Building or Renovating with a Builder
…………What you need to know,
…………when you need to know it,
…………and before it’s too late
By Isa Stralian
A Builder, by present day social definition, is a person who, by his respective abilities, is able to co-ordinate the various trades required in the construction of a building.
The quality of the assemblage is predefined, to the builder by his client, either directly or via the architect, using documented specifications. In most cases these specifications will refer to Australian standards as being acceptable, unless otherwise stated.
Australian Standards are the minimum standards deemed acceptable in the building industry.The low end of the scale.
They DO NOT represent the highest standards.
Australian standards represent minimum standards. Higher standards will incur slightly higher cost.
The construction of a building is, in most cases is the end result of a contractual agreement having been entered into between two parties, the client and the builder.
Quite often you will realise that you will come to possess and or acquire greater current knowledge, about specific products, than your builder. This is to be expected and does not mean that the builder is not up with product knowledge.
A Builder is not, and should never be regarded as being, an authority in respect to specific and or all building products.
Always include in any contract, an agreement made where if the builder departs from the contractual agreement and or specifications, that the advice of change be in writing, agreed to by you and defined by your signature on the advice of change.
The relationship between the builder and you is one of mutual, but differing, benefit.
Your relationship with your Builder should be both respectful and formal.
Over familiarity should always be avoided as this often prevents you expressing any valid criticism regarding the work in progress. It also implies that any problems that arise are to be shared. They are not!
The reason why women are able to convey their critical observations, much better than their male counterpart, is because they do not participate in the forgiving concept of mate ship.
Any problems that arise in regards to building the house belong to the builder, just as the acquisition of the money to pay the builder are yours.
Clarification of respective areas of responsibility should be included in any contractual agreement so that there cannot be any misunderstanding, implied or otherwise.
Circumstances are usually as follows.
You have the money. Whether it’s cash in hand, borrowed, or whether the builder has arranged the finance, is totally immaterial, you at all times represent the money. You are the one that is going to have to pay back to the lending authority.
The builder is offering to build you a house.
In essence and by mutual agreement, the builder builds you a house, or provides you with a house & land package, for which you give the builder the money agreed on.
The Builder is in business, the builder is not doing you a favour.
The Builder is building you a house for money…. not the bank’s money, not the finance company’s money…..Your money!
How to Select a Builder
Ask the Builder to supply you with the names of his last 5 clients, and find out whether they have any misgivings about their experience.
Three out of the five will give you an idea of what you are about to experience.
If they are not happy, chances are you will not be either.
A good builder prides himself on his ability to satisfy his clients and will not hesitate to supply you with the names.
Remember, the last 5 names will indicate the calibre of builder they are now not what they used to be.
When to Build especially for 1st Home Buyers
Never, never during a boom period
As is always the case, during any boom period, good trades people are in short supply, so you may find your builder’s resources are limited because of the current prevailing situation.
No-one works for less when they can get more, so remember, you get monkeys when you offer peanuts!
Those who work for less, are those who can’t get more.
The good tradesmen will always be enticed up market where their services and expertise is better rewarded.
Building materials are at a premium during these periods, because of the demand.
Getting good value for money is always preferable to getting less for more no matter what the interest rates are.
Low Interest Rates alone are never a good reason to build.
Paying low interest in the short term, for something less than what it could have been, is not going to make you feel any better when interest rates go up and you’re having to contend with maintenance costs arising from less than ideal building standards.
From dream to nightmare in one easy move, and the nightmare is long term at least until you can afford to find someone to buy your nightmare without your incurring too great a loss.
Designing your house
Fundamentally there are only two types of home owners, those who live on the outside looking in, and those who live on the inside looking out.
This advice is for the latter.
The simpler the house, the better the value for money.
The best you can aim for is a house that’s worth the money.
Every time a wall or roof changes direction there is an associated extra cost.
So if you choose to build a house that has little nooks and crannies to no real purpose other that to look more intricate and detailed then get ready to pay more for the illusion, or more appropriately the delusion.
If you want your rooms to possess a degree of elegance, do not build ceiling heights lower than 2.7m (9ft). If comments such as, ‘it’s cheaper to keep warm’ or ‘this is the standard’ are made, take it as your cue to find another builder.
You should be talking to the builder about the house you want, not the house he has for you.
When a builder says ‘it can’t be done’ it can only mean one of two things, they either don’t want to or don’t know how to, this builder is not for you.
Remember you represent the money side of the transaction, not the logistics.
What to Build
A simple house is always better value for money, and has less maintenance costs.
Elegant homes are generally so because of the garden surrounding the house.
Imitation Federation, Tudor or likewise have a high cost associated with the exterior to the detriment of the interior, so if building to a budget, stay away from the romantic external paraphernalia that is often present as enticement to buy and ultimately bear a high maintenance cost.
Nowadays even internal features such as fireplaces are relatively inexpensive to add at a later stage.
Remember it’s the packaging that is the short term enticement that has long term costs, and is the totally useless aspect of the product after the purchase.
The less you spend initially, the less interest you pay which means there is less chance incurring financial strain in paying off your home.
You’re better off with bare concrete floors in the short term than with wall to wall carpet, which will need replacing within 5 years and you’re still paying for it some years later.
Short term gratification is usually associated with long term grief.
It is not always cheaper to do it all at once.
The floor, walls and roof are what you need in the immediate short term.
Finished Bathroom and Kitchen are of immediate benefit. All else can wait.
If and when you acquire funds to cover the floor, do it with reasonable quality ceramic tiles. Easy to keep clean and can be enhanced with rugs & carpets during winter months.
Roof: Personally I believe a steel roof is by far the better roofing material as opposed to tile, both from the aspect of structural integrity and interior cleanliness.
Don’t let anyone tell you that the cost of a steel roof is the same as that of a tile, and this does not mean that steel is inferior to the tile. Just different, and with differing benefits. For instance, a steel roofed house cools off quicker in a summers evening than does one with a tiled roof, whereas a tile roof has minimal noise transmission when it rains. The attic areas of steel roofs are cleaner, and if you’re thinking green then steel is the way to go if only for better quality of water harvesting.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to all choices made.
The idea is to make choices based on as much information as you can get, and where the disadvantages of a product can also be used to advantage.
All products have a plus and minus aspect to them, and it’s up to you to discover them before they discover you.
Tile roofs are preferred by most because of a aesthetic perception associated with European heritage..
Exterior Walls: Nowadays there’s so much advantage to be gained in the use of glass and curtains that the exterior walls hardly warrant the use of brick other than to create and maintain a psychological fortress perception.
This is not to suggest that you should build your house in paper mache.
Straight simple clean lines, without intricate returns, whether in walls or roof will always be far more economical and practical.
The more intricate the building, the greater the costs, with little or no practical benefit.
Remember one thing,….. if you have no intention of being pro-active in maintenance and repairs then think carefully about the quality of what you build.
A Rolls Royce cannot be purchased at a Hyundi price