We’ve all heard it before, the story about that one person who has built a house and had it all fall into a hole. A person that has sworn off building ever again and is likely to move because they still don’t like their house and would tell you no matter what DON’T BUILD!
Well I’m here to say poo-y to you bucko!
OK So I don’t actually talk like that and yes building can be hard and involves a lot of decisions that you might not just be ready for. But it is worth it. Oh it is definitely worth it.
All you have to do is look around you to see that sometimes (and I really mean sometimes) it is cheaper to build than it is to buy an established home. Also why be restricted in what renovations you can or can’t do to a house that’s been there 50 years and has already had five makeovers.
What does astound me (especially as I watch an awful lot of those renovation shows on tv!!) is when people buy an established home and gut it. I mean rip it right back to it’s bare bones. I’m talking ripping out the plumbing, the electrics, all of it. I can understand to a certain extent of course, especially if it saves you money or if you liked certain older features of the home that you plan on keeping. But when people gut a house and make it something completely different, totally opposite to what it was before, all I can think is ‘Why didn’t you bulldoze the lot and start from scratch?’
Because you know what, building doesn’t have to be scary.
Now that I am going through the process again, as I type in fact, I think of all the things I learnt first time round. It really is one of those experiences that you have to do at least once to get the gist of it, much like planning a wedding. You’re a complete novice at the start but come that big day, by damn if you’re not a Wedding Planning Machine!! Which when it comes to planning weddings is a bit of a waste, but with building? Nuh-uh!
I can tell you it will all come in very handy when you venture down this track again, which I can almost guarantee you it will. Building is addictive. Well to me it is anyway haha. But as I sat here looking at the electrical plan on our build I started to think about all the things that I now think are blatantly obvious, but well they mustn’t have been, as I didn’t damn well know to do them the first time round!
Hence why I am here, writing this to you now. I wanted to save you from saying ‘Oh I wish we’d know about that’ or ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me that?’ I am here to be your First Build Fairy Godmother! Now I don’t claim to know it all…. but I am claiming I will help you with things I swear you hadn’t even thought about.
So let’s not beat around the bush, let’s get into it!
Here are my 9 Tried & Tested Tips for Building your First Home
- What You See is NOT What You Get
This is the first and biggest lesson in building and for the purposes of this article I’m not referring to building with an architect and designing your own home from scratch. I’m talking about selecting a plan with a big Home & Land Package group or the likes of.Annoyingly this is not made blatantly obvious to people as they shop display homes (oh and if you ever want a buddy for display house shopping I am your girl! I love it! I could do it every weekend for FUN!) Yes they say the house plan you like is selling for $XXX but what they often don’t tell you is how much extra it will cost to remove that wall, or put a door on that room, or even have the flooring and kitchen you’re looking at. The key word here was Plan and plans come in Basic and Upgraded and I can tell you the basic is pretty darn basic. I will say that first home companies have gotten a lot better at inclusions now than when I last built, purely to stay competitive, so you could get some good deals out there but don’t let that confuse you. Now I could go on and on about this topic but I’ll keep it simple for you, when you look at a display house most of what you see is NOT included in the price. So always ask ‘How much for this plan AS IS“. Even that won’t guarantee you a straight answer. Just be prepared.
- Build to Your Likes, But Also to the Guy Next Door’s
I bet you’re asking what I mean by this. Well simply put you are building your first house….. your FIRST house. This means at some point in the future, whether it be in 2 years or ten, you will likely find yourself trying to sell it. This means someone other than you has to like at least the basic layout. Yes they could gut the kitchen and knock down walls, but most buyers in the market are looking for something fairly move in ready. This means that just because you don’t like theatre rooms and don’t use an office doesn’t mean you should scratch them off your plan entirely. Instead look at the plans as usable spaces.OK So you don’t want an office, is the space big enough to use as another guest bedroom or even a nursery? Don’t like theatre rooms but maybe you like entertaining a lot. Why not use it as a formal dining area for your parties but still have it functionally laid out as a theater room. Thinking like this could save you an awful lot of hassle and heartache down the track.
We thought like this in our first build and it paid off big time! We had an open formal living area on our plans and had no need for it, so we walled it off, added a door and it became whatever the hell you wanted it to be. We used it as an office, but the people who live there now? They use it as a second lounge/play room for their kids. Say it with me now, Usability!
- Plans Are Interchangeable! Just Ask!
This is one of those things that surprised the hell out of me and I’m not just referring to switching and swapping parts of house plans from the same company.
One day while perusing display houses, you know for fun, my husband and I stumbled across this magnificent house. Well to be honest with you the rest of the house was rubbish…. but the master bedroom/walk in robe and ensuite?! Oh it was what dreams are made of! I do believe I said something a long the lines of ‘Now if you could pick this up and plunk it down in our new house I would!’Turns out the estate agent was listening and he informed me that he could certainly do that. It happens to be that that master bedroom/walk in robe and ensuite plan was their top seller… not the house plans, no. JUST that set of rooms. Apparently people said that all the time, so they let you buy the plans for those 3 rooms as is and give them to your builder to incorporate into your other house plans. Pretty spectacular if you ask me. So the lesson is. Never presume the plans you have in front of you can’t be adapted. You are in essence, starting from scratch so you could potentially do anything you wanted. It’s just a matter of asking.
- Think About How You’ll Live In The Space
This is something that surprisingly few people do it seems. The more and more people I talk to the more I find that people imagine themselves living in the house but not the actually specifics of living. I mean where will you put the TV? A simple question as most co-axle cables are marked already on house plans even though you can move it to where ever you like. But will the TV have glare on it from the beautiful windows you’ve made bigger opposite? How cold is it where you plan on building. Do you have a gas outlet on the plans or an area for a fireplace to be installed? How humid or hot does it get in your area and will you have enough windows on the right sides of the house to create cross-ventilation?None of these things are really discussed with your builder, they won’t sit down and ask ‘What will you use for heating?’. You are expected to know already or be prepared to ask them, but how could you know if you haven’t encountered the situation before. So take the time to really analyse the house you’ve chosen and decide on how things will be laid out. I can give you a prime example of how we’ve gone through this just recently. We have (since living in the rental we are currently in) decided to mount the TV on the wall in the new house, so we’ve moved the co-axle cable to 1750mm off the ground, that way no unsightly cables will be hanging in the way! Something as simple as moving a plug a few feet up the wall will completely change the look of my living room.
- Upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade
Most fixtures in a home that come standard are the most basic you can find. Don’t just think about bench tops and the likes, I’m talking about everything! All the little details such as what shape sink is in your bathroom; is it round, oval or square? Only one is standard and there is sometimes a charge to ‘upgrade’ to a different shape. So keep this in mind when budgeting for your new home. However in the case of upgrading fixtures? I highly recommend doing so if you can afford it. Again don’t just think about how you’ll use the home now, think about it’s resale-ability. Nicer tap ware, large format tiles with a pretty feature tile in the bathrooms, mixers in the kitchen sink, bigger under mounted basins in the kitchen, a big range hood or even upgrading from 600mm oven to a 900mm! These are all things you can upgrade and throw money at, but always try to be sensible and choose things that you’ll genuinely enjoy.
- There Is No Such Thing As Too Many Power Points!
And I am not kidding. You could go absolutely nuts and put another power point in every corner of your house and it probably still wouldn’t be enough! OK so maybe not quite that many… but you get the point. A standard home plan will see probably ONE double power point in each room. With our ‘plugged in’ lifestyles these days that is no where near enough. Again try and imagine how you would use the spaces, where will the toaster and kettle sit in the kitchen? Add in an extra power point there. Where will your computer be connected? What about guest rooms or kids bedrooms? Will they have TV’s in their rooms and laptops? How many table lamps are you likely to use?All of these are considerations you really should take the time to think about. There is nothing worse than moving into your brand new house all excited and start to place furniture, when you suddenly realize that where you want to put your TV and sound system is no where near the power points and you don’t have nearly enough anyway! Generally extra double power points will set you back about $100 each, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing. So have at it! Get those power points in!
- Don’t Forget Outside Either
Since we’re on the topic of power points don’t forget outside either. A standard plan comes with only ONE outdoor double power point and it’s usually on your alfresco area. Handy? Yes. Do you need more? The general answer is YES.I don’t know many people who don’t eventually want to do more things outside once they own their own home. Think about lighting at night. Will you want a flood light over your driveway or garden? Then it’s likely you will need more. What about hanging Christmas lights? Often there is no extra power point at the front of the exterior, so go ahead and whack another one in there. Or if you’re like me and you’re living in the country where you’ll supply your own water off your roof, you’ll need a water pump to move it in and out of your water tank with pressure, these are also electric.
On the topic of water don’t forget taps. Again you only normally get one at the back of the house, so if you’re thinking of having pot plants or a garden at the front it is normally worthwhile to add in another. The great thing is that these are all minor costs that can be worked into your mortgage, so plan ahead and ensure you have enough to get what you need.
- You Need Squishy Carpet
If you’re like me and love hardwood floors but find nothing can compete with that lovely, warm, squishy, snugly carpet feeling under your feet when you roll out of bed in the morning, then I highly suggest paying the little bit extra and getting the gold level underlay under your carpets when they’re installed. No carpets? No worries. But if you’ve got em, you definitely need this stuff. It is so much softer and hard wearing, so it won’t always show your walk areas and the wear and tear down the track. It’s a small thing guys, but it makes a big difference!On the topic of carpets,I recommend you really do your research and always talk to a professional like the guys at Trevors Carpets. These guys honest to goodness know their stuff and can really guide you down the right track when it comes to your flooring selection.
- Last But Not Least…. Don’t Forget The Little Stuff
OK So it’s not about drawing up plans or lining up power points or colour selections. It’s the little things that make a home feel finished that a lot of people, particularly first home owners, forget about. We’re talking light fixtures people and all the other little things you don’t think about.You will have bare bulbs in your newly built home so take the time and budget for the little things like light fixtures. OK so they may not be the things that people really notice, but nothing makes a dining room like a beautiful pendant light hanging over your table. It can make your house feel like a ‘home’. So can a length of lawn in the backyard or a letter box with your house numbers out the front. It’s all the little things that get forgotten that can really make you feel like you’re home, so take the time and budget! Know your numbers, know what you can spend, allocate it correctly and you will have the home you were dreaming of.
Well that’s it folks, my 9 tried and tested tips for building your first home. I really do recommend it, don’t let it get the better of you and let it make you think that it’s all too hard. Do a bit of research, take your time looking around and pick the best house/plan/layout/deal you can find and don’t settle. I honestly love building and would happily build a few little rentals or flips, we’re just not quite in that position just yet.
Maybe I should just settle down and finish this house first huh? haha
So what are your thoughts? What are your tried and tested building tips for first home builders or owners in general? Or are you a first time builder? What did you think?