Get your head around these important decisions to keep you on track and stress-free
Building and renovating is a process that involves constant decision making. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the dozens of decisions you will need to make and the hundreds of options available to you. The good news is that you don’t have to make all of these decisions at once, and with the right advice and direction, you shouldn’t need to make them all on your own, either. By dealing with these primary issues thoroughly, you will be well placed to navigate the other decisions that need your attention throughout the process.
Determining and understanding your budget is an important first step in any project, as your budget will shape many future discussions about how your project is designed and executed. When thinking about your budget, you will need to think about the whole package, including design and approval fees, building costs and finishing costs like furnishings and landscaping. It is also important that you discuss your budget in detail with your architect or designer so that they have a thorough understanding of how you intend to allocate the money.An honest approach when doing this will get you the best results; there is no point in keeping ‘a bit up your sleeve’ when talking to the designer about your budget as it may lead to a lesser design solution if the designer feels they don’t have a suitable budget for the best design solution.
The size of your home is likely to have the biggest impact on the cost to build. I want to encourage you to really think about how big your home needs to be to suit your family. We all want to create the best possible lifestyle and quality of life for our family, but somewhere along the way we have convinced ourselves that bigger is better and that ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and resale is more important than focusing on our individual and specific needs.Building and renovating is a big financial commitment and I believe you should be thinking very carefully about what it is about a home that is important to you and your family, not to your neighbour or a future buyer; especially if it means that your home will be essentially the same as 90 per cent of the homes in your street.
One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is selecting a designer or architect.
Think about how involved you want to be in the design process and make sure that you articulate that with your shortlist of designers. Some designers will be open to working with your ideas and others will prefer to be able to explore their own design solutions to meet your brief. It is important to understand their approach, otherwise it may not be the most productive relationship.It’s crucial to ensure that your designer can demonstrate experience and success in responding to a brief and a budget that is similar to yours. Designing to a budget is an important skill and one that requires a level of experience in the marketplace, and it should feature highly in your list of requirements. Talking to a designer about a small project with a modest budget may be a waste of time if they are only familiar with working on large projects with big budgets.
Depending on the design services you have selected, you will either be getting help with the quoting process from the designer or architect or you will be doing it alone. If you have engaged the designer to carry out this task, you need to trust their methods, however the following comments are worth paying attention to.One of the reasons builders submit seemingly outrageous quotes is because they don’t have the confidence to quote the project competitively, which often happens when there is insufficient or poor documentation. The first step to avoid this is to ensure that you have high-quality documentation to enable the builders to prepare a thorough and transparent quote. A confident quote is more likely to be a competitive quote. So in addition to your professionally prepared drawings, you should also prepare an Inclusions Schedule to accompany the plans.
The Inclusions Schedule sets out specific allowances for dozens of items that are likely to be missing from the drawings, so must otherwise be guessed by a builder; or left out of the quote altogether, which is an even worse result as it leaves you exposed to cost variations and budget blow-outs. For example, a kitchen may have 15 or more separate selections or allowances required; and if they are not detailed transparently, they can easily result in distorted and misleading quotes with thousands of dollars of inconsistencies.
All going well, you will have three or four quotes to dissect and compare. You are likely to see that each builder will present their quote differently, which can make it difficult to compare ‘apples with apples’ (this is one area where using a detailed Inclusions Schedule helps enormously to keep all of the builders on the same page). You will also probably be surprised at the price range in quotes; and for that reason you need to consider the quotes very carefully, making sure you understand what is included in each one.
You should also ask each builder to confirm what is excluded from the quote. By highlighting items that are excluded, you will be able to get a better comparison across each quote. Some of the more common items that are excluded from quotes include: government fees and charges, consultants’ fees, asbestos removal, retaining walls, driveways, footpaths, fencing, floor coverings and curtains and blinds.Understanding quotes and untangling building jargon
Be very careful if you are considering accepting a quote that is significantly less than a grouping of other quotes. The cheaper quote may be appealing, however you should place some trust in a grouping of quotes as being the ‘right’ price to complete the project. Beware the quote you were hoping to receive!
Depending on the project, you may also need to consider what additional assistance you might need from other specialised designers, like landscape designers, interior designers and even lighting designers. Your budget is likely to be the biggest factor in the extent to which you utilise these services, however while each has a cost involved they also have the potential to significantly enhance and add value and quality to your home.For example, a good interior designer should also be able to work with a modest brief and budget and demonstrate ways in which cost-effective products and finishes can be used to enhance a project. Too often I see the results of where people buy expensive products and finishes, thinking that the product alone will create the ‘wow’ factor they are looking for, when in fact they could well have achieved a far better result with more cost-effective materials and more consideration given to the actual design.
As mentioned earlier, building and renovating is a process of constant decision-making. One of the things you can do to take some of the strain out of the process is to be aware of the decision-making sequence and stay ahead of the game so that you are not put in a position where you are expected to make important decisions hurriedly. For example, it may surprise you that selecting a toilet suite is one of the first decisions you will need to make, even though it won’t be installed for some time. The reason for this is because when installing a toilet in a concrete slab floor, the drainage points need to be accurately positioned, and each toilet may have different set out requirements.
Ask your builder for a list of items that will need to be selected or confirmed and the approximate sequence of those decisions so that you can allocate your time appropriately.Be aware that there are many decisions that don’t get made in isolation, so allocate as much time as possible to work through and explore options. This snowballing effect of decisions being dependant on other decisions is most common when it comes to interior design elements and selecting finishes and fittings; and it highlights the value of engaging an interior designer to help you filter through the hundreds of options available and arrive at decisions you are excited and confident about.