Saturday, August 19, 2006


How much is enough?

Before you get to the exciting process of planning and building your new home, you have to go through the hard work of setting a budget. For most people this is not so much a question of costing what you would like, as it is about working out what you can afford.

The best place to start is probably with your bank manager, mortgage broker, or financial advisor. Developing a good working relationship right from the start with the person, or institution providing the money is a smart move.

A good advisor will always encourage you to allow some breathing space in your budget. Building a home is utterly different from buying an existing home. No matter how accurately you estimate the costs, there are always going to be unknowns and contingencies.

Take your time and do your homework: the best way to save money on your new home is to avoid having to make rushed decisions. The more time you put in up front, the better. Even when you are having your home built on a full contract, it pays to take the time to understand the building process, so you have enough information to ask your builder the right questions – and to accurately assess competitive quotes.

Break costs down and down and down: The more you break costs down, the more accurate it will be. Don’t just look at the overall cost of the bathroom, look at the cost of the taps. This process will give you a better idea of how much you should be spending and where your priorities should be.

Your time is money too: The more you undertake to do yourself, the more you need to know… and the more time it takes to get that knowledge. We’re talking whole weekends taken up with visits to hardware suppliers building suppliers, and appliance stores. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is whether this is the best use of your time. Know what decisions you want to have input into, and what is best left to your builder.

At some point almost everyone who builds a new home has to face the fact that there is a discrepancy between what they would like to have and what they can afford. So where do you draw the line?

How do you cut costs without cutting corners, or quality?

The golden rule, good planning and honest communication with your builder and designer right from day one.

It’s natural that everyone wants to achieve a little bit more than they have the budget for. That’s where you have to be able to sit down with a designer and builder who really know their stuff and talk honestly about what you’re trying to achieve to work out your priorities to establish where you can save some money without compromising the quality.

Good design doesn’t necessarily cost any more than bad design, In fact a poorly designed home often ends up costing more in the long-run.

There are, however, some basic design factors that will have a big bearing on the price.

  • The more external corners, the more expensive your house will be.
  • Rooflines have a big impact on price. Multiple rooflines add interest – and cost money. Gabled roofs are more expensive than hip roofs.
  • Higher ceilings create a sense of spaciousness, but cost more money.
  • The more windows and external doors, the more cost.
  • Open plan spaces cost less than a series of rooms – the more internal walls and doors, the more expense.

Bearing that in mind, not many people want to live in a low-ceilinged, window-less box! A good designer will know which elements should be preserved and which can be sacrificed without sacrificing design integrity.

Good interior flow can certainly make a house seem bigger, “And good use of colour makes a huge difference. But the one thing that makes the biggest difference is choosing the right builder and developing a good trusting relationship with them. Going for the cheapest builder could cost you a lot more in the long run – stress-wise and dollar-wise.”

Kitchens and bathrooms are the areas of the house that really chew up money, but there are some great products available today that don’t cost a fortune and replicate the look of more expensive materials, for example:

  • Vinyl plank flooring or interlocking timber veneer flooring creates a very authentic timber ‘look’ at a fraction of the cost of timber flooring. There is a great range of timber-looks available.
  • ‘Granite bench tops are very up-market, but there are cheaper options – “Granite-look’ laminate bench tops are a good option.
  • ‘V’ grooved melamine kitchen cabinets create a ‘country-style’ kitchen look without the expense of going to real Tongue'n'Groove timber finish.
  • Melamine ‘timber-look’ kitchen cabinets give a very similar look to timber or timber veneer finishes.


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