Melbourne, Australia

Things I Wish I Knew Before Building A House

There are many things I wish had been known before I built a home. There were so many things that I learned along the way, either through Instagram or Facebook (read: too late). This was a great experience for building a community, but I wish I had done more research before signing a contract.

Things I Wish I'd Known Before Building A House
Things I Wish I’d Known Before Building A House

My boyfriend and I were talking about buying and moving into a home together when it became clear that building our own house would be the best choice for us. The grants and incentives are one reason, but maintenance is another. We didn’t wish to invest in a fixer-upper that required a lot of maintenance. We wanted something simple.

We had no idea that building a home was anything but easy. It was worth it, but there were things that I would have done differently and things I wish I had known before signing the contract.

It took a lot of hard work to build our house.

It’s exciting to build a home, but can quickly turn into a stressful experience if you are unprepared and uninformed (like me).

Here are some things you should know before building your first house:

1. Build up your quote or base price by at least 10%

Salesmen for new homes will say and do anything to convince you that they are the best company to build your home. This includes lying about their true costs. When you sign your first contract with a builder you will be given a “base price” contract. This price will not include any upgrades you may want to make, such as design, electrical, plumbing, or landscaping. Expect to pay between 10-20% more than the original quote unless you plan to live in a shell. This may require some to settle on a cheaper floor plan in order to make room for upgrades. Others may need to take out a larger mortgage.

The extra money can be used to upgrade the design, such as adding tiles or paint. It will also go towards “necessities” like extra power outlets and dishwashers. You’ll be shocked at the things that some builders leave out in their initial quotes to make them seem more attractive. It’s almost criminal.

Budget accordingly. You should budget at least 10% (some say up to 30%) of the base price on upgrades.

House Construction Budget, Things I Wish I'd Known Before Building A House
House Construction Budget, Things I Wish I’d Known Before Building A House

2. Budget for emergency situations

If we’re talking about budgets, it’s important to have money saved for unexpected expenses. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for builders not to accurately quote site-works. This can result in thousands of dollars of changes to your original estimate.

I know a couple that was slapped with a $26,000 invoice after their workers hit a rock while scraping the site. They were able, fortunately, to reduce their upgrades in order to offset the cost. However, this may not be possible for everyone.

If you don’t have the money to pay for it, your build will be halted. You could even face legal consequences!

3. Move-in ready doesn’t necessarily mean turnkey

A second thing I wished I knew before building a home was that just because a builder markets their homes as “turnkey” doesn’t mean the are move-in ready. There is a big difference, and I can assure you that.

After my boyfriend and I moved into our home, we still had to arrange landscaping, decking, and fencing, as well as rainwater tanks and sheds. We also needed internet/phone line connections, solar panels, washing lines, and air conditioning. These are the only things that I can think of.

A new build is a completely different experience than moving into an existing home. This type of work after handover is not uncommon.

It takes time to make your new house livable. Our house has been our home for over 4 months, but it is still far from finished. Building a house from the ground up takes patience and a certain kind of person.

4. Your timeline needs to be flexible

Blueprint of a House, Things I Wish I'd Known Before Building A House
Blueprint of a House, Things I Wish I’d Known Before Building A House

We were both living with our parents at the time we decided to build our home. We didn’t have a tight deadline and we had no prior financial obligations.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were. It was already stressful to build a home, let alone worry about coordinating our move-in with the lease/contract renewal of a rental house (or the sale!). It would be very stressful to juggle a mortgage on a house and recurring rent payments.

It is important that I warn you, that building is not a precise science. You will face unforeseen delays and supply shortages, as well as other issues that will affect your handover date.

It is for this reason that I recommend you be flexible in your timeline. You will need a landlord willing to extend the lease month by month, a long settlement period on your house, and a backup plan, just in case things go wrong (because they always do!).

5. The process can be very time-consuming

You’ll be amazed at how much time and energy your build takes up. It can be overwhelming at times.

There will be something at every stage that demands your attention. Early on, you’ll need to fill out home loan forms, meet with conveyancers, and look for land. Then, you’ll have to choose paint colors, floor plans, and other design features. After all, you will find yourself returning to the site almost daily. To make sure everything is going according to plan, you’ll be agonising about all of your previous decisions.

I was fortunate to have a friend who could help me with some of these duties. It would have been more stressful to do it alone. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the romance and forget how much effort goes into creating your dream home. Although I love the home that my boyfriend and I built together, and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, it takes someone special to spend so much time making it -perfect.

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