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Topic # 151045 12-Aug-2014 08:51
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Hi Folks.

My wife and I are looking in to the idea of building our own house. Admittedly this won't be for a few years, but I think the sooner we get started on researching what we need to do, the better.

I would like some feedback from people who have built their own homes. Things like:

 

  • did you choose a home builder and premade plan from places like Stonewood, Golden Homes etc or did you get an architect in and designed something especially for you? If you did, how did you find their service, flexibility etc?
  • What were the biggest hurdles you faced in the design/build of the house and how did you overcome them?
  • How close were you to your budget? If you were over, how did this happen and how did you fix it? If under, what did you do to keep costs under budget?
  • I'm wanting to ensure that the house is 'future proof' (for want of a better phrase) and energy efficient. How did you choose the materials, heating source, and technology that went into the house build e.g. Ethernet ports, centralised media cabinet, etc
  • Solar panels? I've read lots about them and many different opinions on whether they are worthwhile. Your thoughts?


I'm sure I have a lot of other questions that I could add here, but work keeps distracting me laughing so will leave it to just that.

Thanks in advance.

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  Reply # 1106865 12-Aug-2014 09:19
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Make sure all council paperwork etc is in order.... had family that built new house, and after it was all finished, had the council turn up asking for a small fortune because some paperwork had been overlooked somewhere.....  I dont think anyone comes in "under budget" when it comes to building, theres always something that costs more than you originally think ;)






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  Reply # 1106868 12-Aug-2014 09:22
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The smartest thing I've seen in a new house (and I've seen a lot) was drains in the floor in wet areas. Bathroom, laundry, and perhaps kitchen.

The drain means if someone floods the bath, your washing machine springs a leak, or someone kicks over a bucket of water, the water drains rather than running to and soaking into your carpet.


Future proofing is IMO a false economy. Often (usually) what you install turns out to be unsuitable for the future application. Don't bother with the latest expensive stuff unless you have, or foresee, a genuine use for it.




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  Reply # 1106909 12-Aug-2014 10:26
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andrewNZ: The smartest thing I've seen in a new house (and I've seen a lot) was drains in the floor in wet areas. Bathroom, laundry, and perhaps kitchen.

The drain means if someone floods the bath, your washing machine springs a leak, or someone kicks over a bucket of water, the water drains rather than running to and soaking into your carpet.


Future proofing is IMO a false economy. Often (usually) what you install turns out to be unsuitable for the future application. Don't bother with the latest expensive stuff unless you have, or foresee, a genuine use for it.


but on that note, running conduit for future cables in rooms you don't need the cables to be 'yet' is ALWAYS a good and cheap idea.

Drains for wet areas - I thought I'd invented this idea :) definitely a good plan, and has save my wallet twice already in the last 7 years, once when the washing machine developed a slow leak that we only picked up a year later (was calmly draining away though the provided drain behind it) and once for the Dishwasher which split its drain hose and would have made MUCH more mess of our MDF kitchen kickboards if it hadn't been able to drain (most) away straight away...


Solar is only really effective if you are selling back to the grid, and GZ opinions seem to be that this will be less and less effective as more people join the system. also, you have no guarantees on the prices over a longer term.... see the watts and warts thread for details of someone doing this.

We are 'about to' build (have to sell the current house first) with Golden Homes after an exhaustive search though the local package builders (Franklin District), mainly because of budget and my wife is terrified for us to project manage our own build.

Leave at least 10% of your budget for 'overruns'

Find out about projected 'development' costs that the council/watercare/vector etc. will charge you for daring to build in their area.

DO NOT skimp on plug points - most package builders only allocate for 2 per room (ridiculously!)

Make sure you buy a plot that allows a North Facing build... it makes a significant difference in daily living comfort levels.

Insulation is always a good investment here, if you can afford it, upgrade your R rating by at least one level from the minimum, and ensure all aluminium joinery is 'thermally broken'


All the rest seems mostly about what suits us for our situation, and what we want/can afford to have... good luck in your journey, and feel free to PM me if you have anything specific you'd like to ask/discuss :)


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  Reply # 1106910 12-Aug-2014 10:35
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The most important factor on whether or not you should go with a group house building is your site. Often they will only build on a flat site as they have pricing structure packages that only allow for a concrete slab that is completely flat with no steps in it. This reduces cost to you but limits you for the site that you can have and a group house builder may only have a selection of 20 designs (with minor variations allowed) but can't cope with change beyond them.

Someone like golden homes have a good selection of designs and can give you a great fixed price - but you have to stick to their plans which are bulk priced. 

If the site you choose is sloped then you need to make a decision as to how much you want to spend per square metre and how big you can go.

Again the site is the most important factor because you may have limitations on day lighting, require existing neighbours permission, need a right of way processed etc.

So choose your site first. If you are able - get a flat one. If that is very unlikely - whether to go with a draftsman, architectural designer or registered architect will depend entirely on your budget and your aspirations - AFTER you pick a site.

Good luck.

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  Reply # 1106919 12-Aug-2014 10:45
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gazbo: The most important factor on whether or not you should go with a group house building is your site. Often they will only build on a flat site as they have pricing structure packages that only allow for a concrete slab that is completely flat with no steps in it. This reduces cost to you but limits you for the site that you can have and a group house builder may only have a selection of 20 designs (with minor variations allowed) but can't cope with change beyond them.

Someone like golden homes have a good selection of designs and can give you a great fixed price - but you have to stick to their plans which are bulk priced. 

If the site you choose is sloped then you need to make a decision as to how much you want to spend per square metre and how big you can go.

Again the site is the most important factor because you may have limitations on day lighting, require existing neighbours permission, need a right of way processed etc.

So choose your site first. If you are able - get a flat one. If that is very unlikely - whether to go with a draftsman, architectural designer or registered architect will depend entirely on your budget and your aspirations - AFTER you pick a site.

Good luck.


Interestingly, Golden Homes in Franklin will be levelling the 3m slope of our site first (+/- $8K) but yes, their plan prices are based on AFTER the site is flat.

HOWEVER, the limited variation from premade plan is not really correct as we started with a set plan and have changed it to now be TOTALY unrecogniseable from the original, with different sized rooms, differently placed bathrooms, and a whole extra room added off to the side.... not just internal wall rearangements, and Gary at Franklin Golden Homes has continually tweaked and changed our plan without regard to the original (which apparently isn't even actually a 'full' plan but rather a design idea, until the customer finalises their concept, and THEN the 'plans' are drawn and 'detailed costings are made).

He also notes that lineal outside measurements are a more accurate indication of cost than internal m2...

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  Reply # 1106937 12-Aug-2014 11:00
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HOWEVER, the limited variation from premade plan is not really correct as we started with a set plan and have changed it to now be TOTALY unrecogniseable from the original, with different sized rooms, differently placed bathrooms, and a whole extra room added off to the side.... not just internal wall rearangements, and Gary at Franklin Golden Homes has continually tweaked and changed our plan without regard to the original (which apparently isn't even actually a 'full' plan but rather a design idea, until the customer finalises their concept, and THEN the 'plans' are drawn and 'detailed costings are made).

He also notes that lineal outside measurements are a more accurate indication of cost than internal m2...


I seem to be suffering that time dilation affect that comes with age. It didn't seem that long ago when I explored that option with Golden Homes and couldn't use them but on reflection it was over 7 years ago! Apologies for the misinformation.

That is great news - too late for me but good for you and the OP. At that time Golden would not allow any variations to their plans and could tell you the full price up front. Back then their cheapest homes were as low as $600/m2 and were brick and tile, 13mm gib and satin chrome door hardware and kitchen and laundry splashbacks etc. They were definitely not using cheap materials and I was gutted because the chance of me finding a flat site in Auckland that I could afford at the time had me looking at dairy flat - which I liked but the missus wouldn't agree.

At that time they would build a 260m2 steel framed 4 bedroom single level brick and tile with double garage for $202,000 all up. Power and water to site were included up to a set sum only in case the house was hundreds of metres from the road and there was a limitation on driveway length for the same reason. I could find nothing even close to competing with that price and regret not building one at dairy flat.

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  Reply # 1106952 12-Aug-2014 11:19
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andrewNZ: The smartest thing I've seen in a new house (and I've seen a lot) was drains in the floor in wet areas. Bathroom, laundry, and perhaps kitchen.

The drain means if someone floods the bath, your washing machine springs a leak, or someone kicks over a bucket of water, the water drains rather than running to and soaking into your carpet.


I've also got one in the hot water cupboard. laughing




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  Reply # 1107017 12-Aug-2014 12:42
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Our first few builds we went with a "package" company.  They were good but can be limiting.  The last couple we found an independent builder who project managed for us, this gave us a lot more scope to be involved in the build and to make decisions not limited to what the "package" allowed.  Price difference was inconsequential really, although some clever shopping can see you get more for your money if you have an independent builder.  Either way do your research, ask prior clients, look at examples of their work.

 

     

  1. Be involved.  Get on site every day.  If you don't like something address it promptly
  2. Always allow more time and money than expected.  Remembering the house is not the end of it, you will have fences, driveways, landscaping etc...it all adds up to a pretty penny.  Allow for this in your budget.
  3. Buy the best you can afford of everything.  Never regretted buying quality, and it may end up being cheaper in the long run if you intend to stay.
  4. Think about how you want to live in the property and design accordingly.  No point having the master bedroom next to the garage if you like working on engines and the other half is a shift worker and needs sleep.  
  5. The design of the house will depend a lot on the section.  North facing, outdoor areas, garaging etc.  
  6. You can never have enough storage or power points!!!!

 

Plan, plan, and then plan some more.  It can be stressful, but it's exciting and can be hugely rewarding.


 




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  Reply # 1107041 12-Aug-2014 13:31
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We built our place 12 years ago.
Things we've never regretted:
Attic storage in the ceiling space - doesn't cost much more, get the right ceiling trusses, a bit of chipboard flooring and a decent attic ladder = tons of storage space
Noise control Gib (we were in the Gib living solutions magazine 10 years back). We used it to divide the living areas from the sleeping areas, its great, we could party while the kids slept.
More power points. It is very difficult to have too many power points.
Prewiring for AV gear - TV/Sky aerial cabling to useful points, surround speakers, cabling for external speakers over the deck

Things we've regretted:
Not having noise control between floors - two storey house, sounds travels between our bedroom upstairs, and the rooms below (not terribly, but noticeable).
Cheap recessed downlights. We didn't select them, the sparkie did, probably on price. See other threads on the joys of downlights, and add that these ones are too narrow for most CFL bulbs to fit.
No double-glazing - it wasn't spec back then, and was considerably dearer, but if I was doing it again, I'd double glaze everything.

Things to watch for:
Do NOT pay for anything that you haven't personally confirmed is installed and up to spec. Our building company went titsup five minutes before the house was finished, luckily there was nothing major outstanding, but they had convinced our lawyer that they had completed everything when they hadn't.
Keep an eye on your lawyer - ours took on a new client halfway through our build that happened to be our builder. See above. Shortly after signing off on the final payment cheque on our behalf, he decided to quit law and become a property developer.
Keep track of what has been installed, and make sure the builder pays the suppliers. A colleague is in the middle of a build, their builder has gone broke, their kitchen supplier wants to come and remove the installed kitchen as he hasn't been paid for it. Eight years after moving in, our alarm system developed a fault, when we called the number on the box, the guy at the other end remembered our house and that he'd never been paid for the install - awkward!


If you're going to take shortcuts or cut costs, do it on the stuff you can fix up or add or replace later - get cheap appliances so you can afford better insulation you can replace a dishwasher in 5 years or so, adding wall insulation is a major. Get cheap carpet rather than cheap windows - carpet last 10-15 years, windows are more-or-less forever. Painting is easy to do yourself, adding extra power points is a hassle.

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  Reply # 1107042 12-Aug-2014 13:33
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Get an architect to at least come up with a concept plan. That is if you want to live in somewhere special. Otherwise if you just want a paint by numbers house, go to a building company. But they are not usually designers, and they are built to a budget. Also they often aren't that happy for you to supply your own fittings and appliances, so you may end up with lower spec stuff or stuff you wouldn't chose yourself.  The inital planning and layout, and overall look of the house is the most important thing, and you want to get that right, and it is cheap at that stage to change things. You probably want a 3d walkthough and model so you can see exactly what you get before it is built. To change things during the build will work out a lot more.

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  Reply # 1107313 12-Aug-2014 21:51
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we are currently building with classic builders, they have been good so far. significantly modified the plan with no issues at all.  You WILL overspend on quoted tile and carpet allowances. stay away from base white shower and bathroom tiles and  stuff...just looks cheap.
things you can go cheap on...
tapwear and door hardwear. honestly a $100 tap mixer looks not much differnt to a $600 one.

up spec your insulation to the max your walls will take. we up specced ours to r2.8 wall and r3.6 ceiling...what it cost in extra insulation we saved by being able to use a smaller heatpump system (ducted). make sure you garage ceiling is insulated too.

spec your garage roof trusses to attic spec trusses for storage.
as others have said, your landscaping/fencing/ tv aerial are usually extras.

we had a budget in mind so got a build price $20k less than that, this has allowed us to upspec tiles/carpet, kitchen appliances, Bath size(most new houses have pathetic small baths)

oh and the section is the most important thing. never underestimate the cost of things like retaining walls. even try to get a reatining quote estimate for sites you are looking at... a section might be 10k cheaper but need 15K in retaining for the house

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  Reply # 1107331 12-Aug-2014 22:36
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While we didn't get a complete house built, we did additions that pretty much doubled the size of the house. A valuable aid to me was a 3D home design software package. It included the ability to do a 3D walkthrough and allowed my wife particularly to see how things would work and look. We made configuration changes because of it that would have been very expensive during the build. It means you can go to builders with a concept you can be confident will suit your needs and give them something to estimate on rather than their standard plan with ill defined alterations.
The software, the name of which escapes me at the moment, cost about $150. But considering what it saved in the long run it was well spent.




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  Reply # 1107367 12-Aug-2014 23:09
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BlueShift: Things to watch for:
Do NOT pay for anything that you haven't personally confirmed is installed and up to spec. Our building company went titsup five minutes before the house was finished, luckily there was nothing major outstanding, but they had convinced our lawyer that they had completed everything when they hadn't.
Keep an eye on your lawyer - ours took on a new client halfway through our build that happened to be our builder. See above. Shortly after signing off on the final payment cheque on our behalf, he decided to quit law and become a property developer.
Keep track of what has been installed, and make sure the builder pays the suppliers. A colleague is in the middle of a build, their builder has gone broke, their kitchen supplier wants to come and remove the installed kitchen as he hasn't been paid for it. Eight years after moving in, our alarm system developed a fault, when we called the number on the box, the guy at the other end remembered our house and that he'd never been paid for the install - awkward!


This. At the end of the day it's the golden rule - if you've still got the gold you rule. It's much easier to get things resolved before you pay for them. Also spend the time and money to learn what your contract says, and what this means.

It's also worth getting a working knowledge of the Construction Contracts Act which is very powerful and quite misunderstood, especially around claims and ownership of product which has been installed. Basically the kitchen guy above is screwed as the kitchen has been installed - he can't legally remove it, which if you didn't understand the act you wouldn't be aware of.

Also as scuwp has said if you're not happy with something flag it early and sort it out. If you do things early in the process it's reasonably easy and cheap to fix. Later in the process, not so much. Equally if you aren't happy with work that has been done, don't pay, or short pay the progress claim until the problem is fixed. Just make sure you do it within the act and provide reasons in writing and you will find problems get resolved much faster.

Another very common process in commercial builds is retention payments. Basically the final 5-10% of the project price is withheld for 12 months after practical completion. It ensures that problems get resolved and contractors come back. It doesn't get enforced much in residential builds but it can be very useful.

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  Reply # 1107376 13-Aug-2014 00:04
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Well....

1. Have weekly site meetings with your project manager.  Keep a track of everything and send out meeting notes.  We left them to it at the start and nothing got done.  This also saved us from a number of cost increases.
2. Tie down as many costs as you can before you start.  Building companies hate this and because ours took so damn long it really cost them.
3. Being a GZr you're going to go over on your electrical (standard quotes are pretty woeful).  We probably doubled ours - we sourced our own led downlights and the rest of the lights too.  I did the media/network cabling myself (double cat6 everywhere except lounge/studies which got more).
3. We went thermal broken glazing, upped the insulation, slab insulation and put in solar hot water (although have since read it may not pay).  I insulated the garage myself using batts bought from trademe.
4. Don't pick a company that goes bust!  No idea how you know, ours was a smallish company that had been in business for 12 years but it turns out their project management was poor.
5. We painted ourselves.  We bought an airless sprayer.  It was more prep and the clean up is a pain but it was ridiculously fast - 1 coat of all ceilings done in less than 2 hours.

Things wouldn't do -
* many power points in pantry.  Kettle/toaster and bread maker were to go in there but they generate heat and moisture... 
* be more picky about light switch placement.  some are inside small rooms and some are outside.

'bout all I can think of right now...



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  Reply # 1107451 13-Aug-2014 08:49
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Wow! Thanks everyone for the advice. So much information to go through and digest. Having made a very general list of what we want in a house, we are going to step through a room at a time and determine what we need/want in it. 
Dingbat, do you have any idea what the name of that home design package was? My wife is keen to get something like that so we can actually visualise what the house layout would look like. It's just not the same when you are looking at a sketch drawn poorly on a piece of graph paper especially when my drawing skills are so bad smile

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