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