Thursday, August 27, 2009

Prelim contract ready to sign off - and TILES problem solved!

We've just about reached finalising our preliminary contract - we hope to have it signed off next Tuesday afternoon!

We've removed some items, added others, and most importantly have our structural changes approved and costed up. Frankly I'm quite surprised at how reasonable the costings are compared to the price of some other upgrades (eg soft closing kitchen drawers, $1300!)

Powder room changes: Putting the sink and WC all in one room, with two narrow windows, about $500.
Laundry changes: relocating the door, and creating a huge walk-in linen cupboard about $750.
Ensuite changes: swapping the WC and shower, and thus gaining a bigger 1650mm shower, about $500. The ensuite wall had to be pushed out about 200mm, meaning the master is 200mm shorter, but it was huge to start with, so we're quite happy with this tradeoff.

Now, a few posts ago I mentioned that M's new standard range of tiles wasn't very extensive. We sent an email to our csc last night to finalise the variations and to point out that we placed our deposit having viewed the tile selection prior, and thus M should honour the tile selection available at time of deposit. Our CSC replied this afternoon, saying that management had agreed to honour the original tile selection available, and that Beaumont would be informed prior to our tile appointment! Well done Mendo - we're so glad you're our CSC as your service has been consistently excellent!

We were looking through our photos from the fist visit to Beaumont and we would probably use 95% of the standard silver range at the time, so we'll hopefully get away with a (relatively) small bil for any super extra tiles we might choose to use.

Jen also asked us about the soft closing drawer things - at the homeshow, I found them at - however, after doing the obvious (an eBay search) I found a seller in Sydney who sells a pack of 5 soft-closing drawer additions for $12! Just put "soft closing" into the ebay search box and it should come up. Also went to a kitchen/bathroom place in Niddrie today off Keilor road, and they also had the same kitchen soft-closing addons, but the lady who knew about them (and how much they were) had gone home early. We've removed M's $1300 soft closing option from our kitchen list now!

We've got our colours appointment on Sept 12, so my partner is madly pouring through magazines, newspapers and of course the 'net to find her perfect colour combinations! We've also engaged a demolition company who is applying for our demo permit. Fingers crossed for an October demolition and November start!!

And of course, a couple of pictures: Here is a display house in Keysborough (not a M house, but can't remember the builder), with what looks like Austral Zinc bricks to the facade and a brown brick to the rear: something we may choose depending on price. Zinc bricks are AMAZING when the light hits them just right!

And this pic I think was taken while driving around in Mernda? Definitely a Plantation facade but can't tell what house lies behind it. We may choose a brown brick for the ground floor, but would go for a lighter colour cladding up top. The light garage door is a winner though!

Also still undecided regarding roof: Colorbond, concrete tiles, or terracotta? Gotta decide in a couple of weeks!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another weekend of colours!

We received the variations to our preliminary contract on Friday - mainly pulling out of big ticket things such as the raised ceiling to the rumpus, and entry bulkheads. What I really wanted was raised ceilings, but what M provide are actually lowered bulkheads around the sides of the ceiling, giving the impression of a raised ceiling. We'd rather have actual high ceilings at less cost!

Also some minor fine tuning with addition of doors, and trying to find a wide enough door to close off the entry passage. We'll have to close down the master bed entrance a little - the standard door is 2040 x 1020, and the widest Balmoral panel door we like is only 870, but at least it's 2340 high!

The rest of the weekend.. we spend Saturday at Mernda - and for those thinking of going there next week, don't be surprised if 6 houses are closed as that's the information we were given! Still, the "manager" of the mernda display centre was trying his damn best to be unhelpful and rude to us - so we're glad we didn't leave a deposit with any of his staff! Unpleasant person.

Sunday, we went all the way over to Caroline Springs. One of my staff is building a townhouse with Urbayne - we had a look and they've got fantastic design and fitouts, but at a pretty high price! Worth looking at if you're nearby. Also saw a few M houses, and finally found a display hosue with colours we quite like - the Soho with a very modern, cool (as in "not warm and brown") colour scheme.

One thing we're pretty sure on is that we don't want any creams, browns, beiges, browns, tans, browns, fake woodgrain, pale wood-like finishes, more brown, brown... did I say no brown?? It's just not our style, plus I was surrounded by brown in my parents house for too many years when I was growing up, so I associate all brown with the 70s and 80s. Not a problem for external though - we may use Austral Hawthorn or Newport bricks, but we want the interior to be strictly cool neutral, with the ability to add as much or as little colour through easily changeable items.

This we liked! The kitchen in the Soho - quite small, but very well done with gloss white lower cabinets, Osprey (we think) ceasarstone benchtops, darker overhead cupboards. I'd like to use European (concealed) drawer handles rather than the chunky ones shown, and to have no upper handles at all - simply extend the lower front edge so it drops below the cupboard base to pull open. Neat and tidy! Plus the wood floor was perfect - quite a dark, almost black stain to it. We'll have to find out the exact finished used at studio M.

Similarly, for the bathroom - dark grey floor tiles, white wall tiles, white cabinets and a grey benchtop. Looks a bit dull with the inadequate lighting, but appears much better in real life. I think we might try to a more exciting feature tile in the wall somewhere, and I'd like to have a real knockout powder room tile - it's just a matter of finding inspiration somewhere!

After that, we headed to Derrimut where there were 3 houses on display with pretty boring colours, then to the home expo. Best thing here was to find a company that sold soft-closing add-ons for your kitchen drawers and cupboards for $10/pair. M quote use $1300! I think that's one area we'll remove from the preliminary contract and do ourselves.

Anyway we've got 3 weeks to the colour appointment, so we're hoping to finish colour selections in the next 2 weeks, and get the preliminary contract signed off before then too. Also have to run around organising the demolition too - there's a small chance we might even get started this year!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preliminary Contract meeting results

After the last post, I was feeling kind of tired trying to keep track of all the different things that needed attention. Anyway, today was a pretty good day for tying up loose ends!

We met with our CSC at M head office from 9:30-12 today. We went through the siting, modifications for rescode (setback and window obscuring, mostly) options list (where we deleted a few options and added/modified a couple) and the results of the site survey and soil test. Apparently we had an 800mm fall over the block, not that it looks like that much at all!

Here's an interesting tidbit: You can put the garage wall right on the boundary line, 150mm from the boundary, or 1m or more away. You can't put your garage wall anywhere between 15cm and 1m from the boundary! Keep that in mind if you're planning a rebuild... again, this led to our issue of fencing - still need to organise to remove the fence (temporarily) while the garage wall is being built. Will get stuck into that sometime this week.

Anyway, we left feeling that we're almost at the complete level (which is where we should be by now), just a couple of floorplan modifications to be approved and costed. The laundry modification and ensuite shower/toilet swap shold be drawn up and costed by Friday. The redesigned powder room, where the WC and sink are all enclosed, was only $220, including 2 narrow windows to replace the normal single window.

The thing is, there's a chance we might even start building this year! If all goes smoothly, we may accept the preliminary contract in a week or so, have the final one signed by early October, (organise the demolition end October) and start as soon as November! Didn't think we'd even be able to get ready by early next year - apparently M can get the building permit within a week of final contract; depending on whether everything is unconditional by then (eg finance approved, demo permit approved, easement permission given etc).

After lunch, we went to Whitehorse council, where we had another good meeting with a building regulations officer who helped us on a few issues:
  • Building (near) the easement should be fine - our issues are a slight bit of excavation over the easement side, and the eaves overhanging. Submitting a $125 bit of paper should get us approval for our needs - yay!
  • Demolition - well, I got one quote back via email today for $11k, which is about what we expected. Still waiting on a few more quotes. But on this note, we have to pay for an Asset Protection Permit - but if we get it in our name, will cover the demo, build, and the extended crossover.
  • Crossover - we definitely want a wider driveway, as the 50yr old entry is barely wide enough for a small car. We;ll apply for the largest possible - about 3m across. More expense, naturally - $150 application fee, $500 bond, then the price of the actual crossover itself which I've been told is north of $2500.
We then had an hour or two free to drop by Beaumont Tiles in Oakleigh, where we got a bit of a shock! When we went before, everything with a silver sticker was a standard tile, and gold tiles were an upgrade. Now it's "blue dot" tiles are standard - and there's not very many!! Maybe 6-7 wall tiles, and 7-8 floor tiles. Not happy Jan! This new policy only started 3 days ago - we're hoping they just haven't finished putting all the blue dots out, because right now there's very little to choose from in the standard range! Anyone thinking of building with M, go check it out for yourselves!

Hoping to hear back from our CSC on Friday regarding updated floorplan and revised pricing. Right now it's madness making lists of things to do (which I'm mostly doing) and picking colours (which I'm leaving to T to sort out).


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Preliminary Contract received by email yesterday - a LONG post!

Well, our preliminary contract meeting is for Tuesday Aug 18th - we received a copy of it by email yesterday.

It contained details on the floorplan, facade, overlooking, overshadowing etc, plus a more formal documentation of all the upgrades and promo items, and of course - site costs!

We were informed of approx $30k in site costs, and it's a few hundred bucks more than that in total. Includes such charges as;
  • Cut & Fill 3k
  • Slab upgrade from M to P $7k
  • Redevelop costs $7k - additional survey, site cleans, temp fencing, traffic management, protection to adjoining houses etc
  • Reconnection to sewer $750
  • Cranes $3k
  • Double handling $2500
  • Termite protection $1500
  • Underground power pit $5k - we might arrange this ourselves, apparently the true cost is about $2k if we organise it!
  • Temp power pole $1k
However, there are a few things which we weren't particularly aware we had to do - perils of building for the first time I guess! Including;

1) "Owner to apply for "Report & Consent" from relevant authorities for building over easement. "Report & Consent" to be applied for prior to building permit application. Customer to be aware that this item does not constitute approval, therefore siting is conditional on approval. Owner to apply to local authority to obtain neighbours names and addresses prior to M homes making application".

We have a 1.83m easement along the back which isn't a problem, but also a 1.83m easement along the side, and currently our siting puts the house approx 2.055m from the boundary. So I have a few uncertainties here;

a) Do I have to get all the approvals from Yarra Valley Water and local council? If so, do I have to do this prior to signing the preliminary contract, or can I do it before signing final contracts?
b) Is there any risk that this will be denied (and then throwing off the whole building process?) We don't mind so much if there's a little extra cost in piers or whatever else is structurally required so much.

We did post this question on Homeone and here's a reply we received - what a source of knowledge that forum is!

"Hi sklnv,

Which suburb are you building in? How many pipes do you have in your side easement?

We have a plot of land in SE suburb within Monash City. Our land has a 3m wide drainage easement running along the side boundary. Easement has 2 pipes, one belonging to council and one to Yarra Valley Water. We had faced a similar situation (except that we weren't going to build over the easement but near to the easment) and had a previous knockback with council's engineering with a previous design which saw the house sited 50cm from the easement and the builder having to dig into the easement to take some land from there to fill other parts of the site. Engineering disallowed this cos' the council's pipe was rather shallow in the ground and old too. Luckily, we were only at the pre-contract stage (Tender) and could walk away unscathed. With this knowledge (council not approving siting near to the easement), we knew that we had to be at least 1m away from the easement for the next design we could find for our land.

Now, we have signed with another volume builder to build our house. We applied for consent to Yarra Valley Water to build close to the easement (our siting of the house is 1 m away from the easment and their pipe lies 90 cm from the side boundary). We did this before signing. We were given approval by Yarra Valley and this only took a few days (even though they said it could take up to 2 weeks for processing). You would need to supply Yarra Valley with a copy of your prelim site plans when making your application and a small fee is payable. Since Monash city owned the storm water pipe (the second pipe in our easement), we spoke with the council's engineering dept - brought in all documents (i.e site plan and engineering computations). The engineer gave me the all clear and said I didn't need to make any applications for consent.
You can always start making your enquiries now with Yarra Valley and your city council since it can take time for processing of the applications. With council, they would need to advertise your report and consent application to your neighbours - 14 days advertising period and than some days to make a decision (ours took 2.5 weeks only in total). Even if council indicated to you that there wouldn't be a problem for you to build over the easement, it only takes one neighbour to raise a valid objection for you not to get consent! You could appeal against a rejection of your consent application but this is with another division. (In our case, we were lucky that we got consent for a reduced front setback despite one neighbour objecting. The assistant building inspector said that my neighbour's objection wasn't valid to our application. Neighbour said she was concerned about loss of sunlight to her verandah. For us, the drainage easement and an angled frontage worked to our advantage in order for us to have a reduced front setback! phew)

The other thing you would need to find out is the depth of the pipe(s) in your easement. If they are not very deep, you may get an objection from either the Yarra Valley or the council. The best really is to contact Yarra Valley (for depth and location of their pipe in the easement) and your city council for advice. Yarra Valley in our experience has always given us a prompt reply. They emailed to us the location and invert depth of their water pipe to us. Yarra Valley would also probably tell you to submit an application for consent to them.I can't remember whether we had to pay for this info though. You would probably be able to get all your questions answered by your city council on the day that you pop into their office to speak with someone from Ton & Planning (and engineering if there is a city pipe in your easement too). The one thing that Town & Planning will say to you is that they can't commit to an answer. You just need to persist (gently) with your line of order for you get as much information as possible.

Hope this helps."
What a useful bit of info! We're planning to go straight to the council and Yarra Valley Water after the prelim contract meeting to get this sorted out. This is one item I wish M had informed us of weeks ago!

Anyway, there are a couple of other items we have to organise

2) Ask neighbour's consent to knock down the bit of fence where our garage wall will be, as it's closer than 150mm to the fence/boundary. Will have to ask the neighbours (who are renting) the details of their landlord.

3) Organise demolition approval - which needs to be approved prior to M submitting the council building approval. Again, we could have been told of this a month ago?

so a bit of a downer to the start of the weekend with the realisation there's a lot of work we have to do fairly quickly. In order to avoid delay fees of about $1800 per month, we have to have the final contract unconditional by November 24 - which means we have to sign & pay the 5% deposit on final contract a month before that ie October 24.

Worst case scenario; should building over the easement not be approved, or the neighbour disallows the fence to be knocked down, or demolition approval not given - we might just have to walk away from the current contract with M and start again with another M house design, or simply restart again at a later date. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

Anyway, to finish with I know we all like to see pictures, so here's a model I did of the house from the back view, with dark brown bricks (and watertank & side fence!). Thanks to Michelle for posting brick upgrade prices!!

Also as promised, Jo recommended we draw up any kitchen redesign plans. Here's one showing our preferred layout for pot drawers (heaps of them!) to the side kitchen bench, and an additional door to the island bench.

Anyway, if any reader has advice regarding demolition companies, applying for building over easements, and dealing with neighbours and fences, please leave a comment as everything helps!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

A weekend of colour preparation!

Yesterday we went to Austral bricks display centre in Lynbrook - much nicer by miles than the Boral brick display in scoresby (which we saw last weekend)! Firstly it was all indoors, with a great setup of all the bricks. Extremely helpful salespeople, and a guy wandering around who took us out to the brick displays, gave us a couple of example bricks to take home, and they gave a list of where we could see pretty much every brick on a house job. Highly recommended to visit!

I fell in love with the Zinc brick - a semi glazed brick, which looks absolutely stunning when the light hits it! It's a Category 8 brick, about the top range of brick options, so it'll probably be hellishly expensive for the whole house - we'll have to wait & see! Here's a pic of it used in the display centre entrance!

And a pic of a house in Mt Waverly built with the Zinc brick - this house looked amazing with the northerly light hitting the bricks just right! Hopefully we can use this house as a bit of inspiration - zinc bricks, lighter cladding and garage door, and maybe some kind of feature render.

This morning we went back to Studio M for our second preparation visit, gathering up as many colour selection samples as we could. We picked up a few!

We're thinking very broadly right now; but maybe...

Outside: Austral Zinc bricks (depending on co$$$$$t!), light cladding/garage door, dark roof tiles, guttering, fascia and downpipes.

Kitchen: White lower cupboards (Polar White?) with Osprey ceasarstone, and darker grey overhead cupboards.

Ensuite/Bath/powder room: large grey square floor tiles, white (whitish?) wall tiles, and undecided on vanities.

We also stopped by the Imperial Balwyn display home today - I'd like to see whether we can get two banks of pot drawers either side of the oven like in their display kitchen, but not holding my breath! Here it is;

The option we have so far is an 800mm bank of 3 pot drawers either side of the oven with a 400mm cupboard. This looks like a double bank of 3 pot drawers, 600mm width each. Maybe possible, maybe not.

Anyway, I'm trying to render my sketchup model with our choices to see what it'll look like, and hopefully by our colour appointment in mid September we can just walk in, hand over a completed list, and have relatively little stressful on-the-spot decision making to do!

Cheers to our "partner-in-crime" Michelle who's just done her colour appointment - we're planning to discuss our structural changes at prelim and hoping to get all the changes we want; including the shower/toilet ensuite swap etc ec :)

T & T

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Redraw fees for modifying house plan - any comments?

Just got a letter from our CSC today after confirming our colour selection appointment for mid September. One or two things not quite right; mainly the base price of the house is $3000 more than when we left our deposit - the house prices all went up about $3000 2-3 days after we left our deposit, so I'll be sure to correct her on that point. Naturally the general content of the letter was to confirm the dates of the next 2 appointments, and the outline where yet more out of pocket fees would come from - for example
  • underground power pits
  • stormwater connection
  • double handling
  • redraw fees
  • building /council approval

In particular, the item regarding redraw fees got our attention - here's a scan of that page in case anyone wants to check it out;
In fairness, I guess we are planning to make a few structural changes that I don't think are standard options; including:
  • Altered laundry layout (as suggested by one reader of the blog - many thanks!)
  • Revised powder room with WC and sink all together in one room
  • Swap toilet/shower position in ensuite
  • Extra doors - cavity doors to ensuite & sitting room, door to rear open plan area, double doors to rumpus/home theatre
I've already done a big sketchup 3D model of the house, but for floorplan customisation I decided to use Visio to replicate the floorplan as it's much better for a 2D design. Here's our current version of the house with some notes; as usual click for a fullsize plan.

So while the $1000 redraw fee for redrawing the floorplan isn't really surprising, it's another thing I wish our sales consultant had mentioned to us when we first spoke to her.

If anyone has any suggestions regarding our floorplan on how to improve things, please add a comment on this blog and we'll be sure to read it!

Tim & Tina


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