Thursday, July 30, 2009

Preliminary Contract booked!

It's great to know other people with the Nolan, or planning to build the Nolan are following this blog, as it's a brilliant way to bounce ideas around and keep track of how things should flow!

Many thanks to "Anonymous" who posted their floorplan earlier with the laundry modification, which is now something we're definitely integrating with our Nolan too! We were considering it before putting the deposit down, but until seeing it in a floorplan we couldn't visualise it that well!

What I've done is stripped back my Sketchup diagram to a basic floorplan, and this is what our floorplan may be like, for tonight at least! Click on the picture for a bigger one.

It probably makes the most sense to those who have the "official" Nolan floorplan - so if you don't have one, here's an example (this image property of Metricon Homes)

For those who haven't seen this floorplan, it suited us almost perfectly. The sitting room is being converted to my home office, as I run a business from home part time, and the downstairs study with be Tina's study. The rumpus room is our home theatre room - hooray! The master suite will get a walk-in alcove behind the bedhead, and the minor bedrooms and bathroom left essentially standard for future family upgrades :)

This section of the blog post is dedicated to Michelle, who added a comment in our last post that she's at virtually the same stage at us, leaving her deposit the day after us. Guess what.. we also got a call, from Mendo at Metricon HQ, and we've got a date to start with the preliminary contract - August 18!

Mendo seems very helpful which we're happy about, and was able to help us out on some of our uncertainties - for example:
  • Structural changes we want to make can be submitted at this preliminary contract meeting
  • Site costs will be detailed - our survey and soil test results are in already!
  • Colour appointment for us will be after prelim contract, probably late Aug to early September (we both work different days and need to plan well ahead)
  • and colour selections can still be changed, even after the "official" colour appointment - I think. Need to get the details on how colours can be changed - would we need a whole new colour appointment, or can we just email changes if it's only a few?
So we're quite excited with how this is progressing - it seems almost "real" now! The hard part is just beginning - mainly colours are going to be the brainbuster to decide.

To finish this post, my "boss" calls me up the other day to congratulate me on being such a great worker, and how would I like a 12.5% pay cut starting September?
Naturally, I told him he was a tosser, and essentially gave him my 4 weeks notice. This won't really derail the build process at all, but it's a pain in the rear!

Tim & Tina

Monday, July 27, 2009

Initial contact from Metricon - let's get things underway!

Got back from Mt Hotham on the weekend to find a pile of letters - junk mail, bills, and one from Metricon dated July 9. This letter just stated that the deposit had been received, paperwork is underway, and a CSC would contact us "soon" to organise some appointments! Of course, "CSC" = Customer Service Consultant, so let's just hope that the first two words actually mean something! What we need to do is figure out who we liase with to make any further changes to our house... in particular...

Over the last week in Hotham, surrounded by plenty of snow, I did read up a little about water, and how rates/bills etc would pile up as all the water companies increase their charges by up to 60% over the next 2 years! Monopoly, Duopoly, Multi-opoly?

All new homes have to be at least 5 star energy efficient (how this is rated I have no idea) but from what I know, the new house has to have either solar hot water or a water tank. Most project home builders choose to incorporate solar hot water, and M is no exception. They do offer to install a water tank as an upgrade, but even our sales consultant reckons you should do it after handover for a better price. However, I do want to find out how much it will be to "pre-plumb" the house for a water tank - so we can easily add in a water tank later, and importantly have the water usable inside the house, and not just for the garden (eg for toilet flushing). This would require some sort of plumbing from the roof to the tank, and then from the tank to the toilets... and a pump of some kind? Yep, I need to do some more research here - or can any readers please add a comment?

We're also wanting to re-arrange the laundry door as described by a reader of the blog (thanks again!) and also arrange the powder room so that the sink and toilet are in the one small room, rather than having the sink on the outside. I'm on my laptop so I don't have the drawing I did of this variation, but will add it to the next update. Also realising right now how uncomfortable a laptop keyboard is compared to my big ergonomic keyboard on the server!

Anyway, we'll probably arrange another tour of Studio M, mainly to pick up all the samples and try to pin down colour choices, and also drop by Beaumont again in Oakleigh sometime. And of course, the spectre of unknown site costs is still keeping me awake at night, so the sooner we get some firm answers on this, the better!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Display home options - know what's standard and know what's not!

Now, Metricon aren't the only builder to option up all their display homes - and most people who walk through a M display home are wowed by what's on show. But here's a tip - when you go into a Metricon display home, ask a sales consultant for a displayed options price list. It'll list each and every item which is nonstandard; for example, the big front door, french doors where you'd normally have a window, multiple ensuites etc.

Don't be surprised when a house base price is $250,000 and "as displayed" $400,000 or more - but certainly a lot of these display options you may choose to remove. Tina loved the cantilever stairs with glass, but that's a $17,000 option or so. We may go with the cantilevered stairs, no glass, and stainless steel balustrades, about $7,500.

Other typical display options that we noted include bifold doors to alfresco - they look beautiful, approx $6-9000 per bifold. Timber windows to the whole house, well around $1800 just for the facade on the Nolan 41. Anyway, ask your own questions when you get to the display homes. I do specifically recall one other customer in front of us asking a greeter "How much does it cost to get a home exactly as featured here" to which the greeter replied "Oh, we don't know!". Clearly, he did know but didn't want to put off the customer, which is kind of disappointing to me - I would prefer a full and frank disclosure so that the customer can make their own decisions as to how much they want an option, and how much they're willing to pay for it.

That said, some of the options are quite reasonable priced - a roller door to the rear of our garage is about $300, which is more than reasonable. Some others I believe are a little overpriced; however at the end of the day you've got to consider the overall package price. Give a little, take a little, and ultimately you want to be overall satisfied with your house!

I also had one reader ask about a $5500 ensuite upgrade (which we're not going with anymore), where the shower is located centrally in the ensuite with 2 doors opening to it. There's also a $7000 ensuite upgrade, where the toilet and shower locations are swapped, and a spa bath added. I would add photos to explain, but we're on holidays this week without a scanner.

This brings up one little issue with M - when we were looking at Henley, they have a HUGE book showing all the options for all their house designs, it's about 2" thick with proper drawings of all their standard options. Unfortunately M don't have the same kind of book, so you will have to ask your sales consultant if you're after a specific option. Here's a hint - grab the Henley book and maybe use that as a guide to what other project home builders can/should offer as options. Also, go to see all M display homes, as you can always ask a sales consultant whether an ensuite design from another house can be added to your planned house. One other option we asked M was to add some drawers to the ensuite vanity, which is about $180.

Also had another blog reader post a comment about their Nolan 45 build - thanks a lot for your comment, and how exciting to be nearly finished! Tina was very very keen on also relocating the laundry entrance to the powder room side rather than through the kitchen - can you leave me some contact details regarding the rough price on this upgrade, including the larger laundry cupboard? We also asked M about have a self contained powder room with toilet and sink in the one room.

We've yet to hear back from M regarding any further appointments (we expect colour and electrical next) and we've still got a few modifications to the quote that we want to make prior to prelim contract - we'll probably remove colorbond roof, sarking and bigger eaves, and try to add back in that alternate laundry layout, so we'll need to contact our sales consultant to figure out who we submit these requests to now.

We're currently in Mt Hotham, enjoying some fabulous snow - it's nice to have a week off, and remind myself of how I have to get fitter so I can snowboard more...

Tim & Tina

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nolan structural options

So I've been doing a little bit of extra research on some of the main structural options that we've tentatively put into the quote. Apparently now that our quote has been submitted to M head office, we can't change them through our sales consultant anymore, but will be able to do final additions/subtractions at the preliminary contract stage.

Anyway, stepping back in time a little bit, this is basically how you price up a new house build -

"When you invest your initial $1,000 deposit, Metricon will fix the base price of your home for 150 days. The final cost of your home is the sum of:
  1. the base price of the home type (including facade) you selected;
  2. any applicable site costs to build on your land;
  3. the cost of any variations approved to your home; and
  4. your chosen options and home specification selections."
1) This is a pretty standard approach from the major project home builders. The base price has a certain set of standard inclusions - eg timber frame, roof tiles, walls (duh!), basic kitchen, bathroom, laundry etc, doors, garage door, windows etc.

2) Site costs are probably most new builders greatest fears, as there's a lot of uncertainties in site costs. In a perfect world, your block of land is ideal for building your selected house and site costs are $0 extra. For our block, or consultant has put in a figure of $30,000 provisional costs because of many factors, including:
  • We're knocking down an established house, so the site will most likely be a "P" class
  • We're in an established area, so access to the site is a bit harder
  • We have an easement at the back of the property as most land sites do, but we have an additional easement along the side of the property which we'll probably need a whole bunch of piers to avoid encroaching upon
And in a comment from one reader of this blog, due to being in a flood prone area, their site costs are estimated at $45,000. Not knowing much about flood areas, I'd imagine there's some provision for having the habitable floor level above the flood risk level, plus much reinforcement/foundation for the slab?

3 & 4) I'm not sure what the difference is between variations and options/specifications, but both will cost your some money!

Lately I've been thinking about some of the structural options we've chosen, mainly reasearching Colorbond roofing and eaves.

Colorbond on our house is approx $3000 more for the Colorbond, $1,600 for the sarking underneath. While I love the zero maintenance aspect of colorbond, Tina likes tiles as I've mentioned in a previous post, and here is where we could save $4000 or so. We'll probably talk it over more later, but I'm happy to have tiles now, I think! Plus the new houses in our street (the Porter Davis design across the road, and the Ashford home 3 doors down) both have tiled roofs.

I've also mentioned big eaves to our sales consultant, and she's put in 600mm eaves all around the first floor as an upgrade, which is about $3,300 additional. The standard plan has 450mm eaves to the front half of the first floor. I've been researching lately, and since the front of the house is facing north, eaves to the north give the most benefit compared to eaves all around - so potentially this is another area we could save some money in.

By dropping the colorbond roof, and having the standard eaves, save $7,500 or so? Mmmm... decisions to be made! Comments anyone?

I'd also be quite interested to hear about other people's experience with timelines since leaving their deposit - eg how long did it take to hear back from M about colour and electrical appointments, and how long until the prelim contract appointment?

Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Another house 3D; full facade!

Spent some time last night working on an external model of the house so it'll help us choose brick and cladding colour etc.

One thing we're not sure on is the roof: concrete tiles, terracotta, or colorbond? There's so much info out there about relative lifespan, maintenance, weight etc, but ultimately Tina says she doesn't like the look of COlorbond as it looks like an old shed - can't really argue with that! I do like the fact that they're low maintenance, but then again the tiles on my parents house have been there 25 odd years without any problems, really. And tiles probably do look nicer, though that's again a matter of opinion.... plus we'd say about $4000 by sticking with tiles instead of paying more for colorbond.

Anyway, here's a pic of my work so far!

The colours aren't finalised, but we're thinking of a darker grey brick, lighter cladding, render and garage door, dark grey aluminium window frames, and maybe a lighter roof? Again, depends on whether we go with tiles or colorbond. Comments welcome!

We did see AInslee again on SUnday to review the quote - prices for houses has gone up about $3000, and the promo package is up $1000, so we're about $4000 better off for leaving the deposit last month - nice! Though some muckups in the quoting system now that the old promo has gone - we still get all the promo inclusions but it doesn't show up individually in our quote which is a little annoying but not a big deal. We've taken out some big ticket items saving a substantial $22,000 or so (!!) but added a few little things back in. Ultimately we need to know site costs when the soil test is done, as that will affect the overall budget.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Visualisation tools - sketchup to create house model!, and eventually render a full 3D facade!

So I was thinking, why doesn't M have software that lets you visualise changes to your house, like layout options, colours, facades, floor coverings etc? I started using MVH (an Australian free program) but it was slow and terrible unintuitive, though if you've got no knowledge of CAD software it might be good for you. Anyway, that's free so google "MVH" and you'll find it for a trial.

Many more people recommend Google Sketchup, and while the learning curve is fairly steep, I have a pretty good background in vector design packages so it took half an hour to get to grips.

Anyway, after a couple of nights work, here's the progress so far:

I've seperated the two floors so you can see the room flow and layout, and haven't yet added a roof in. But certainly this is a brilliant tool to visual everything, especially when we come to picking facade/external colours. It's slightly less useful for interior colours as the textures aren't quite right and I don't think there's photo-texturing, but we'll see. You can of course rotate in 3D, change all colours, add/remove furniture and a whole lot more. I've got one problem where I've made a sloping wall in the laundry by accident and can't figure out how to straighten it, but it's a minor issue.

There's also some animation options which I'll research once the layout is fully finalised, and maybe I'll upload it to youtube too! I think I'm finding the 3D modelling more exciting than choosing tile colours right now - which reminds me, later today we'll head out to Beaumont Tiles Oakleigh to see what the standard and upgrade tiles look like.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Site survey and revised quote!

Got a call from a surveying company today, wondering if they could go and measure up our land.. today - as they had a cancellation! I said sure, why not - the sooner this is done, hopefully the sooner Metricon get the details and can do a geosite presentation for us. I don't think the soil test has been done yet though, so the great uncertainty with site costs is still in existence.

Also received a revised quote (V4) for our house - it's getting very close to ideal now I think, just a few subtractions to make and a few additions as usual. There's a lot of things that we've asked for, that really should be chosen/decided at the colour and electrical appointments, but otherwise Ainslee's doing a good job of reading through our extensive pages of requests and trying to fulfil them all. Hopefully we can tee up a time to see her this weekend to make a few minor changes, then we can more on from there!

It looks like we'll go with the standard L-shaped island bench, but with 40mm stone tops instead of the 20mm stone tops that were in the promotion - a little more expensive of course, but it does look nice! Probably will add it to the powder room too, and maybe even the bathroom if we feel generous :)

What else do we need to look at? There's some confusion in the door department, but I think this will get sorted at the colour appointment, as there's a door choosing section involved there. Might remove the $1200 flyscreen to the bi-part door - seems a little much, and I reckon it's doable later for less (hope i'm not wrong!). Will also remove the built-in cupboards to the sitting room - I'm not sure whether the quote was for what I was thinking of, but $7000 seems a little steep too! Other things like electrical details we'll leave for the electrical appointment.

And for those looking for some musical inspiration, for some reason I'm getting a lot of Australian hip-hop on, with the new Hilltop Hoods album excellent (of course!) and Pegz getting some rotation, as well as Birds of Tokyo; Day One a great set getting some replay value. Been nursing a sore back/neck/arms all day - I think the days of bothering to renovate the old house are over, it's not worth breaking my body over!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Renovation 101 - making the ol' estate livable! Wall prep and paint, carpets removed

We met with a Metricon finance consultant yesterday for an interesting discussion, will post about that maybe tomorrow.

As for today, we were going to go to Beaumont Tiles to check out available selections for the bathrooms/ensuite/laundry, but they're shut on Sundays. So over the last few nights we've been cleaning the old place up, as it looks like we'll be living in it for at least 6 months before demolishing and rebuilding.

Here's a pic before of the "master" bedroom - inch thick 50 year old carpets full of bacteria, insects, dirt, skin etc, walls with wallpaper removed but the wallpaper paste NOT cleaned away, so an inch-thich layer of grime, greasy curtains, a rather elaborate original light fitting which doesn't work because the electrics in the room are shot, sash windows which lift a few inches then fall down (I suspect a broken cord or two), a built-in timber wardrobe the last owner banged up himself ....

Here's a little pic after, having used sugar soap on the walls and a light bit of sanding to remove patches, and some leftover paint Tina's dad had lying around. It's actually quite satisfying to see what a major improvement can be had for essentially $0 and a couple of hours manual labour! I've also pulled up the carpet, underlay, removed the carpet nail tracks and given the floor a wash, but there's heaps of paint spots from the original painting done when the house was built 50 years ago. Makes you wonder at how tastes change - back then, these lovely hardwood floors were considered ugly, to be covered up by orange twirl carpet! Later on today I've got a belt-sander which I'll use to remove all the original paint spots, then either just leave it how it is, or maybe throw down some timber stain or wax.

This begs the obvious question, why aren't we doing this properly - hiring a floor sander for 3 passes, then putting down a polyurethane coat? All comes down to the usual 2 suspects - time and money. We don't have any time during the week to do this work as we're at our day jobs, and we're madly saving every cent for the new house!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mortgages - what do you have to ask? And some of Tim's thinkings about money!

We had a meeting tonight with Karen from Vision Mortgage Solutions. Sat down for an hour or so to ask some basic questions about the ideal kind of mortgage for us.

Basically, we're planning to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible - I guess that's what most people aim to do; especially when you think that on a $250,000 mortgage over 30 years at about 5.2%, you actually pay back around $490,000. That means on a loan of $250,000, you pay $240,000 extra in interest charges! Guess you can't blame the banks for wanting to make a few bucks, and when it comes to your house, you don't really have many other options.

But think about it - if you bought a car for $50,000, would you want to pay $90,000 for it? Car loans are higher than mortgage loans, but for a shorter term - a key difference is that the basic asset (the car itself) is going to be worth much less than the total sum you pay for it including loan interest. For example, the $50,000 car you pay $75,000 to own is then worth $30,000, to pluck a few figures out of thin air! The motto? Buy the cheapest, crappiest car to drive that your ego can afford, unless you're able to get some other sucker to pay at least some of it for you (for example, salary sacrifice if you're a standard wage slave, or buy a McLaren F1 if you're sitting at the top of the big table!). Then again I shouldn't really give advice to buy a crappy car, as last year I imported a Skyline GTR which I drive maybe one a week or fortnight or so... more on that later!

Right, kind of off-topic.. but basically the reason why we accept mortgages on houses is that at least the basic asset should appreciate (go up) in value. For example, you might buy a house for $300,000, pay it off for a few years, then sell it for $400,000 capital gains free 3 years later(if you've lived in the house - investors need to cough up more tax to our wonderfully non-corrupt government bodies *cough*). Sounds great, doesn't it? You've had a roof over your heads, and made $100,00 tax free! To make the maths simple, let's say you've made 30% gain over 3 years. But let's say you'd put that $300,000 into an alternative asset - let's say you bought shares. And you held it for 3 lucky years, and sold your shares for $600,000 3 years later. That's 100% gain (less capital gains tax at your applicable rate)!

Why the higher rate of return? Basically, the universal rule is that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Safe as banks? 4% return, only just ahead of inflation. Safe as houses? 6% or so - but your house might not go up in value, or your wonderful tenants might trash the place. Safe as shares? -100%, +100%, +500% or more?

Not quite sure how I got started on all that, but anyway I meant to talk construction mortages. Those of you building a new house on land you own or have paid off already, need to ask the right questions!

Builders generally want staged payments, roughly 20% at each stage of construction. Ensure your lender acknowledges this, and find out what additional fees (if any) apply. For example, you may need to pay $100 every stage payment in various fees and inspection appointment costs.

Lenders may also require a complete signed contract and building approval prior to approving the loan. With Metricon, you pay a 5% deposit at contract signing, before building approval is applied for. Where does that 5% come from, if the lender won't approve the loan without building approval? Ask the right questions!

On that theme, on the unlikely (but not impossible) event that you've paid 5% for contracts and building approval is not immediately forthcoming, what does that mean for any loan you plan to apply for?

What if you have an existing loan for the house/land - is it worth talking to your existing lender about a redevelopment loan or extension of your existing mortgage, or moving to an entirely new lender? Beware of break fees - money you pay, to avoid paying more money to a bad lender.

Anyway, Karen was great to talk to, and she came out in the evening to our place to talk things through. We're going to talk to a couple of other brokers to see what they have to say, but if anyone wants Karen's number, add a private comment with your email address and I'll get back to you. In fact, if there's any random things you want to ask, just comment below and I'll try to get back to you or blog about it. I've already contacted one reader who's also building a Nolan (Hi Newt!) and hopefully we'll discuss more specifics about Nolans as time goes by.



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