Buying your first home is a scary thing, building your first home from the ground up is even more daunting. Here’s our story.
The Planning Phase
We initially planned on buying an established home in Perth. After 6 months of hunting on realestate.com.au, visiting home opens,along with every other potential first home owner looking in the heavily inflated <$500k market, we decided we either had to increase our budget and settle for something, or think about building. We decided on the latter.
We first came across the Ocean Road Estate in early March 2014. We loved that it was close to the beach, a new estate with plenty of open space and not too far from our friends & family, and work. Building also meant we would receive the $10k First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) instead of $3k which is offered for established homes. We crunched the numbers and made the decision that building was feasible, even if it meant spending more than what we had originally planned.
Buying our block
We put an offer on an untitled 450m2 block in June 2014, with titles expected in March 2015. Whilst for some the title delay would have been a major inconvenience, for us we saw this as the perfect opportunity to save a larger deposit (20%) to avoid paying lenders mortgage insurance. With both of us fortunate to be living at home with supportive parents, it was time to get serious about saving. This was harder for me than it was for Josh (he’s a natural at saving). Almost 12 months later and I am proud to say we have our 20% deposit.
The House Design
After we had put the offer on the block we decided to start looking at house designs. Our developer guidelines meant that we needed at least 45% open space (meaning the house could not take up more than 55% of the block). This is all well and good, and I understand why developers put this in place, otherwise people would build massive homes with little to no back yard at all!
However, it proved to be extremely difficult to find a house that would fit on our block with the open space requirement. We always planned on building a single storey and had a budget that we wanted to stick to. After meeting with a single storey builder in Perth and having a plan drawn up on our block, we realised there was a number of limitations. So we decided to explore the idea of building a two-storey. Given our budget was in fact, well a budget, we weren’t optimistic we would be able to build a two-storey.
We arranged meetings with a number of two storey builders in Perth. The plan we ended up going with is a customised version of the Optima by Ben Trager Homes. The moment we met with our sales representative, we were at ease. He explained everything in layman’s terms and was more than happy to work with us to get the plan we wanted whilst at the same time keeping our budget in mind.
The must haves for our new home were:
- Side access for a boat – the other half has a boat and loves fishing – living less than a kilometre from the beach this was a no brainer. However, it limited our options of house designs dramatically!
- 31c High ceilings – having visited a number of display homes, we really noticed the difference in those that had high ceilings. This was an upgrade we weren’t going to compromise on as it can’t be done later. Fortunately, 31c ceilings are standard with Ben Trager
- Theatre room – I could have easily left this out, but Josh was adamant it went in! I’m sure it will be used
- A 1200mm wide front door. I love a grand entry and really wanted a wood stained door!
- Air conditioner – we were told given the limited roof space with the upper floor, air-conditioner would be very difficult to install after handover
- Store room in the garage – with blocks getting smaller and smaller, but boys and their toy collection not following suit, we knew we wouldn’t have room for a shed. So we added extra room in the garage.
- Large WIR’s – I wanted ample space for all of our clothes and shoes. Josh used to be a cabinet maker so we will save money by doing the fit out after handover
- Scullery – I love the idea of a neat and tidy kitchen. The scullery will mean all our appliances and microwave will be in a room of it’s own. We also have a massive walk in pantry
- Master bedroom at the front of the house and preferably downstairs, all minor bedrooms upstairs.
We tried to spend our money on the foundation aspects. Meaning the things we couldn’t easily add in later. Think wall height and room placement etc.
The other items, such as flooring, wall painting and lighting can all be done for a lot less post build.
I will follow up with a “how we saved on our build” later.