Most of us have watched the building reality television shows and understand the thrill of a new project. The end results are breathtaking houses, with innovative designs and solutions that can leave us dreaming about our ideal homes.
How long will it take?
A custom-built home should never be done in a rush and realistically a homeowner opting for a fully unique property should allow anywhere from one to two years. Each project will have its own timeline starting with getting council approval and building permit fees. Nailing down a design with an architect can also add months to the project timeline. And when it comes to the actual build, there are a string of factors that can delay a project including weather, both hot and cold, unexpected details and problems to solve, long wait time for bespoke materials and availability of specialist trades. Spending more time in the planning phase will undoubtedly decrease the likelihood of major issues and delays arising, but it is the reality of building that there will be some surprises. Try not to stress about the deadline and instead enjoy the process of creating something amazing.
How to design a custom home
No two custom houses are the same, making design a considerably harder process than choosing or adapting a plan that already exists. As it can be daunting most home builders will bring in an architect or draftsman at the beginning of the process to help them create a plan that is unique as well as workable. The block of land will have the biggest influence on the design of your new home and your architect will want to inspect the site before sitting down with you to discuss a design brief. They will gauge the gradient of the slope, orientation of the block, where services run through the property, and consider any restrictions or regulations.
After this, it is time to move on to concept design, which is where the creative fun begins. During this phase, the architect will create a floor plan as well as drawings of what the house will look like incorporating all your ideas. Consider bringing pictures of houses that you like, or magazine cut outs of design elements to help communicate what you want. Expect to have several meetings with your architect as the design is refined and reworked. Once the overarching concept is locked in there will be the technical details to work out. This includes considering the appropriate building techniques to be used and the type of materials, fittings, and appliances to be used.
Also, unless you have an endless bucket of cash, your budget will need to be assessed throughout the process, and in some cases, you may have to forgo elements that simply cost too much.
What are the steps involved of building a custom home?
Once you decide you want to build a custom home, it is easy to get excited and you may want to start right away. But it is not as simple as pouring the concrete slab and bringing in the tradesmen. Depending on the complexity of the plan there may be multiple steps in the process that must be done first that take time, and this can be a test of patience. Often there are long periods of down time where nothing appears to be happening and, while frustrating, these periods are usually unavoidable. Building a home will definitely be a test of patience but one thing is for sure, if you hire experts to help in the pre-planning phase the whole process will move faster.
1. Planning permit
Before doing anything, you will need to apply for a planning permit. This process is basically where you tell the local government what you want to do, and they assess your application against the planning scheme. Different councils have different rules so before applying you need to:
- Become familiar with the local planning scheme.
- Discuss your plans with the council planner.
- Talk to your neighbours to see if they have any reservations that can be dealt with early on.
A town planner will be able to help navigate this process and will be worth the small cost of engaging their services.
2. Council approval
Once you have lodged your application it is not as simple as it being either rejected or approved. The council will assess the plan against the planning provisions, which can take weeks or even months. Often councils will request more information from you, as well as documents from external bodies like water authorities. In many cases they will also request the plans be advertised on the site for a set period of time so local residents can raise any objections. Once they have collated all the information, they will decide whether to reject or endorse the project, or in some cases grant approval with certain conditions attached.
Once you are given the green light to proceed, the site must be measured, and the boundaries marked out. A land surveyor will have to be called in to compile an accurate report with topographical information that clearly shows the boundary of your property before any work begins.
4. Building permit
With straight forward designs, the planning and building permit applications can be processed at the same time but for custom builds this is often not possible. A building permit is a document issued by the local council that says construction can take place based on the approved plans and building specifications. This process will also make sure your builder is registered and insured and will identify at what key stages your property will be inspected for compliance. Depending on the local council this application process can take days or weeks.
Where to save and where to splurge
Construction costs can quickly rise when incorporating the must haves and your creative ideas, but it is important to balance the budget. Unless you have got deep pockets, there will be times to be extravagant and also times to be conservative. But if you are not sure where to splash your cash or rein in your spending, here are some things to consider.
Where to splurge:
The kitchen is the heart of the home, and often where we spend most of our time, so it has to be functional and practical, as well as divine. Many homeowners choose to spend big in the kitchen and this is a good option as it will add value to the home in the long run. If you have the cash think beautiful cabinetry and high-end stove tops. It’s worth incorporating an island bench with a Caesar stone or marble top.
Experts say a bathroom or main bedroom ensuite can add tens of thousands of dollars to the value of a home, especially if it is well designed to create a sense of luxury.
Whether it be hardwood floors, plush carpet or heating installed underneath, flooring can be expensive but is an important tool to connect the rooms of your house adding untold value.
For most Australians, bringing the outside in is essential so we really want to utilise windows and glass to harness the view or natural sunlight. Glass does not come cheap, but you may want to consider double glazing in cold climates and adding skylights to rooms in the inner sanctums of the home that would otherwise have to borrow light from other rooms.
The outdoors is usually an afterthought in the building process, but the garden will have a huge impact on how your house looks once finished, especially if the budget allows larger established trees and quality decking or paving.
Where to save:
1. One storey
Single–level buildings are much more cost efficient so if multiple levels can be avoided, it will free up a considerable amount of money that is better utilised elsewhere.
2. Use standard products
Sticking to windows, doors and tiles that are standard sizes and materials will mean more choice but also be more affordable.
3. Flat pack cupboards
Custom made shelves and cupboards can add thousands of dollars to the bill. Consider where you can cut corners and use flat packed items that you can even install yourself.
4. Avoid additions
Any changes to the plan will attract a fee so once you have locked in the plans and contracts only make changes when absolutely necessary.
Residential building trends
Trends come and go but the secret to a great house is choosing styles and concepts that will stick around for decades. Consider what will make your home look chic but also opt for choices that are practical, not just pretty. If something has been around for a long time, chances are it is not just a passing fad, so even if it is popular do not be afraid to incorporate it into your design. Above all, be guided by what will suit your family but also add long–term value to your abode.
A home that looks after itself is always going to be an easy selling point. Think everything from building materials that are scum and dirt resistant to pools that clean themselves.
This is not just a fad and will pay off in terms of value added and lower running costs once you move in. Installing solar panels and water heaters is a simple but effective long-term strategy.
Think Hamptons home with a country kitchen. This style has been gaining popularity over the past decade, but will it continue or is it at risk of becoming dated?
Plenty of new houses are incorporating minimalist design with contrasting materials to accent the building. Again, is this style going to stand the test of time?
Real wood, earth–toned walls and tiles. Natural is definitely in as environmentalism becomes more popular. This is also reflected in the increasing demand for environmentally friendly products.
The humble kitchen bench can actually make or break the sale of a home. The bigger the better, and easy to clean surfaces are preferred.
While there is debate on whether open plan is the best for energy-efficiency, it is hands down the most desired feature in a home for decades now. Open plan means even small spaces can appear bigger and also help create that integrated family vibe.
Homes that dramatically jut from sloping blocks or a second storey that appears to balance without support are extremely popular right now. But while these structures look incredible, they can also be costly so may not suit every budget.
Top tips for building your home
- Do not rush the planning stage – taking your time will save your time and money in the end.
- Research your builder to make sure they are quality experts, not construction cowboys.
- Check out other custom homes near you to understand what the local council has previously allowed.
- Do not do it alone. Many people think they can save money by tackling the design and council approvals themselves, but often this results in delays and expensive surprises.
- Do not be conservative with costs. Always estimate it will cost more than you think when planning your budget. This will mean you will be nicely surprised to come under budget rather than wallowing in unexpected debt.
- Stay in contact with your lender and a breast of any banking industry changes throughout the process to ensure you do not encounter major financial difficulty later on.
- Know your contract and regularly check in with your builder to make sure everything is built according to the plan.
- Go bigger, not smaller. You never hear of people complaining their house is too big, so if you are umming and ahhing about size or number of bedrooms go with the larger option.
At TriFlex Homes we are a custom home builder, not a volume home builder, so we will be with you for every step of your home building journey. Our commitment is to building your dream home exactly how you want it. Contact us today to start your home building journey with us.