cost upgrades shown.
- What warranties are included with the build?
- Can we make changes to the plan, and what costs are involved?
- Who can I contact if I have questions?
- Know if you are getting value for money: It is important to resist the obvious temptations of a low price. If one builder comes back with a quote that is significantly lower than the other prices, you need to be suspicious. What range of selections are included in the price? Are they quoting low to win the project and aiming to make it up later by introducing a range of extra charges for upgrades or hidden costs. When comparing quotes make sure you compare apples with apples or it could cost you more in the long run.
Don’t forget customer service as it is one area commonly overlooked when considering value for money. What price can be put on having an enjoyable building experience compared to being ‘just another build’?
- Know that communication is key: Communication is your greatest tool when building your new home. It is crucial to have a good working relationship with your builder, and their team. Maintaining open communication throughout the process of building your home is imperative to getting quality results, enjoying your building experience, and retaining your sanity. Choose a builder who is a good communicator, one who will be with you across the total journey with constant communication through each of the building phases.
If you become concerned about anything or feel that there is a problem with your build, talk to the builder as soon as possible. It’s better to get things sorted out sooner rather than later.
- Know what to expect: Once the contract is signed, any alterations to the selections or inclusions will be a variation to the contract. Ask how the builder deals with this sort of client-initiated variations and what the cost implication might be. Also ask what other variations could be expected for things like footings, provisional estimates, and items not already covered by the contract.