Welcome to the final part in my buying land and building a house series. In case you missed it, here are my earlier posts in this series:
It had been a long journey, but finally we had the house built and we were all moved in. The house was technically finished, but there was still a heap of things that needed to be completed. You see we worked out that what the builder was charging us to do some items, was a lot more than we would spend if we were to outsource the work to contractors our self.
Where we saved money
In general, builders will add a minimum of between 15%-25% on top of what it actually costs them to complete certain items on your house. Most of the time it’s just easier to accept the additional cost and move on, but in some cases it’s just as easy for you to manage the contractors yourself and save the extra money.
The fencing was an obvious one for us to complete using our own contractors. The reason for this is that it is common practice for neighbors to share the costs associated with the fencing. As both neighbors get use out of it, the costs should be split 50/50 and normally most people are OK with doing this.
The major issue that arises with some people, is that if the fence is already built before they plan on building on their land – then sometimes the neighbors are not as willing to pay for their half of the fence, seeing as you needed it prior to them ever being there.
Fortunately, we didn’t have any issues with splitting the bill 50/50 so that all worked out well.
- Builders Quote – $6,000
- We did it for – $3,500
- Saving – $2,500
Doing the driveway with our own contractors was a really big money saver. The builder wanted to charge us about $12,000 to do our driveway (including the path leading to the front door). I consulted with some friends at work and a few of them had phone numbers of people they had used before to do their own concreting and driveways. I phoned one of the guys and ended up getting the whole lot done for $7,500.
- Builders Quote – $12,000
- We did it for – $7,500
- Saving – $4,500
We did all the gardens, top soil, grass and rocks ourselves (with help from my parents and youngest brother).
I will never forget the day we laid the grass. As I sit in an office all day everyday for work, this manual labor stuff is pretty foreign to me and I really didn’t enjoy it. It rained almost the entire day and it was that time of year where it is just entering into winter time, so it was bone chilling rain.
Of course the minute that we finished, the rain ended and it was perfectly sunny. Still, it ended up looking pretty good in the end.
- Builders Quote – $3,500
- We did it for about – $1,500 (plus many hours of labour)
- Saving – $2,000
Originally I didn’t want a patio roof, but my wife convinced me that it would be a good idea so that we could get a dog. It turns out that we got the dog and then needed to race around to get a patio cover. At this point in time The Rick was an outside only dog and so he really needed somewhere a little bigger than his dog house to hide in when it rained.
Note in the photo that the dog house is gone – Ricky ate a big chunk of it and we had to bin it 🙁
I never got a quote from the builder to build a patio, as I never thought I was going to need one. So I can’t tell you the difference between the builders cost and our own, but I can tell you the difference between the various patio builders we contacted.
One of the vendors that we contacted was going to charge us $10,000 for that cover, we ended up shopping around and got a local guy to do it for about $3,000 for the exact same warranty and materials. So be sure to shop around!
Things I would do the same
The thing that worked out really well for us was to split the loan into 2 different parts. We put 70% into a standard variable loan and the remaining 30% into a fixed interest loan for 5 years. The benefit of this arrangement was that we were able to pay back heaps extra onto the variable loan without incurring any additional fees, while we had the safety of knowing that the fixed loan would not be having its interest rate increased for the next 5 years.
That’s why when you look at our loan repayment graphs there is a colossal amount replayed on the variable portion of the loan and not the fixed part. Although now that it has come out of the 5 year fixed term we are starting to really hammer into it.
At the time of getting these loans, interest rates were at 7.5% and going higher by the day. All the “experts” were saying they were going over 10%. It turns out that interest rates got to about 9.25% before retracing to about 3-4%. Unfortunately our fixed loan stayed at the higher interest rate, but I still don’t regret the decision. It was the smart thing to do when faced with such a huge amount of debt and a pretty tight budget.
We organised to put in a couple of down lights and light switches at the head of our bed. This was a great decision and I would do this for any new house that I was building, as it’s just so handy to be able to be in bed and just flick the switch without getting up.
This 1 Power point
Our electrician actually suggested that we put this power point in this particular spot, and it comes in SO handy! It is on the edge of the bench top and it’s great for cooking and vacuum cleaning. I never thought it was going to be a that good of an idea, but I love it now.
Things I would do differently
One thing I wish I did differently was get the house fitted with cat5 or cat6 data cables. I always just assumed we would use wireless throughout the house, but as our house is very long the wireless never really reaches the other end of the house very well. So we ended up paying some guys to come and fit our data cables a couple of months after the house was built.
Don’t skimp out on the lights or light switches. We really need a couple of extra lights in our living room as the ones we have in there are way too small for the size of room they are expected to illuminate.
Two way light switches are another thing I wish we did more of, they are so handy and only cost a small amount extra to install.
Two things with the gas actually.
- Make sure it is going to be turned on when you move in. Our builder forgot to tell us when we needed to organise the gas to the house, therefore when we moved in we had no gas for our hot water heater and we had to migrate to my in-laws house every night just to have a shower.
- Make sure the gas is connected into the kitchen. All of our kitchen appliances run on electricity, despite the house being connected to the town gas supply. I really like to cook with gas, so this actually bothers me quite a bit, but not enough to go out and get it retrofitted now that the house is complete.
Finally, I happened to come across this old photo of Ricky when he was a puppy while I was searching through all the house pictures I took.
I will leave you on that note, I hope you enjoyed the series and that you have a better understanding of building a house from the land up.
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