So, you have decided that you are ready to embark on the exciting (and sometimes daunting) journey of designing and building your new custom home. These are exciting times, although there are many things that you need to consider before commencing. Information is readily available online at every turn, but how do you know what is the most important or relevant?
One of the critical things to review before selecting a custom builder, is standard inclusions. If you are not sure what you are looking at, this information can be quite overwhelming. Builders use a standard inclusions list to help them determine what your new home is going to cost. If you approach a builder and they do not have standard inclusions, be wary as it will be incredibly hard for them to accurately price your project, without a detailed idea of what the fixtures, fittings and structural components will be and therefore cost. These builders will typically offer a price per square, which is extremely generic and fraught with risk.
Structural Components & Quality of Materials
The quality of the structural components and materials that your builder opts to use is often a good indicator of the overall quality you can expect in your new home.
Site costs can often impact significantly on your budget and warrant a closer look. Check things like the maximum allowable fall of the block, the front house setback and the included run for services. For example, many builders will include a 5m front setback, however building regulations for your specific property may dictate you have a 7.9m setback, therefore you will immediately be paying for the extra distance that the electricity, water, gas, sewer and stormwater needs to travel between the street and your house.
Nowadays, many builders include an engineer designed waffle pod slab to their homes, rather than stiffened raft slabs, despite much controversy and argument among residential engineers, as to their structural adequacy on certain sites. Remember, what these builders are not including are the screw piles or concrete bored piers, which are quite often required and that can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your home.
If your builder includes a product like roof sarking as standard, chances are they are concerned about the longevity of your home. Sarking is not glamorous, but its installation will protect your home from moisture and dust and will improve the thermal performance of the dwelling.
Similarly, a builder who uses cement sheet in wet areas rather than plasterboard, obviously has quality high on their priority list and is providing a superior product, which is much stronger and resists water damage much better than standard plasterboard.
Without having an extensive background in the building industry, many future home owners only focus on the more glamourous inclusions, such as stone benchtops, high ceilings or square set plasterboard. When making such a large investment in your family’s future home, you want a solid foundation, strong structure and your home to be fitted with quality, long lasting materials.
Fixtures and Fittings
A good way to get an indication of the feel of your future custom home, is by looking at the fixtures and fittings. These are often the difference (when combined with great design) between a run of the mill house and a show stopping home.
Opt for well-known, trusted brands where possible and visit supplier websites and showrooms, before committing to selections, so you know exactly what you are choosing. Also note any generic terminology, so that you can ask questions when you meet the builder. “European appliances”, for example, could mean Miele or something that has European styling, “rendered exterior” could mean rendered Hebel or rendered foam, and “aluminium windows” could come from China or be manufactured locally. Whilst there is not necessarily a problem with any of the examples mentioned here, the point is that you need to know exactly what is used to calculate the price, so that you know you are making true comparisons when comparing builders. The more specific the documentation is that your builder gives you, the better. This eliminates ambiguity and sets the foundation for a great working relationship.
When reviewing any inclusions list, ensure you ask about flexibility. If there is something included that you want to change, you need to know if this is possible. All builders will have agreements with various suppliers, however a true custom builder will allow you to select from outside their range, and the selected items will be charged accordingly. You may end up choosing a product that is less costly than an included item, therefore find out if a credit will be applicable in this case. When you are reviewing the fixtures and fittings, keep a list of the things that are “must haves” in your new home – these may be items like stone benches, soft close cabinetry and tiled shower bases – so you can make sure that you flag these early for the most accurate quote possible.
Standard Home Designs
Some prospective home owners do not have the time to invest in a custom designed home and may opt for a pre-designed one, from the builder’s range. If you choose to go down this path and are comparing quotes, it is important to make sure that each quote includes the same items (or as close as possible), so that you are making a true comparison. A good way to do this is to set up a simple spreadsheet, listing key items that you are considering. Don’t forget things such as size, number of rooms, cost and inclusions. Another useful (and fun) idea, is to utilise online tools, such as Pinterest, to collate ideas and help determine your personal style.