Sunday, October 25, 2009

Contracts Signed Today

We now have a worst case finish date.  Things are looking good.  The contract states that the builders have 35 days to organise a building permit and then they must start within 21 day of receipt of the permit.  Then the contract has a build time of 330 days.  Therefore at worst by mid November next year we will either be receiving the huge sum of $300 a week or we will be in our new house.

Next step, colour selection.  To make things easier for us to visualise I have been playing with Google Sketchup.  We are settled on everything for the facade as per the display except because we want colorbond roof and we don't like the red we are torn between colours.  I'll put together some images of these later.  Here's how my model looks at the moment though.

I even spent some time puting some furniture together for inside so that we can match some of our current colour schemes to ones that we choose.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Trees are back but it's a good thing

Received the final contract and plans today. All of the agreed changes appear to have been included on a quick first pass.

The funny thing though is the imaginary "tall tree" in the front yard of our neighbours has disappeared from our plans. This is excellent and to top it of the draftee (whom I've had no complaints with throughout the whole process) has even copied my tree locations, tree heights and the radius of influence according to AS2870 onto the plans.

This is great because the builder needs to sign these plans and by doing so they are fully agreeing to my assessment of the trees.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Contract done demo oh oh....

I got the contract amendments off this morning. Got a phone call that they were all ok in the arvo. I should have asked for more. Apparently the contract will now be amended and sent to the sales man and then we will get it via courier. Possibly signing this weekend.

Alright, now seems like a good time to organize demolition....

I called the company that gave us the best quote and got. "There is no way we could get it done before Christmas....." My heart dropped and I suddenly thought that al of this mucking around getting this right was in vaine because we'd neglected our demolition.

I quickly organized two more quotes and rang the second best priced people. I can now breath again we may still be able to get it done in three to five weeks. Whoohoo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Contract negotiations

Well, my ear is about to fall off and my blood pressure will return to normal next week, but we appear to be moving forward. The sticking point was still liquidated damages (LDs) and the build time but most other items can be sorted.

PDs went up to $300 but build time is still 330 days. All of the items can be sorted with amendments and we can move on from there. Unfortanately all of this had to be done through multiple phone calls and complete refusal to speak directly to the person who makes the final decision.

The extra $11k was another big issue that arrised from the 30 metre tree that doesn't exist. This can hopefully be sorted with some more srict contract terms which I will now have to go home and write. We'd better do one last review of everything as this is probably our last chance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Contracts.... But.

We finally got the contract on Friday. Only three months after we were expecting them. Unfortunately the contract contains a few areas that make me a little uncomfortable.
- liquidated damages less than HIA standard at $200 per week rather than $250. Which is already very low.
- construction period of 330 days combined with liquidated damages so low there is no incentive for the builder at all.
- and then the big one. $11300 of extra site costs. We have receved 5 previous versions of this pricing all with mistakes and items missing. Never has this cost appeared untilthe last one. Me thinks something sneaky. They have been nice and added a clause about site cost being subject to a review but why only le us know now.....

We'll letyou know how we go.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Contracts tomorrow?

I got a call from our salesman today. Final contracts are in the mail and wecan meet on Friday to sign and pay 5% deposit. Unfortunately the amount for the deposit does not tally with 5% of what I though was the final price.

Apparently the poor person who was finalizing everything for us is in hospital and they had to piece things together. "It is all right though, we've been through it in detail." So we are now looking forward to a long Friday night to make sure everything is right.

Here comes th RED pen.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Where to put the water tank?

I had a call from the sales guy yesterday regarding where to put the water tank. Apparently the draftee was concerned about having the tank too close to the foundations. This got me thinking.

Ideally as the block slopes down toward the back and to the north I would prefer to have the tank at the lowest point. Unfortunately there is an easement at the back and I didn't want to be too close to that. I did a quick google to see I anyone else had had a similar experience with an underground tank but had no luck.

I the called the engineering department at the local council and was put through to the easement expert. Unfortunately he didn't know too much but he did end up getting back to me andsaid that there was really no guidance for excavating into the easement. He even called me back again to say that the only litation I have is that I should try stay at least 1.5m away from the back fence.

Now the easement is 8 feet (2.4m it was set up in 1950) wide so to be safe I will put the tank 2.5m from the back fence and 1.5m from the side fence.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhones

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blogging on the run

This is a test of blogging from my iPhone. I thought that I would see if this works OK and then I may not need to steel the laptop off her indoors.

I had a call from the sales guy today and supposedly we'll have the contract this afternoon. I will believe it when I see it.

We've spent the last few days trying to organize service abolishment before demolition and sorting out things for the water tank. I've even been playing with sketchup a little more to help with colour selections I'll post some images and models when I get a chance. I may need to borrow the laptop for that.

Called Tru energy which was the supplier for our gas and power stated on the section 32. They were very helpful and immediately emailed the forms to arrange for abolishment of gas and electricity.

I wasn't sure if I had to organize removal of telstra and Optus cables becAuse these weren't mentioned on any of the demolition quotes that we had received. I thought that it was better to be safe than sorry so I called Optus as I had a vague recollection of an optus box and a cable coming into the old house. After about 5 minutes on the phone I was told that a contractor will be out next Thursday. Very handy and convenient. Then I tried Telstra....

This was an entirely different story. After being put on hold several times I was given the number of a contractor to call. I then went through a convoluted menu system that seemed constantly tell me to call other numbers. I finally got to a person who guess what... Told me to call another number. Finally after a similar "phone someone else" menu system I spoke to someone who asked every question you could think of. I was getting a little concerned however because all the way through this third degree I was never asked the address of the place requiring the service removal. Finally after about 20 minutes I was given a receipt number and told to give this number when things don't happen. An interesting experience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pestering might pay off...

They are now calling me.  I have received probably 5 phone calls from the builder in the last two days,  all to make sure everything was being corrected entered.  I think the talking to about my disappointment with their time frames is actually working.

We have now received a corrected spec and are just waiting for the drawings and the pricing to be finished.  This should be happening in the next couple of days.  We may be getting close to contracts??

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Only 33 lines wrong out of 700

We received our spec, not our contract yet, and only 33 line items were wrong.  Some were as minor as spelling mistakes, however some items were just not specified, others were the wrong item.  To the right is a screen capture of the changes we have made, the yellow rows are rows where we have changed the info.

Unfortunately every time we ask for say 3 changes, two of them get done and the third is ignored.

Hopefully with a sit down with the salesman this arvo we can get a better outcome?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

End of this week has gone contract

Well another week has gone by and another promise has not been kept.  We were supposed to get our finalised contract on Saturday, however there wasn't a sign from the builder.  We'll have to give them another reminder call.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


OK so I thought that it might cost a bit to get a 10,000 Litre underground water tank installed but when the builder came back with more than double what I had thought it would cost, I was glad the sales guy prefaced the email with "I hope you are sitting down."

It looks like this will have to be yet another thing that we will have to organise ourselves.  The list is starting to get reasonably long:
  • Accurately Measuring a Tree
  • Designing a Kitchen
  • Demolition
  • Abolishment of Services
  • Borrow curtains from existing house
  • Temporary Fencing during demolition
  • Levels for council flood height determination
  • Underground Water Tank
  • Stove
  • Oven
  • Range Hood
  • Driveway
  • Curtains
  • Landscaping
  • Fencing
  • Clothesline
  • Fly Screens
  • Oh yeah and building a cubby
Oh well time to show our real project management skills, her indoors will have to dust off her Microsoft Project skills, last used to plan our wedding.

We at least now have a promise of a contract by the end of the week.  Next step negotiation and finance....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Final Pricing

Sorry about the lack of information for the last three weeks.  We have been in negotiation on the Final Pricing.  On 5 September we received an email, that had been promised two weeks earlier.  This contained a spreadsheet with our "final pricing."  How it could be final when it included a lot of questions that we needed to answer I do not know.  There were questions that had been included in our specification documents, and there were new things that we didn't think that we needed to specify.

After a day of review and the creation of two pages of questions and answers to their questions we sent off a response.  I phoned the sales guy the next day to ensure that he got, and as usual I got voice mail.  I thought I would also call the builder to ensure that they had the documentation.  I got their email address and sent the info on.

After plenty more promises of when it would be received we finally got the "revised final pricing" yesterday.  There were still more questions and more things that appeared to be missing.  There was also very loose specifications in the document that could have been very difficult to interpret.

We spent most of yesterday getting through this final pricing and then sending it off.  We have confirmation that the sales guy has received it and he has asked that we now progress to contracts.  We may be on our way.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tree Replanting / Marking Up

We spent yesterday at the block. Hopefully we can stop the demolition company and the builders from going into the back corner of our block. This is because we spent a lot of yesterday moving rose bushes and a whole bunch of trees from the front yard and from areas that will be built over to the back corner.

We've made a bit of a mess of the side and the back corner now looks overgrown but hopefully all will be well by the time the new house is built and we can move the trees to where we want them.

Yesterday we also marked out the house, using some marking spray paint.

We labelled some of the rooms and marked where the windows would go so that we could get an idea of what we would be looking out on.

The end of the house coincides with about half way down the old garage.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Layout on Block

We had to do it.

Other than the usual impulse to continually go past our latest expensive possession we thought we'd better check the mail, look at the fences etc. etc. Today we decided to try to lay out the new house.

We were asking questions like:
- Where will the kids bedroom look out on?
- How big is our back yard?
- What will our alfresco look out on?
- How much space have we got down the side?
- What will our drive way look like?

The only thing available today though was some bricks marking out garden beds and our extremely accurate 1 stride = 1 metre (also my vague memory of the dimensions). Here is where our back wall is (look very closely for the bricks):
This weekend we may get some marking paint and a proper measuring device along with a copy of the plans and we will mark it out for real. I also might try to replant some of the great roses on the block into the far back to see if we can save them for later.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What does early this week mean?

Spoke to the salesman yesterday. Apparently the latest costings will be provided to us "early this week." Once we have them we will need to decide what to include and what not to include then the only remaining issues will be:
- Have they considered the tree report I gave them in the costings?
- What will council come back with with flooding?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tree Research

You have to love the Internet. I still had a few concerns regarding the use of 1H:1D (One times height to One times distance) for the measurement of where a root barrier is required on our house.

First I thought that I would look at Australian Standards:
AS2870-1996 the Australian Standard for Residential Slabs and Footings - Construction states in Appendix B, clause B2.3 (c) Restrictions on tress and shrubs:

"Planting of tress should be avoided near the foundation of a house or neighbouring house on reactive sites as they can cause damage due to drying of the clay at substantial distances. To reduce, but not eliminate, the possibility of damage, tree planting should be restricted to a distance from the house of:

  1. 1.5 x mature height for Class E sites.

  2. 1 x mature height for Class H sites.

  3. 0.75 x mature height for Class M sites.

Our soil report said that we had an M class site so I will need to push back to get a shorter area of protection.

I then did some more googling and I have since found that there is not a lot known about the direct effect of tree roots on foundations. It looks like the best option is to either obey the above in both your design and future planting of trees and then to get the advice of an arborist.

I think the best course of action is to put a root barrier in under the instruction of an arborist.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kitchen update

I thought that I had better put an image of what our kitchen will now look like. We ended up going for a concealed range hood with an iso drive.

The ovens will be two Siemens ovens. The stove top will be a highland.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is this a 30m tree?

Supposedly the builder has discovered a 30m tall tree in our neighbours front yard? This seems to have popped up from nowhere. When we first got our site quote from the builder they highlighted a tree to the South of our house that they think could cause a problem (see tree highlighted in green). They said that this tree was 15m tall and we needed to put 2m deep blinding concrete (low grade concrete) beneath our foundation to act as a root barrier. Highlighted with pink highlighter on our plan was a line of where this was to occur.
At $5000 plus other expenses for this I was a little concerned. Also the fact that the tree that actually overhung our soon to be garage (red circle above) was ignored.

I brought this up with the sales guy and he said he would look into it. Oh oh...

Now apparently the tree in the front yard of our neighbour to the North is 30m tall and we need blinding concrete almost over our entire house, oh yeah and an extra $10,000. Now I am no Einstein but I don't think that tree is 30m. Here's another view.
Now I agree it is a little higher than the power pole and maybe as much as 3 times the height of a house. I might give them 12m.

Just as a bit more ammunition we found that the local council publishes lists of significant trees. Our Northern neighbours happen to have one of these (the one highlighted in blue in the top image). Luckily the builders didn't notice this, however it is a bit further away and according to the council it is only 15m tall, and happens to be taller than all of the other trees around. Sort of knocks the 30m on its head. See below for an extract from the council report:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Specifications Submitted

We finally got them off and we finally made some decisions. We sent off our kitchen ideas, our tap ideas and hopefully the major changes that we want to lock in.

Her indoors will go to the salesman tomorrow and ask a few more questions. Now the ball is in their court and we can hopefully move to the next step.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We can afford it....

Had another meeting with our mortgage broker the other night. It looks like we can service a loan for even more than we need (if we want to live on the poverty line). The only thing we need to worry about now is what valuation the bank gives us when we finally submit our plans and permits, if the valuation is too low we may need to pay mortgage insurance or go into our savings a bit more to get our gearing to 80%, or even a combination of the two.

Now back to finalising the kitchen and the spec. Another weekend at stores ahead.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

3D Version of Kitchen

I think I might be able to add a 3D version of the kitchen:

More Kitchen Ideas

Her indoors had a good look at ovens etc. yesterday and has now thrown something new into the mix. Apparently the 900mm wide ovens don't compare terribly well to the 600mm wall ovens. The compromise of going to the bigger space means that you lose out on actual oven performance. Therefore we now have a new idea, see to the right.

Instead of a freestanding oven we are now looking at a 900mm wide stove and possibly two side by side 600mm ovens beneath it. This rearranges the kitchen a little, but gives a bit more flexibility. Now we need to decide about the stove, the ovens and the range hood etc.

I went to Clive Peters today and spoke to a great salesman. Only problem is I am now even more confused. We first really liked the Highland Stove top. It has great reviews and supposedly the wok burner pumps out 22MJ/hour (compared to 12.5MJ/hour for the base westinghouse that comes with the house). The salesman however said that the gas supply to the house would never give you this power anyway so you were really kidding yourself going for this stove. He was recommending an LG stove that had more control on the burner and had three gas jets inside to give better output.

The next one was the oven. Her indoors found a really good Siemens oven and my salesman said the LG made great ovens. It is all starting to get too hard. Here's some pictures to make the page look nice.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kitchen Specifying

We are still in the middle of finalising our kitchen design and specification. I've changed the layout a little.
Her indoors had the idea of moving the oven to the centre of the over-all kitchen. This managed to give us a better drawer arrangement, instead of two very wide ones either side we could divide it into three.

The next decision is the oven and range hood. I quite like the range hood to the left. It is a Schweigen WM2190 which apparently has the motor in the roof and therefore doesn't make any noise. It is also supposedly very powerful and moves up to 1600 cubic metres of air an hour.

We will get the builder to quote on this. The next is the oven. I am really struggling to find what oven is the best and would suit what we want. I am almost tempted to go with what the builder is offering which is the Westinghouse DSK963S 900mm freestanding oven. The only issue I have with this oven is that it doesn't have automatic controls. The Westinghouse DSK965S however does have better controls and I don't think it is much more expensive. It looks like the oven below.

Friday, July 24, 2009

We Settled

Whoo hoo. We got a phone call coming home from our holiday from our conveyancor. Settlement had gone through. We are now the proud owners of an old house and a new block of land. So much for all of the worry.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The bank is playing funny

Apparently because of the nice and easy way that we are trying to rearrange our home finances the bank has decided to have an issue. Whilst we were all comfortably sitting away on our holiday her indoors gets a phone call from our mortgage broker. Just one more form to fill out to add to our woes apparently. This was a little harder than would normally be the case. All we needed to do was download the pdf sent to us by our broker, print it out, sign it and then fax or scan and email it back. No worries. Well at least her indoors has a slightly more sophisticated mobile phone than my office allows me to have but this only meant that we could see that we had actually received the email.

Given that most people on the holiday seemed to have the flu it seemed that it was up to me to find an Internet cafe or similar to organise things as I only had a cold. I went down the slippery hill to where her indoors had spent most of last years trip checking up on her email. Unfortunately these were only little kiosk computers with no printing facilities. I then had to climb back up the hill and beg to the apartment management to use their computer and printer. The wonderful people helped me out and we had a printed version. We signed it faxed it back (again via the apartment managers printer) and had that sorted......

Well maybe not. Her indoors being the inquisitive sort decided that she needed to contact our conveyancor to check when settlement would really occur. Oh oh... It may not be happening.

Apparently the bank has decided to introduce a new process into our mortgage. This process that they have sprung on us will take approximately 2 weeks, great when we only have two days till settlement. We need to discharge our current mortgage in order transfer it from our name to my name. The bank is blaming us / our conveyancor and our mortgage broker for not informing them of the fact that we needed to transfer the mortgage. The conveyancor and our broker are both saying that they have never had to worry about this before in their combined experience.

So I arrived in whilst her indoors was having a heated discussion with a representative of the bank. Poor her indoors was getting quite exasperated and seemed to be going over the same point over and over again. Now she was getting quite red in the face and with the flu symptoms still lingering you could tell that she was suffering. Suppressing my giggles I put on my concerned face and nodded through the remainder of the one side of the conversation I could hear.

Well there now seems to be a big chance that settlement will not occur on the suggested date and we will be out of pocket because of this. Our conveyancor apparently warned the bank that she would sue the bank for any loss experienced by us, by our vendor and any other party that may suffer due to the banks new proceedure.

Well. We'll find out soon. Most likely before I get to post this blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Just an update before I take leave


I thought I would put down what has been happening over the last few days. After a frantic run around to get the bank documents sorted the broker came around today (a Saturday) to get the final sigs on our docs (the bank had only got some of the numbers wrong but supposedly that will be sorted in the wash).

Tomorrow I am going along for a final inspection for the block. Hopefully the owners aren't too annoyed as it isn't really a block, it does have a reasonably nice house on it. I just want to make sure it is still there tomorrow.

We managed to book a ski trip all next week, great coincidence that it finishes on the day of settlement, also now that our youngest and her indoors appear to have a horrible flu (Thanks Kevin or whomever is responsible for the free TamiFlu). This means that me and the oldest will be travelling up to the snow and the other two will meet us later. Hopefully all is good by the time we get back.

I'll take the laptop to continue with the kitchen design sketching and specifying. If I can find a wifi to hook on to I may update people, or work whichever I feel more worried about at the time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Would have been nice to know weeks ago....

We had a 3 hour meeting with the Premier Sales Consultant. The length may have been a lot to do with the 140 items we had on our list. Unfortunately this is not the end of the design stage. We still need to provide the following:
  • A design of our kitchen including:
  1. Arrangement
  2. Number of drawers
  3. Number of cupboards
  4. Types of hinges / runners
  5. Types of handles
  6. Sort of finish
  7. Sink details
  8. Tap details
  • A design of our walk in pantry
  • The type of shower spray we want
Now if only we had known this whilst we were patiently waiting for the latest edition of plans things may have been able to move along a little quicker. Well at least I had already started on kitchen. What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Understanding our Spec

Last night her indoors spent a couple of hours reviewing every word of our specification. She spent a very long time looking up almost every item on the web to get an idea of what it all means. I must say she did very well at finding things like what an Imperial Novad bathroom basin is and so on. When we get a chance we will try to put up some links of what everything is and what all of the decisions we have made are.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rumpus Clarification

Due to some feedback I have received I added a little bit to the below image for further clarification (click on the image to zoom):

Rumpus Room Windows

I posted a message on Homeone asking what people thought oabout a proposal her indoors and I have been thinking about in terms of Rumpus Room window arrangement. See below for an image of a suggestion:

We are concerned that the windows may be a bit pokey, but we like the idea of a bit of extra light into this room. Comment as to what you think.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

We got them...

We got the plans etc. Everything looks good. Sites seem a little high, however everything looks good. Now the reviewing, modifying and finalising. Fun and stressful at the same time.

House Plans Today????

The salesman from the builder phoned her indoors yesterday. Apparently our plans, contract and specificationss were going to be emailed to him last night. Then he was going to print it all out and prepare our package.

If this does happen we will go and pick them up this afternoon and then spend the next few days ensuring that everything is in order. The plan at this stage is to try to get everything back to him on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Fingers crossed that we finally get something.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our Mortgage Broker Rocks

At first I was very skeptical about going with a mortgage broker. When we started this process one of the first things I did was to call my current bank and arrange an appointment with a loan manager. This was great I got direct access to the bank, I could just walk into the branch and sit down with the mortgage manager. I felt very secure that I was getting everything I needed and I had a direct line of communication with the bank I knew was giving me a good deal.

All of this security was also there because when we had bought our current house we had gone through a mortgage broker and I distinctly remember this conversation:

Room4acubby to Mortgage Broker - "Why have we not received our loan documents and approval documents yet?"

Mortgage Broker to Room4acubby - "There is a delay with the bank you will need to speak to them."

Room4a cubby to Bank - "Why have we not received our loan documents and approval documents yet?"

Bank to Room4acubby - "Because you are using a mortgage broker you will need to ask them what the delay is."

This conversation went around in circles, my face got redder and I got angry with not much to show for it. Eventually of course everything was sorted out, settlement was good and all of the red in the face was for nothing.

Now that I am older and maybe wiser, I thought I would never do that again. Then I was being sneaky during our land search and thought I would use some free online property valuation tools to get an estimate of what our future house was worth. After entering all of my contact details etc I got a vague idea of what it was worth but not too much help really. Within a week however I got phone calls from a whole lot of people trying to sell me loans etc. (I think I'd clicked a tick box that asked if I was currently seeking finance).

On one of my calls I recounted the above conversation to a poor telemarketer who probably couldn't care less, but I think I confused him enough that he put me on to his manager. His manager, after finding out the huge amount of debt that we were willing to go into said he would put me onto "one of their good brokers."

It turns out he wasn't too wrong. Our current broker has managed the following:
  • Confirmed to me that our current bank was the best option (it always feels good to be told that you are right).
  • Got a better discount on the standard variable rate than the mortgage manager was willing to give me.
  • Gave us the idea of spousal transfer (see early post on Sell? Invest? Hold?)
  • He has also managed to get a huge valuation for our current place (great for capital gains implications).
  • Also last night he told us how to pay for demolition etc. on our purchase mortgage.
As we now have such a huge valuation we can now borrow more (not that we want to go into more debt than we need). However this means that items that we thought would have to come out of our savings and reduce our nice buffer of cash that we had. Now we will still have this buffer and be able to use our mortgage to pay for some essentials in the building process.

I don't think my banks mortgage manager would have had these ideas.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meeting with Broker Tonight

Tonight her indoors and I will have another meeting with our broker. Unfortunately this is only to receive the Preliminary Approval documents and to supply some more PAYG statements from her indoors to prove that she has a proper job (this seems weird as the bank should already know this).

Apparently our current home has shot up in value from the previous bank evaluation which makes it all good for us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

West or North Windows or Doors

Her indoors and I are currently in a debate about how to align the doors and windows in the rumpus room of our house. The current plan shows only a door on the West End (North is up on the above picture).

I hear that it is always good to maximize Northerly sun, therefore I would like at least highlight windows on the North Side of the Rumpus. We are not sure if we want a door at the end of the room that would turn our carpeted Rumpus into a thoroughfare. We would like at least a window to look out onto our back yard. This however has the dilemma of having a West Facing window that would heat up this room on hot summer evenings.

As it is unavoidable to have anything other than a West Facing window on Bed 4 I am thinking that eventually I will build a pergola at the West End of the house and grow a deciduous vine like grapes or something on it to stop the sun coming in. If we do end up with a door or window in the Rumpus I will extent the pergola over this area.

We are still undecided but we do need to make a decision before we finalise our plans.

How many times do we need to hear "End of the Week"

Again. Our plans are still not ready. We heard from the salesman at Premier and apparently the person at the builders who is responsible for putting the pricing information, specifications, contract info and other such stuff was sick last week. Why we need to know she is a chronic diabetic I don't know, but this the latest in a whole list of excuses.

Now we are starting to get very close to settlement and it certainly isn't looking like we will be starting on the ground any time soon. From what I see the following are outstanding before we can get the builder on site:
  • Get our revisions done to the plans, contract and specifications.
  • Get final approval from the bank for settlement on the block.
  • Get approval from the bank on the construction loan.
  • Have our plans provided to council for review due to apparent flooding.
  • Abolish Services at the block.
  • Organise House Demolition.
  • Have house demolished.
  • Clear Block.
Maybe then we can start.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sell? Invest? Hold?

A while ago we were struggling with the dilemma of how much we should spend on our total new home, how much debt we should go into etc. etc. etc.

These decisions coincided with falling interest rates, continually missing out on properties and changes in our personal financial situation.

Our ideal scenario was to be able to keep our current unit, so that whilst we were building we had somewhere to live. Also if after our new home was complete we could turn our current home into an investment property we felt that we would be better off. This led to a very steep learning curve in investments, tax implications, gearing and so on. I thought it would be good to write some of this down to help others who may be thinking along the same lines.

I felt that if we kept our current house we would have the following benefits:
  • An investment property
  • The ability to possibly negative gear and save tax
  • Not have to pay stamp duty etc in the purchase of the new investment property
  • Be able to hold on to the capital gains that we had made on our current property
  • Have a place to live during construction
  • Not waste the significant effort I had put into growing the lawn (albeit a little unsuccessfully at the moment)
These points led to the following interesting dilemma. Apparently when you turn your existing Principal Place of Residence into an investment property you can only use your existing debt on that property to claim any interest expenses. Also if the property is jointly owned you have to equally share the income from the property (apparently you don't have to treat the expenses in the same way however.) I should probably add a disclaimer here about not being a tax expert etc. but I have spoken to lots of people about this and have spent a lot of time trawling investment property sites, the ATO site etc.

The above point seemed to be a bit of a show stopper for us as the income alone from the investment property would not have outweighed the reasonably large interest payment that we would not have been able to declare as a loss. This problem was solved however by a savvy mortgage broker spruiking for our business. He told me about spousal transfers. Apparently you can transfer a property from wife to husband or vice versa with no stamp duty. You only needed to pay a nominal transfer fee and any legal fees about $250 in our case. This meant that I could "buy" out my half of the property from her indoors, borrow to get this money, add this debt to our existing debt on this property and use this new larger debt as a tax deductible loan. The money used to "buy" my half can then be used as a deposit on the new house.

After discussing this with an accountant, a mortgage broker and a few helpful people at the ATO this all seems reasonable. As long as we do this before we turn the property into an investment property we can set it up reasonably tax effectively. Therefore I have a few tips about keeping an existing property.
  • Don't pay down the loan too much on your existing property if you eventually would like to turn it into an investment property. You can do this by using an offset and redraw facility. You will be paying off your debt but if you can maintain a reasonably high loan value (ignoring the offset but including what can be redrawn) you will be able to keep this debt as a tax deductible debt to work for you. You need to be a little careful with this as the money in the offset account should be saved and not spent.
  • Keep your current house in two names and transfer it to the highest income earner before you get your new house.
  • Look at lots of property investment sites to learn about things like depreciation, expenses and all of the ways to make an investment property work for you.
  • Be careful about Capital Gains implications.
Well at least now it looks like we will be able to Hold onto our current place and use it for an Investment to gain value. Here's having our fingers crossed that another GFC doesn't happen straight away.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Progress... What progress

Ever since we signed our contract of sale for the purchase of the block we have been trying to push to get our plans and building contract finalised. As soon as we knew that we were successful in purchasing our dream block we sent the Section 32 to Premier. We were hoping that it would be a short turn around to get the soil test done, the survey done and then our final contract price.

Well unfortunately this was not the case. We can't just blame Premier however, but there seem to be a lot of bottle necks that we weren't aware of and had not been made aware of. These include:
  • waiting for Melbourne Water to get back to the draftee with pit and easement locations
  • waiting for Council to get back on flood overlays (see flood overlays below)
  • trying to get a look in at contracts
  • getting a site cost estimate
  • a funeral for our sales consultant (apparently this takes four days out of our timeline).
First excuse for delay in issue of plans was "we are waiting for Melbourne Water." Unfortunately we mixed this one up with one that we accidentally managed to come across ourselves.

We are currently in the middle of a decision of try sell the existing house or demolish. I got some early quotes for demolition. Quote 1: $16k, Quote 2: $11k and last quote just over $10k. At least they were getting closer however we also thought to look into actually selling the existing house. Apparently you can, although it is a little harder with a brick veneer house.

As part of selling we looked into getting the trees on the nature strip removed. Her indoors called the council and after being put through to the usual suspects, planning and then building queries she got put through to Engineering Services. After a short conversation with the extremely helpful council engineer she was told all about tree removal. We ended up with a quote from arborist for removal and reinstatement of the two trees on the nature strip. Apparently $1.1k and $1.5k each. This was the good news however. During the conversation with the very helpful engineer he also said. Ah I see that your property is subject to flooding. "WHAT!!!"

During our one year adventure looking for property we had been very thorough. Always looking at Land Data. Checking with the hydrologists in my office etc. We had always been aware of flood risks etc. Now someone from the council was telling us about this. It wasn't in the Section 32. Out conveyancor had not told us about it when we had her review our section 32. My friendly office hydrologist who had a full flood and drainage map of the area said there was no reason for concern. Now what. Apparently I had missed an important step during the purchasing process. I had called council. I had spoken to planning and asked them about the property (even though I had already looked on Land Data). I had spoken to building. No one told me about "land subject to flooding." I had made the error of not asking for the third department to talk to: Engineering. Silly me.

Our very helpful council engineer told us that once we have our final drawings and final contract we then need to submit these to council and then get them to determine the flood height. If all is OK we can go ahead. If not we need to raise our floor 300mm above the flood height. OK so how long does this take. "FOUR WEEKS." Now that is not fair.

So back to the list of delays. When speaking to our Premier Salesman and they told us about the Melbourne Water delay we thought that this related to flood height. No NO NOOOO. We are still not there yet.

We just got an apologetic email from our Premier Salesman stating that he was away for a funeral and that he will get us the latest drawings as soon as possible. At least we now have a new excuse for the end of last week. The previous ends of the previous weeks did not have such good excuses.

Welcome - Story So Far

Welcome to Our Blog

This blog will be a record of our family's adventures in building a house. Hopefully this will be a good record for us to keep and a point where our family and friends can keep up with how we are going. Also from seeing so many other people's great blogs and forum postings it would be good to contribute to the information out there and share our experiences.

The Story So Far

Well over a year ago now we started to get the feeling that our three bedroom unit containing all four of us, me, her indoors and our two boys then 3 and 1, was getting a bit small. Our garage had become a toy storage room, our lounge room floor was constantly covered in toys and our garden was not big enough to run in.

We needed a new house but had no idea what this meant. First step was to get an idea of what was out there, what we could afford and what we liked.

After plenty of searching on and other sites we decided that we were far too fussy to buy an existing home. We had bought our unit off the plan 7 years earlier and absolutely loved the new house experience. We could not go from new home to someone else's home.

We decided to look at display homes, speak to builders and see if we could build a dream home. We thought that the best way forward was to find a house plan we loved and then find a block of land to fit it.

Our house preferences were:
  • Good kitchen with big pantry
  • Open plan kitchen / family / meals
  • Rumpus room off family room
  • 4 bedrooms or 3 and a study
  • Separate lounge room
  • Double Garage with internal access (preferably near the kitchen)
  • Alfresco area.
Once we had settled on the above it became very easy to find the house we wanted. One evening her indoors showed me Premier's Web site with the Jamieson:

This house had everything we wanted. We even thought that the facade of the display would fit very well in chosen suburb.

We kept looking for other house plans but the Jamieson from Premier Builders just matched all of our criteria. Also one of the things we hated from most other builders was the amount of wasted space.

Here is what the original plans looked like.

We still hadn't found any land and we weren't even sure of where we wanted to live but we loved this plan. We decided to settle on this and we even put down some money to get the plans started and to get an initial price locked in for the sort of inclusions etc we wanted. (More on this in later posts I'm sure).

Now the only thing we needed was a nice block of land to put this great house on...... Easy...... NOT.

We got the plans drawn up in June 2008.

After lots of auctions, at least 4 different offers, lots of interest rate cuts and lots of other experiences we finally found our block.

This is the list of what we wanted for our block (it may help to explain why our search took so long):
  • Wide enough for the Jamieson (at least 16.8m)
  • Deep enough for a reasonable sized back yard (at least 35m)
  • North facing side or back yard (if it was the back yard we may have gone for Metricons Lumeah)
  • Quiet Street
  • Not a rat run
  • Within 20min walk to train station along Belgrave / Lilydale train line
  • No further East than Springvale Road
  • Near schools, kinders, shops, parks etc.
  • Low traffic noise, ie. not near main road

Finally we got it. We are now in the settlement period and will settle toward the end of July. I would highly recommend the following tools for looking at properties:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


This is a post that I am hiding in the back of my blog but I will try to link to.  It will be a compilation of all of the tips and tricks that we have learnt through the building process.  If anyone thinks of any please let me know and i will add to it.

Communicate everything in writing
Read and reread the specs
Compare the specs to the drawings and tick off on everything
Get a survey of your property
Privacy locks for toilets
In order to get thing started read the contract carefully and see what is required from the owner.  If all of this is provided in writing there is no excuse not to start on your property.
Check everything carefully as it is being done.  Do not wait until it is easy to do, do it straight away.

last updated 1/4/11

Our Selections

This is a list of all of the changes and selections that we have made to the Premier Builders Jamieson:
  • Widened garage to 6500
  • Lengthened dining area by 700 (shortened rumpus by same amount)
  • Made Pantry a walk through pantry
  • Increased bed 2 by 500mm and reduced master by same (needed to change master bedroom door to single door)
  • Moved toilet door forward and moved bathroom door around
  • Added closed in toilet into ensuite
  • Removed bath from ensuite
  • Changed door to alfresco to an entertainer slider (triple sliding door)
  • All wardrobe doors sliding doors, including triple slider in bed 2 due to increased length
  • Made ensuite shower a walk in shower with tiled base
  • Increased bathroom shower to 1200x900
  • Changed roof to colourbond monument
  • Changed bricks to Burwood Blue
  • Added our own 10,000L water tank underground
  • Went from slab to stumps (forced by council)
  • Changed all taps to mixers
  • Replaced oven with two St George Ovens and Highland Stove
  • Replaced Range Hood with Schweigen 
  • Altered kitchen heaps
  • Waterfall ends on Caesarstone kitchen bench
  • Undermount sink to kitchen
  • Added shower niches
  • Removed the brick wall at the end of the alfresco and went with two brick columns
  • Highlight window in ensuite over shower
  • Highlight windows facing north in rumpus
  • Taps with a pull out head in kitchen and in laundry
  • Updated toilets to "back to wall"
  • Gas Ducted Heating under floor with zoning
  • Solar Hot Water
  • Evaporative Cooling
  • Ducted Vacuuming
  • Security Alarm
  • Pull out bin in kitchen
  • Drawers added to vanities in bathroom and ensuite
  • Man hole added to garage
  • Overhead cupboards in laundry
  • Upgraded to 2 more evap cooling outlets and larger system from the standard one supplied. 
Electrical Changes
  • Added second phone point to study (Bed 4)
  • Added 7 Cat5E data points (all beds, 2 to rumpus and 2 to living with terminations in study)
  • Added 2 television points
  • Added an antenna
  • Additional code pad for the alarm
  • Added door bell
  • 3 dimmer switches to Lounge, Dining Area and Rumpus
  • 7 two way switches to Front Hall, Bedroom Hall and multiple for living are lighting
  • Added external sensor for external lights including an override switch
  • Added three light fittings, install only, these are for external coach lights which we will need to source
  • 2 extra single GPO
  • 6 extra double GPO
  • 2 double fluorescent lights for the garage
  • 6 more down lights from our original package of 20
  • 2 powertainment units one for rumpus one for family which include 4 power points, a TV point and network points
  • 2 slimline power points to go on edges of island kitchen bench
  • 4 double floodlights for around the perimeter of the house. 
These are our selection (a * after means that it has changed from the original Jamieson at the old display)
  • Monument Colorbond Roof
  • Manor Red Gutters and Down Pipes*
  • Cream Facia Panels *
  • Burwood Blue Bricks
  • Classic Cream Highlight Bricks *
These are the following changes that we are still considering
  • Cavity slider between lounge and kitchen
  • Caeserstone benches in bathrooms ($1900 too exy)
  • Privacy locks on toilets and bathroom doors (done)
  • Underground power (chose not to due to also having to organise telephone, figured if we have to have one wire, why not have two)
Things we kept from the original display home
  • Firestrike floor boards (we just loved these)
  • Stained glass windows to front windows
  • Alfresco with Merbau decking (I have since found that Merbau is not the most renewable timber, however as with most things with this builder is is easier to not change).
  • Picture Rail in Lounge, family rumpus and master bedroom
  • Small brick wall in verandah with two timber posts
  • Caeserstone benchtop in kitchen
  • Highlight bricks
  • Steel lintels over garage and windows
  • Same architraves and cornices
  • Gable details on the front
Things we will need to organise and do after hand over
  • New fences
  • Drive Way
  • Fly Screens
  • Curtains
  • Clothes Line
  • Landscaping
  • Letter Box
  • Open fire place in lounge
And a
Things we would have liked but were too difficult or too expensive
  • Double Glazing