Having purchased my tiny 520m² (621yd²) block of land for $135,000, which you can read about here. I now needed to start looking into the vast number of different builders and the house designs on offer.
Note: The same size block of land today costs about $180,000
Despite being quite reckless in my purchase of the land, I ended up taking my time when it came to deciding on the type of house to build. I figured that I would be better off trying to pay down some of the debt on the land prior to engaging a builder to build the house.
Determining the type of house
Because the block of land was quite small, it meant that I had a number of limiting factors when it came to finding the right house design to build. Other than having very limited funds, my other main concern was the very small width of the block of land, which is only 13.5 metres (44 foot).
In Australia, there are 2 main types of houses that people tend to build – Single story and double story. After doing a bit of research, I soon discovered that double story houses are substantially more expensive than single story houses (to the tune of around $60,000-$80,000). Being so much more expensive, I ruled out the potential for a double story house based solely on the extra cost.
Builders & Display homes
A really common way for people to build in Australia, is through a dedicated building company. Most of the larger building companies have display homes, which can be viewed by prospective buyers during normal business hours and weekends. Exploring these display homes really helps you get a feel for the layout of the house, as looking at a floor plan can sometimes be very confusing.
I can still remember how excited I was when we first started looking at display homes. We were like kids in a candy store. Unfortunately, we had no idea what we were supposed to be looking for and often got carried away with the furnishings, rather than the size of the rooms and the construction quality.
I’m not 100% sure, but I think we spent about 6 weekends looking at all the various display homes. Sometimes we would travel up to an hour away, just to see a particular house that we thought would fit well on the block of dirt.
By the time the 3rd weekend of looking at display villages came around, we were both so tired of looking at houses, that we started to rush through them without giving them the look over they deserved.
Things to look for
After having seen close to 150 different designs in total, we got pretty good at looking for different bits and pieces with each design and builder. Some of the common things that we were looking for in each house were:
- Price – Obviously this was a major factor
- House width – As the land was not very wide, the width ended up being our biggest concern as many homes wouldn’t fit on the block
- Inclusions – Things like Water tanks, External surface materials (Brick/Render), flooring materials (Carpet, Tiles or Wood) and Roofing materials (Tiles or Tin)
- Number of bedrooms – We wanted at least 3 bedrooms
- Bedroom size – Some of the bedrooms are very small and it’s well worth checking the measurements on the floor plan
The most important thing that we discovered when looking through the display homes, was that what you see in the display homes, is not what you actually get. What I mean is that most of the houses are decked out with some very luxurious furniture, so when you walk through the houses you can really start to picture yourself in the house and it’s easy to get carried away with how nice it looks.
Try to remember that you should be looking at the floor plan/layout and the construction quality, because all those furnishings don’t come with the house and it can really start to cloud your judgement.
The Hidden Extras
The house design that we ended up going with was called the Keswick 232 from Coral Homes.
We made some minor adjustments to the floor plan so that we had a larger ensuite/bathroom and we turned the activity room into an additional bedroom.
The base price for the house was $127,000 which I thought was a great deal. However, by the time everything was all said and done, the total cost of the house was $185,000 – a staggering $58,000 more than the base price.
So why was it so much more expensive than the original price? Well, there are a lot of things you don’t necessarily think about, things which can sometimes add up to a fair bit of money.
- Changes to the plan
- Site works
- Higher ceilings
- Render on the brickwork
- Larger tiles than the standard range that is included
- Better carpet than the standard range that is included
- Security screens
- Extra power points throughout the house
- Additional lights and light switches
- Light fittings
- Water tank
- Backyard patio
- Brick letterbox
- Grass and garden
- Overhead kitchen cupboards
- Quality doors
- Bathroom fittings
- Appliances like an Oven and Dishwasher
- Kitchen Bench tops and tiled splash backs
- Paints outside of the limited range of colours
I remember talking to my boss at work prior to looking at houses and his main piece of advice was to make sure I budget at least $30,000 more than the advertised prices. Turns out that we needed a fair bit more than that, but it is still really good advice.
Whenever I speak to someone about building a new house, I always make sure to tell them to add an extra $50,000 worth of extras, because it is always more expensive than you think it is going to be and the stock standard ranges are pretty terrible.
These are some pictures of the display home that is the same design as what we ended up selecting. Checkout all the light fittings, feature walls, large tiles, paintings, plants, clocks, lounges, lamps, blinds and other decorations all aimed at making you feel like you belong in this house – none of it is included in the base price.
Note: I’ll put photo’s in part 3 of this series so you can see the building process
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