How to avoid mistakes when building your dream home
Think about how you will live your life. The neighbourhood itself can be important, as will the distance from services such as supermarkets, schools, public transport, etc. Make a note of the types of people living there – are they predominantly young couples with children, older professional types, empty-nesters or maybe more elderly and retired? Also be sure you’re aware of any often-overlooked potential costs such as connecting to services and extra work in footings for the house itself if the soil test is unfavourable.
It’s also a good idea to check with council and government plans to make sure that the location you’re looking at isn’t marked for future infrastructure or development works that will negatively impact the value or liveability of the area.
Whether you’re buying the land first and then having a home built or buying a house & land package, you need to know exactly what you can spend. Regardless of whether you’re borrowing the money or have it already tucked away, the chances are your funds aren’t unlimited. Be reasonable and disciplined when it comes to choosing what you build. Having the best of everything is certainly great but not at the expense of your sanity and financial future. Keep on top of everything during the planning phase and make sure your budget has some wiggle room. A buffer is imperative as unexpected expenses come up in even the most researched build.
While most of us like to live in something that is unique to us or reflects our personalities, designing a house purely based on your individual taste can mean a difficult resale down the track. Designing a home that is too dissimilar from surrounding homes can be a mistake that can make it very difficult to secure a buyer when the time comes to sell, not to mention the potential to alienate your new neighbours.
Certainly you need to be careful and in control of costs, but buying cheap fixtures and fittings or cutting corners in the build itself isn’t always going to be the best way of doing it. Often those cheaper options will need to be fixed or replaced quite quickly, probably negating all the “savings” you initially made so if you can afford it, buy good quality at the beginning.
SIZE OF THE HOUSE
Budget will play a part in this decision, but building a huge house just because you can isn’t necessarily a good idea. A lot will depend on the stage of life you’re in. If you’re a young family with growing children, building a home that can accommodate everyone comfortably – or be extended economically when the time arises – is good practice. But if you’re building a home to downsize, then you probably won’t need 4 or 5 bedrooms. Of course, if you have a big family and lots of overnight guests, then those extra rooms will be needed and have to be taken into consideration at the planning stage.
Possibly the hardest part of any build is the actual decisions around just how the layout of the rooms will work. Liveability is important and plenty of thought should go into how the house will actually function. Remember the “kitchen work triangle” – so that the layout is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. While open plan living is great, make sure there are spaces that allow for separation or find ways of being able to close off areas when needed. You can never have enough storage so think how you can incorporate that, and consider the placement of bedrooms so that they’re near the quiet end of the house and close to the bathrooms.
Spare rooms are great for hobbies, as a study or maybe a home gym. But if they’re only going to be used on rare occasions, either forget about them altogether or make sure that they have a dual purpose. If possible, incorporate a robe into the room so that it can be used as a bedroom at a later stage. In the meantime, a fold out sofa bed might work for those unexpected extra guests. Being able to easily change a room’s use when its original one isn’t needed anymore gives you inbuilt growing space.
All homes are fitted with mandatory minimum levels of ceiling and wall insulation, but often that’s not enough and can impact on the overall comfort of your home as well as your energy costs. Too little or inferior insulation will be insufficient to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Invest in high quality insulation right from the start. Obviously this will cost more at the beginning, but in the long run will be one of the most important inclusions you make.
And maybe consider acoustic insulation as well, if your budget allows it. Open plan homes and home entertainment can be noisy, so lightweight acoustic insulation may be worth considering.
The days of dark and gloomy houses are long gone and lighting can be more than just illumination. Major design statements can be made with lighting and careful thought to where and how many lights you install is important. Using low energy LEDs where possible will provide energy savings and considered placement of lights – whether they be downlights or design statements – will contribute to both the functionality and ambience of your home.
Placement of windows and doors, as well as potential skylights or vents, is important. Cross-ventilation allows stale air to be easily removed and assists with temperature and light control. Think about how each room is going to be used and what the aspect of each is.
Might be obvious, but take the time to research the builders you are thinking of approaching to build your new home. An online search of past client reviews is a good place to start, as well as checking with the relevant building and regulatory bodies in your state or territory. Talk to the builders themselves and get contact details of past and current clients that you can speak with personally to see how the overall building process was and physically look at homes they have built if possible.
Building a new home will probably be the biggest expense you undertake, so take the time to think about everything and try to anticipate issues that may arise and have a strategy in place to surmount the problem if possible.