Tuesday, 26 June 2007

[BlogSite.008] Celebration for over 500 visits in less than a month

I first added the Site Meter thing on 29/5. Didn't expect it to be that quick, quite happy to see the counter hits 505 this afternoon.

Thanks to all the visitors who stopped by. After we signed our contract today, the excavation should start within a few weeks -- if the rain could just stop for a while.... I am expecting to have a lot more activities happening after that. Keep watching this space!

[Progress.011] Contract signed!

After 2.5 hours long discussion with the contract person at my builder's office, we finally signed the contract and made first payment (5% contract price minus previously paid deposits for council application). Never sign/initial my name so many times in a day in my whole life. Also clarified the requirement for the tiger tail thing. According to the contract person, it's mainly for the scaffolding. Will try to get that done asap.

If weather permits, we should have the excavation started in 3 weeks time. Yeah!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

[Others.004] Property sales update - Epping area

North Epping House Sold
It's a cold 5 degrees C Saturday morning. Around 9am, we went to the auction for House Auction by McGrath I reported a few weeks back.

We were surprised to find more than 100 people there for the auction. Took a few photos with my mobile as shown below.

Based on the location (not withing walking distance to Station, but close to railway, a bit noisy), land size, the house built around 2 years ago, with standard 2.4M ceiling height, no water tank, standard interiors except some changes in upstair, laundry and kitchen. We roughly estimate the owner's cost should be within $1,000K to $1,100K. Based on recent sales around Epping/North Epping area, we think the reasonable price should be around $1,250K.

Although the price guide was "Over $1,050,000", the first bid started at a high $1,100,000. Then 1,110K, 1,150K, 1,200K,... finally ended at 1,400K, yes, 1.4 millions. The highest we have ever seen in Epping/North Epping area for the past 12 months.

Parkside on Somerset
We then visited another huge development area called Parkside on Somerset, Epping, where 20 empty block of lands sized from 500sqm - 825sqm were on auction last weekend. We didn't go due to the bad weather.

When we were there this morning, 10 of them were sold. The result was also much better than what we expected. We received some information and the price for the rest will be starting from $570K each. Personally still think it's a bit high, but who knows. Based on what we seen so far, plus the Epping to Chatswood railway line opening in 2008, there might still be others not familiar with local market found the price quite reasonable.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

[Progress.010] Tiger Tail and final construction set drawing received

Tiger Tail
This is not about animals in the zoo :-), it's about our neighbour's power line that run across our property.

Found some explaination from the web:
tiger tails means pipe type cable covers, used as a warning to visually indicate the position of overhead power lines. Note: A tiger tail is also known as a torapoli pipe.

The builder wants us to "tiger tail tag" the neighbour's power line. Got a quote from an electrician for $2,500, which is ridiculously high. Will shop around for a few other quotes.

Found these 2 pictures from Work Near Overhead Power Lines: Code of Practice(PDF, about 1MB):

"final" final construction set of drawings received
Received the "final" final construction set of drawings from builder yesterday. All questions and issues we raised all sorted out except the ensuite door can't be changed to sliding door due to the way the shower pipes are connected.

Booked for final meeting next Tuesday and we are ready to sign the contract, Yeah!

Monday, 18 June 2007

[Tips.006] Ask for a copy of Contract in early stages

I found a lot of people asking questions in homeone.com.au forum about the progress payment details. You can actually ask your builder for a copy of the contract in the early stages (e.g. after you paid $600 for your initial site survey, soil test, ...etc, or before paying for preparing drawing for council submission).

Most project home builders use the standard "Building Contract for New Dwellings" from HIA (this link is for NSW, other states also available). Anyone can spend $22 to get a copy. But it's the changes your builder added that makes each builder's contract unique.

Changes to Progress Payments
Using ours as example, the standard contract has 6 stages for progress payments: Floor slab complete, roof frame complete, close up complete, fixings complete, painting complete and practical completion. Our builder cross the whole lot and put in their own ones: deposit, slab, frame, roof on, lock up and practical completion, including a percentage for each stage. We don't like some of the figures and are working on it with the builder.

Other Changes
Our builder also added a few clauses here and there to protect themselve, such as:
"An automatic extension of time applies for every day a progress payment is late. No notification by builder is necessary."
"adverse weather means any rain day recorded by the Bureau of Meteorology - daily rainfall report." --> so if it rains in New Castle, our construction site in Sydney will have to stop, thanks for that!

The contract is in plain English, but I still recommend to find a solicitor to go through it for you.

If you can request for a copy of contract earlier in the process, you can try to work out any issues with the builder. Rather than having everything done and council approved then you are stuck and have not much bargain power in case you found some unreasonable surprises in the contract.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

[Tips.005] Check the location of your external lights

I learned this from another customer of our builde near Regents Park.

They have a neighbour just built with ******* Home, and high up under the eaves outside of Main bedroom on first floor, there was a sensor light installed. The idea was to put it high up there so that the area it can detect movements (and turn on the light) will be larger.

After they moved in, and electricity connected, they found that it's giving too many false alarms as the sensor picks up lots of activities from the neighbour's back yard as well. They tried to adjust the sensor and guess what, they can't reach it any more as it's too high and they have to pay someone with really long ladder just to adjust the sensor's covering angle. Of course the other option is to turn it off, but since you already paid the money for that, why border switching it off?

The lesson/tip is, if you are planning for external lights, make sure it's within reachable height.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

[Others.003] New Home Inspection / Process of Building a Home

I am currently reasearching for information about new home inspection. Although the builder has their own inspector/certifier, the inspector is paid by the builder and we would prefer to spend some money (about $300-$450) to get a second opinion from the experts. Especially before every payment.

Found this site for a home inspector which provides some good information about different stages involved during the construction process. See 14 Stages of Building a Home - H & K Ryan & Associates.

Also found this site from another inspector talking about "how to discover the most shocking hidden secret about your new project home", the title is quite attractive, and it provides some scary information about how bad the project home builders can be. Need to go through the long 16 page web site, and hopefully will find something helpful/interesting. click here for the site.

I remembered there used to be a document from AVJennings web site which provides detail step-by-step instruction starting from picking a design, presentation, colour selection, submit to council, ...etc until the construction finished. Unfortunately when I checked their web site last night, couldn't find that information any more.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

[Others.002] Andrej's House Construction Site

I always thought that my demolition work was quite difficult as my house was quite close to the neighbour's houses.

But I then found Andrej's site from Homeone.com.au forum, have a look and you will see how difficult his work is. All demolition done by hand! WOW!

Update: The location of that construction is Bratislava, Europe

Monday, 11 June 2007

[Progress.009] Visited Kellyville Homeworld for the 35th time

After experiencing the one-in-30-year storm for the past few days (see article from news.com.au), we finally have some beautiful sunshine today.

Aother visit to Homeworld
We visited Kellyville Homeworld this morning for the 35th time to check a few measurements. Yes, I made that up, we have visited Kellyville Homeworld so many times in the past 12 months that I already lost count. But it's definitely over 20 times.

We spent the whole morning, going through almost every bit of our drawings. We also checked every cupboard, drawers, robe, vanity, ...etc. And we noticed a few things worth further discussion with the builder.

Kitchen - kickboard is veneer, not Tasmanian Oak
We all thought the whole kitchen cupboard are made of Tasmanian Oak. The other day while going through the colour selection details, we noticed the kickboard material is noted as "veneer". We checked and confirmed today that, unfortunately, as shown in the photo showing from the fridge space, it's indeed made in veneer with a thin Tasmanian Oak colour coating/skin on top.

This is not a major issue as the colour looks exactly the same. In the worst case, can cover the whole kickboard with tile, if the budget permits...

Kitchen - big gap inside bottom drawer
We also discovered a big gap inside the bottom drawer under the oven. The funny thing is, even the Princeton Kitchen has the same problem. Will discuss with builder and see if they can do anything about this.

Photo from Palace Regent Kitchen

Photo from Princeton Kitchen

Kitchen - cooktop with battery operated ignition
The standard Palace Regent kitchen cooktop has a "battery" operated ignition. I checked under it and found this ugly little battery holder hidden at the back. Luckily we upgraded to the other model using eletric ignition. I wouldn't want to change battery all the time just for that!

Bathroom - no mini-tap under vanity
Checked all 3 bathrooms, none of the connections under the vanity has a mini-tap for cold/hot water connection. This means if there's any service required with the tap above the vanity, you have to run all the way outside the house, to the main tap near the water meter to shut it. We experienced a bursted pipe under the vanity before in our old house and that wasn't fun. Will also discussed with builder about this.

Bathroom - why there's an extra mini-tap near the floor?
As the displayed items in the Palace Regent and Princeton are a bit out-of-date, we also visited the newly built model to have a better feeling of the interiors. Again there's no mini-tap under the vanity, but I noticed there's an extra mini-tap near the floor in every bathroom.

As shown in photos below, the one in Powder room downstairs is next to the shower hob, and the one in the ensuite is behind the toilet. Don't know what's that for, may be for cleaning the floor? Personally it would be more useful to have it installed under the vanity for each tap.

Photo of extra mini-tap in Powder room

Photo of extra mini-tap in ensuite

Laundry - new tub
The Palace Regent still shows the old plastic laundry tub, with a sign saying all new houses will get a stainless one. We finally saw it in the newly built house.

Originally we paid to upgrade to the Princeton laundry bench, also paid extra to upgrade to 70L tub. We then decided to drop the height for about 5cm and the builder wanted to charge us for that as well! We are really unhappy about that and decided to cancel the whole thing. We will just keep the basic tub and install a new benchtop by ourself after hand-over.

We heard about this "TermGuard" thing for Termite protection quite a few times and today finally have a good look at it.

Update: have a look at this discussion from homeone.com.au forum where further details about TermGuard are been discussed.

This is the cover, there's a few of them around the house.

With cover removed, the pipes shown.

This is the old one installed in the Princeton, looks much bigger and the pipes seems different.

Water Tank
Also from the new displayed house, we finally have a better idea of what the water tank system looks like. We have a slimeline one exactly the same as the one on display.
This photo shows the control box.

With the cover opened, shows the motor and filter

A few other equipments connected as well, looks like some sort of leaf guard or filtering thing. Read from one of the web site that talks about the first flush diverters and this might be it.

Friday, 8 June 2007

[Progress.008] Are We There Yet?

It has been pouring like hell in the past 2 days. The weather forcast for the long weekend doesn't look good either. Yes, we need more rain, but how can I start my construction in such bad weather? Hopefully before my construction starts, we got enough water and the rain stops...

Report Required for Tree Removal
Council wants us to find an arborist to write a tree report before they could approve the tree removal. Still struggling on this, as we don't want to spend $500+ to be told that the tree is healthy...

Are we there yet?
Still working hard on the drawings and tender, already picked up a few mistakes:
  • The ensuite door was changed to sliding instead of hinged, but the drawing wasn't updated.

  • The space reserved for dish washer under kitchen benchtop was moved to cater for sink position, but the power point still remain in original location.

  • They added extra robe door in one of the bedrooms as requested to fully utilise the space. But from the drawings, it shows that the newly added right hand side door will hit the room door when both opened.

  • Felt like dealing with IBx, our outsourced partner at work. You paid them money for service, but you still have to double check what they did...

    They even put in a note on all drawings: "It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the layout and all special inclusions are correct".

    Just received the "plain English" contract yesterday. Looks like need to spend another week on this document...

    [PropertyInfo.001] Data points to housing recovery

    There's a news article in news.com.au today talking about recovering housing markets, see
    Data points to housing recovery.

    Hope this won't add too much pressure for another interest rate rise....

    Thursday, 7 June 2007

    [BlogSite.007] Template Changed

    I changed the template, added disclaimer, labels list added list of links to other house building blogs.

    Tuesday, 5 June 2007

    [Others.001] McGrath selling a house from our builder!

    McGrath is currently selling an house in North Epping also built by our builder. It's for auction at price over $1,050,000.

    See attached photo below:

    Forget about the colour, and mirrored the front (move garage to the left, bay window to the right). Then change the windows on the first floor and change the front roof to "hipped" roof and it's roughly the same as our house... Confused? Well, I think we made so many changes that it no longer looks like their other houses of the same model.

    Oh, did I mention we have 2.7M ceiling height for both floors, underground power lines, extended garage, stained ensign frosted translucent laminated glazed highlight above the front doors.... I will show you what it looks like when it's finished 32+ weeks latter. For now, just use your imagination and look at the drawing on upper left hand corner of my blog...

    [BlogSite.006] Added Front Elevation

    Based on final "Construction Set" drawing received today, I added front elevation to the upper left corner of each page.

    I am also looking for blog templates that can display content in 3 columns, the current one only has 2...

    [Tips.004] Always do Your Homework!

    Building a house involves lots of money, you should definitely do your homework properly before making any commitment.

    Some of the methods been used:
    1. Ask friends/relatives/colleagues for opinion

    2. Visit their display homes if available

    3. Ask builder to provide contacts of existing customers who have built with them

    4. Do some search on Internet for information related to the builder, try Google, Yahoo, or bestbuilder.com.au, ...etc.

    5. Join some forums, one of the best one I have seen so far in Australia is homeone.com.au. I learned a lot from them, have a look and guaranteed you will find it very helpful as well.

    6. Spend $600 (some asked for more) for an initial soil test, tender and drawing. After you look at the tender, went through a presentation, you might have a different idea about what's to be expected.

    7. Shop around, as the designs are all different, it's difficult to compare apple to apple. But you can have a better idea of what each builder can provide with similar amount of money. Compare the size, number of rooms, interiors, kitchen, ...etc

    Before we decided to go with our builder, we did lots of research. We visited at least 5 of their clients, some of the good things about them:

    1. For similar amount of money, you can get bigger house, that is, cost per square meter is lower when compared to D*****, C****** and a few others.

    2. It's a personal thing, we love bay windows, and some of their models (Princeton and Palace Regent) have a few bay windows included as standard. With Allworth, they don't do bay windows at all. With D***** and C****** you have to pay a lot extra for that.

    3. They included lots of things as standard: hobs for all shower, granite benchtop for kitchen, all external walls are in brick (E*****, D***** used lots of timber on 1st floor), obscure glazing window for all bathrooms, the section above garage door are all in brick (D**** and C***** use timber)...etc.

    4. They are quite flexible with changes. Some of the builders don't like to change their design. We have lots of difficulty with some builders in making changes, our builder is more flexible on that. But like all other builders, they all charge a lot for any changes.

    5. They are willing to tack the skirting boards so that our timer floor installation won't cause major damage to our walls. D*****, C******* and A***** won't do that at all.

    For the bad side:
    1. I found this post from homeone.com.au where one of the client was very unhappy with them.

    2. It's a family business, due to the size they can be quite slow. Specially with services after hand-over and dealing with council. For example, for council part, G*** is only person handling all documents. When it gets really busy there could be some delays. Luckily we have past that stage, our approval took 4 months, which we think it's not that bad.

    We visited one Chinese family in North Epping, our builder still haven't install the air conditioning one month after hand-over.

    3. We also visited a family who wasn't quite happy with them. I heard that during their construction, our builder was going through some restructure and changed 3 site managers/supervisor. Also, the client is not very happy about the tender price gone up $6000 in 6 months -- unfortunately that's the nature of the game, if you can't get council approval or still wouldn't sign the contract, it goes up every few months, not much you can do about that.

    4. My colleague A*** at Hursville was also complaining about their slowness. He had to make lots of phone calls to get someone for post handover service. According to A*** the things that required service so far were: leaking laundry tube, a window that won't close properly and a door that won't shut properly.

    So based on all above, after compared with all other builders, we still choose our builder.

    To cover our back, we are also going to hire private inspector to check their work before we make any payment. G****, our landscaper also suggest us to buy some beers for the workers.

    We will certainly keep a close eye on the construction work (we currently lived about 200M away from the place we are building) and hopefully everything turns out ok with not too many problems or surprises.

    [Progress.007] Final Tender received, tree removal sort of approved...

    Finally received our final "Contract Tender" and "Construction Set" drawings today via email. Will spend the whole week going through all items, figures and drawing details. According to A**** from our builder once contract signed, they can start construction within 2 to 3 weeks. Hopefully everything will be sorted out before end of June...

    Council was on site to check the sick tree with bracket fungus and big mushroom this afternoon. Looks like they are ok with the tree removal, only problem is, our DA was approved with the condition of some tree protection clauses. Now that we want to remove the sick tree, we need to put in an amendment to the DA and wait for approval... This is a bit ridiculous, we were told to put in a tree removal application, now there's another application, extra $ to pay and possibly even longer delay as well.....

    Saturday, 2 June 2007

    [Progress.006] Builder done post-demolition inspection

    Our builder sent someone on-site for post-demolition inspection on Friday and they were quite happy with the status. Only thing left is the tagging of the neighbour's power line across the front of the property. This has nothing to do with the demolition and it's a totally different story...

    Still waiting for the final drawing to be done by our builder, after that we will review the tender & contract, once it's signed we are ready to start!!!

    Attached a few photos below, the demolition by Dhilas was indeed quite good.

    Before (Front):

    Before (Back):

    After (Front):

    After (Back):

    Friday, 1 June 2007

    [Tips.003] You might need to start landscaping work before your construction...

    Yes, I am not joking. If the frontage of you land is not wide enough and your land requires retaining walls at the back, you might need to start landscaping work before your construction...

    Our neighbour waited more than 12 months for their house to be completed (almost there...). They started getting quotes for landscaping and then they found a major issue. The paths on both side of the newly build house is only about 1 M wide, that is, the gap between the newly build house and the fence on both sides. But the landscapers' hole drilling machines are much bigger/wider than that! This means all the hole drilling work (for retaining walls) has to be done by hand, and that would be really expensive.

    Luckily both our backyards join together, there's no fence at the moment and we just got our house demolished. If they can get their hole drilling work done before our excavation starts, we don't mind them accessing their back yard through our currently vacant land.

    To avoid the same mistake, we already have an arrangement between our landscaper and the builder. The builder will excavate the land first so that the cut and fill are all done, and everything in correct level. The builder will then put everything on hold for 2 weeks for our landscaper to finish the retaining walls at the back. The construction will then continues, and the landscaper will finish the front part some time next year...

    So unless your land got wide frontage, or you are one of the lucky ones who have a flat, even land, and don't need to have any retaining walls at the back - don't forget about your landscaping!