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It’s been a while between blogs and my fingers are twitching!

On the family front – we went on a long overdue family holiday! It was nice to retreat north where it’s 10 degrees warmer. We watched the sunrise most mornings (courtesy of Captain Awesome), built sand castles (extravagant ones by the frustrated architect) and listened to the constant babble of the newly vocal toddler who has so many important things to say – some comprehensible. Over all we came home sun-kissed, well fed, a little tired (not the holidays of years gone by!) and happy.

On the building front – well contracts have been signed, the gates are down at the land release and we are waiting for the all important titles to be issued and settlement day to arrive. Champagne isn’t on ice just yet. Hopefully settlement is only weeks away and then the second sod of soil can be turned. The first was done by Captain A this morning as he helped Lachie survey the block (great to have skills at hand!).

First sod turned!

It was nice to stand on the vacant block finally as a family. To envisage bbqs, long summers, vertical herb gardens, bike riding in the cul-de-sac…….I’ve obviously returned from holidays in a good mood, keen to romanticise our future home. Hopefully the next 6 months of building don’t dampen my enthusiasm. The contract signing almost did!

So let me backtrack and bring you up to speed with our latest dealing with the volume builders – the ominous contract signing day!

Here’s a heads up for all future newbie volume builder clients. When you attend your contract signing, be assertive but manage your expectations! We actually turned up to our contract signing with the intentions of not signing and not handing over any money! Not the best mindset. Why? Here’s the list……..

  • Despite the promised pre-site schedule, we hadn’t received a revised set of house plans yet based on our requested changes.
  • We wanted to know how our house was place on the block in terms of levels – we had put in numerous requests for it be a certain way to minimise rear access issues.
  • Our site costs hadn’t been calculated yet and from trawling through forums, this is often the biggest surprise and cost variation.
  • We didn’t have a final price back from our colour selections (some were only finalised that morning.)
  • We weren’t happy with the communication from the building company (non existent)
  • I was in a bad mood and not to be reckoned with!

Unfortunately, we weren’t pleasantly surprised and to be honest, when I cast my eye over the presented drawings, in particular the site plan, I felt like bursting into tears!

Our block slopes from the front down to the back. Most volume builders draw an imaginary line across the middle of the slope and do half cut, half fill. This is cheaper for them but it doesn’t consider rear access for the occupier. They always take the easy way out regardless of impact on amenity for the client! Unless, of course, you’re willing to pay a much inflated cost!

At first, it looked like our house was two meters out of the ground but we soon realised they had written the house levels incorrectly (first strike) and we’re only 700mm above the natural grade at the back. This, however, meant losing some of the rear yard to deck or elevated paving and steps. Not the best case scenario. We requested that they price up our prefered option which included retaining at the front and reducing the level difference at the rear. They presented us with a 37k cost increase which is ludicrous. The amount of retaining walls was ultimately the same, just their location was to change. To me, they were simply pricing us out of that option cause they didn’t want to entertain it. Frustrating!

So as the suits left the room to deliberate with cad monkeys behind closed doors to verify this cost, Lach and I had a power chat. We knew they wouldn’t budge. We knew that we had come too far with this company in terms of time to not proceed (they probably knew that too sadly) and having noted the 5 day cooling off periour we decided that we would progress with the proposed siting and use the next few days to thoroughly review all documents and discuss our options in relation to the back yard. Aside from the siting issues, we were happy with everything else, including the final cost (site cost had gone up though!).

So after a few deep breaths, disaster turned into resignation – we accepted the current proposal and left feeling, not the elated excitement of future home owners but the weight of problem solving ahead. Can we make this back yard work? It’s time to bring in the big guns – my brother and his wife (landscape architects) to come up with a cost-effective design which will make our backyard a haven for us! I’ve often found at work that when a sudden restriction or perceived setback with a design occurs, you often find yourself with a more creative and better solution in the long run! So fingers crossed – I will let you know how we go!

What would I do differently? Sadly, after reading numerous blog entries and forums it appears these companies really only show all their cards at the last minute – when you’re feeling overwhelmed with information. A lot of experiences have mirrored ours. Next time, I’d insist on all documents being issued prior to contract signing, even if you need to push the date back. Then, the only surprises you are dealing with on the day are cost related and you’re not trying to resolve building issues at the same time.

Happy planning people! I’m off to dream up creative solutions (this holiday obviously came at the right time!)!


“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” 

– Albert Einstien