Building Your Dream Home? Here Are 6 Things to Be Aware Of

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Looking for your dream home can quickly turn into a wild goose chase. One home might have the right amount of bedrooms, but the wrong location. Another might have the perfect kitchen, but horrible bathrooms.

Sometimes it seems like the only way to get your dream home is to build it yourself from the ground up—with the help of a licenced builder, of course.

But as with anything, there are some hidden and not-so-hidden costs when it comes to a new construction. To avoid the nightmare of a blown-out budget, here are six things to be aware of before you break ground.

1. Location Costs

We’re not talking about site costs (more about that in #2), but the big picture costs associated with your location. Building in an urban area is likely to cost more than rural, and popular locations will naturally come with an increased price tag.

Consider the type of home you wish to build and whether or not it will fit in with its surroundings; this can impact property value down the road. You should also look at the size of the block and potential orientation positions for your house, so you can maximise solar panels and natural light.

Finally, look into whether or not the location is prone to floods or bushfires, as this could affect your insurance costs.

2. Site Costs

Once you’ve pinned down a specific site, be prepared for some fluctuating costs before your foundation is laid. Your builder may need to do a soil and contour test to determine what kind of substance they’ll build upon. This gives you an idea of how much weight the soil can handle, and whether or not it’s likely to shift over time.  

A contour test will reveal how much slope your site has. A site with a significant slope means more work on the builder’s part to get the ground to a safe level for construction. The more slope in your site, the more it is likely to cost you.

Soil and contour can affect the type of slab that will go down. According to building company GJ Gardner, concrete slabs can cost from $70 and $120 per square meter, depending on thickness and size.  

A site that is tough to access—for example, one that is high on a hill or heavily wooded—can also increase your costs. You’ll also need to check on your power, water, internet, and gas connections, as these can add to your bill.

3. Add-ons and customisations

If you’ve ever walked through a model home, you know that you’re looking at an example that is much more expensive than the starting advertised price. The base price for a home often excludes upgraded finishings, like benchtops, door knobs, handles, paint colour, and flooring.

It’s not just the type of flooring you choose, but the quality that can affect the price. If you’re looking at tiles, you could pay anywhere from $30 to $150 per square meter.

Don’t forget to ask about your power points: the quote may include single power points as standard, with a price bump for double power points.

If you don’t nail these features down before construction, you may be in for a rude surprise.

4. Exterior Costs

There are plenty of features we take for granted that aren’t actually part of an initial building contract, including your driveway, fencing, landscaping, and even the letterbox! Even if your building contract mentions a driveway, check on the length and material. You may still be responsible for the portion of driveway that connects your property to the road, sometimes referred to as the ‘crossover’.

As for landscaping, this can be something you take care of yourself, depending on your skill level and how elaborate your yard. If it’s as simple as laying turf or seed, it may be up your alley. If you’re looking for retaining walls and fountains, you may want to enlist a professional.

5. Estate Rules

If you’re not building in an estate, you may only be subject to the rules and regulations of the council. But in many cases, estates have their own conditions that govern your dream home, such as the height and pitch of the roof.

Check that the estate rules won’t put a damper on your plans, as it could have a trickle down effect on the overall plans.

6. Green Requirements

Your state may have rules around new builds requiring you to include certain features as standard. Fortunately, these often work in your favour over time, improving the efficiency of your home. This could include installing solar panels or a water tank on the property.

For example, building your dream home in NSW will require a BASIX certificate, proof that your home meets sustainability requirements. Homes in Victoria must meet minimum garden requirements to ensure that the Aussie backyard doesn’t shrink anymore than it already has.

Having your dream home doesn’t come easy; after all, then everyone would do it! Fortunately, you don’t have to give up for fear of hidden costs. Do your research and ask plenty of questions, and you’ll be on your way to the new construction you’ve always wanted.

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