Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can you believe some people are working between xmas and new years?

Well, it's been a lazy kind of time since xmas - I've been avoiding shopping centres at all costs, concentrating on playing video games, reading comic books and having yum cha (my kind of holiday!). Moved back home on the weekend as well, after babysitting a big dog and small cat. Cats are OK - they don't need much attention :)

Drove past our block of land today, and was surprised to see some fresh concrete around the underground powerpit that we had put in at the start of November - about time! Looks very neat and tidy now.

However, we also got a letter from the council saying the demolition crew had wrecked a couple of footpath "squares" - I don't know a better word for them - and it'd cost us $600 to have it all fixed. Now, my understanding of the "asset protection permit" was that it would protect us from paying rectification costs, but apparently that's not the case... another $600 going into this build :(

And while we're talking about powerpits and demolition additional costs, we had a comment from B&T (another Nolan builder - I should start up a little club!) asking about the demolition process. Here's a summary:
  • Obtain asset protection permit from your council & pay any required bond amount (ours was $160 for the permit, $1000 bond)
  • Choose a demolition contractor after getting some quotes
  • Arrange telephone line disconnection through Telstra (allow 1-2 weeks), They won't physically disconnect the line - once the phone number has been "inactivated" your demo crew can just cut the lead-in phone line and take it to the telephone pole.
  • Arrange electricity and gas disconnections through your electricity/gas providers (allow 2-4 weeks) and the house must be vacant before they'll remove the electricity and gas meters.
  • If you're redeveloping your block, make sure you leave the water meter and front tap, and get your demo crew to remove everything but these two items.
As for underground powerpit, strictly this has nothing to do with the demolition, but should be done well prior to starting construction (allow 4 weeks from time of ordering powerpit). I'd order the powerpit at the same time as arranging electricity disconnection. For this, call your electricity provider and ask them who provides underground powerpits in your area. Our one was about $1600 (had to get power from the powerpole across the street so a little more than the basic quoted cost of around $900). Good luck B&T! For more details click on the "demolition" tag on the sidebar of this blog.

Finally, here's a screen capture of MyMetricon, the online tool for tracking your house build. Apparently Porter Davis has a similar customer tool, but I've not seen what it looks like.

This screen shows our "preconstruction" chart with everything completed (finally!). This includes such items as deposit, sales process, colour, electrical selections etc, contracts, planning and ordering, right up to the site start date.

This pic shows us the "construction" screen - and clearly nothing's been started yet (the site scrape doesn't get a mention on this screen). Hopefully this empty screen will rocket along to having a whole bunch of yellow bars soon!

Also got an email from Gena yesterday (didn't think she'd be doing emails on her break!) just letting us know we won't be getting any bills while we're overseas in January, which is nice.

I think we'll head to the beach for a day or two tomorrow as it'll be over 30 until Thursday afternoon. Not much accommodation about, but will find a little motel or something near the beach (hopefully) online.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

xmas roundup - hope everyone's xmas day was great!

First of all, thanks to everyone who left comments on the previous site start post - it's grea to get feedback every now and then! Sarah V - your Newhaven looks brilliant! Somehow it looks like it's 2.5 storeys high? Renee: your block of land has a fantastic view; love it! Sirona; keep up the massive photofest on your blog, I'm checking it every time it's updated - will leave you a comment about your meter box soon too. And Anonymous - keep checking this blog, will try to keep it as updated and informative as possible.

Basically, there won't be much stuff going on for anyone's build for 2-3 weeks, so I'll go through a whole bunch of photos and random things of interest relevant/irrelevant to house building and post them on this blog. If anyone has any questions of items they want to know more about, now is an ideal time to submit them as we'll have some free time to blog about it!

So, yesterday (xmas) was the usual massive foodfest - huge lunch with my family, and huge dinner with Tina's family. We had lunch at my uncle's place - he's a custom builder, and I wanted him to build our house. Unfortuantely he only operates at the very expensive end of house building - it would have been at least double Metricon's price for one of his houses! Anyway, this particular house he's living in now was built for a diplomat who pulled out at a very late stage, so he's moved in himself. It's a fully rendered neoclassical masterpiece in the prestigious heart of Camberwell, formal sitting/dining/(ballroom?) 4 car underground garage (with some kind of stone treatment on the garage floor costing $50,000!) with butlers/maid quarters, 65+sq of living, fully tiled Travertine marble wet areas, 10' ceilings, Emporite doors, all the bells and whistles you could imagine, and my favourite room - a state of the art home theatre, which fully fitted out costs about as much as our house base price! Only took a couple of pics. This house is for private sale by expressions of interest around $5m.

Living room; parquetry floors, gas fire, Clipsal C-bus, built in audio, timber bifolds, 15' raised ceiling with feature windows.

Outdoor area. Home theatre room in a separate wing to the right of photo.

Today, Ill drop Tina off at Doncaster Shoppo for a spot of post-xmas purchasing insanity, while I'll go to our land - I gave our neighbour our bins to use while we're building, but I think he's left one out for too long, and we'll get fined if the council spots it - so it needs to be moved.

Not much planned for the coming week: beach if the weather is good, upgrade my laptop to Windows 7 if the weather's not good, go see Avatar 3D in melb Imax sometime, and research home theatre things. I've ordered a bunch of parts from the USA for the home theatre wiring etc, but they've been stuffing me around a little so will have to make sure that it all arrived by end of January.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BEST xmas present EVER? Site STARTED!

So, I was in a shopping centre hating every second of shopping for xmas presents for staff (I like giving people stuff, I just hate having to queue with screaming bogan parents and children to buy it) when I got a call from Gena. Of course, being buried alive in Northlands meant I had no phone reception, so the call dropped out. Anyway, checking my voicemail, Gena said that we had a site start date... well, actually, it had already started - site start was TODAY 22.12.09!

Of course, this was totally unexpected news (3 days before xmas for a site start?) so we went by the site to check things out.

Here's our new temp fence (glad it's up before the long xmas break!) and our metricon sign.

And it's not just a fence - we've actually had a site scrape today as well!

Unbelievable! Wish Gena had called us yesterday, as Tina could've gone to watch the scrape being done. Anyway, on the left you can see the scrape is lower for the garage stepdown alongside the fence. There's also temp fencing along the side boundary too. At the back of the scrape, there's about 30-40cm worth of fill.

For some reason I can't transfer photos from my iPhone to my laptop, but once that's sorted out I'll get more photos done.

Funny thing was, we were saying that having our hosue start before xmas would be the ideal present, but it wasn't going to happen... but it did! Probably the best thing about site start is that now the clock is officially ticking - the "370" days in the build contract start NOW, so theoretically handover should occur prior to December 27, 2010, or M will need to start paying damages - not that $250/week is anything significant given the cost of the whole build process.

Now we're wondering when M will get their guys back on site after xmas - we're going away for 9-10 days, so we're hoping not to miss too much of slab preparation, plus being overseas may make paying for the slab a little difficult.

Best xmas present so far, that's for sure! Hope all you reading this blog are having a good one too!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas shutdown, Nolan sold in Box Hill North result

Well, the Metricon office is shut for a few weeks over xmas - we were hoping to get a call before the shutdown to tell us of a site start date, but no such luck. Nevermind, it'll all happen when it happens. I think the worst part about building is the anxiety and feeling that someone should be working on your house at all times - gotta learn to relax, but it's not easy!

Anyway, I was meant to work on Saturday but took the day off so I could go see the auction of the Metricon Nolan in Lawford St at 11am. Quite a good crowd, maybe 100 people or so? As Deb pointed out on a comment on the prior blog entry, this particular Nolan had a modified open rumpus room - I think this was done because the normal sitting room was converted to a guest bedroom. And the while porcelain floor tiles looked great - very upmarket and modern, but would get pretty filthy once a family starts living in the house! But certainly a good look for a house for sale.

The auction started off with a vendor bid at 1.1m (quoted range was 1.1 to 1.2m). 3 bidders took the house to the reserve price of $1.25m, with a new bidder entering in and fighting to win the house at $1.43m. Nice result for the sellers! I did take a few photos on my iphone, but a dodgy USB cable is stopping me transfering pictures to the blog. Makes me wonder whether we should get a valuation on our Nolan once it's complete, but after spending so much time just planning this build, I think we'll keep this house for a good many years before moving on! Had enough of moving house over the last few years!

And funnily enough, I met up with a reader of our blog after the auction, who was standing next to me, who are building the Nolan in Doreen (sorry, I totally can't remember your name right now!) Nice to meet you!

Our current housesit in Preston is going well - the dog was a bit anxious around us at first, but now she's quite friendly. The cat - well, cats just need to be fed, right? And so far, it doesn't appear as any plants have died - yet. We may have lined up another housesit in Rosanna for next week after this one finishes, looking after cats & rats - we'll see how that little party turns out! Anyone else needing a housesitter in Melbourne, contact us!

And since I couldn't attach any photos of the Nolan, here's a picture of something a little different; my car is for sale, to help fund the house build of course!

It's a beauty - a 1997 Nissan Skyline R33 GTR Vspec series 3. It's a fairly rare enthusiasts' car, and if you're after a true Japanese supercar (or know someone who might) please leave your contact details as a comment!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spoke to construction CSC, spotted 2 Metricon homes today

Missed a call from Gena, our construction CSC last night, so I called her back this morning. Seems nice enough over the phone, I just hope she's as organised as Mendo is!

With any luck our file is in estimating right now, and if we're super lucky she'll get back in touch with us end of this week to let us know a site start date - yaaaay!

*edit* Just checked My Metricon, and while the "estimating" box isn't checked yet, we have a site supervisor named - Brian! How exciting!

Today, had a temp job in St Kilda to get to, and I think I spotted 2 Metricon homes - one was on Riversdale rd near Highfield rd, and one on Whitehorse Rd, between Union Rd and Station St. But I could be wrong, was driving past them pretty fast but they looked awfully familiar!

There's also a messaive Metricon home going up on Doncaster rd, between the greythorn shops and balwyn road - looks huuuuge! Would be worth a fortune in the Balwyn North area too, certainly well into 7 figures.

Finally, we're moving into a house in Preston tonight for 2 weeks of housesitting. We're hoping to line up more housesitting gigs while our house is being built (we've probably got a month in Vermont housesitting in August 2010). If anyone is going away in Melbourne, and would like their house (and pets!) minded by two responsible, mature professionals, please let us know!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Phone line moved - can we please start building now?

Unbelievably, we've got the phone line moved already! Didn't think Telstra moved that quickly, but there you go. Only took the young bloke less than a hour to replace the telephone cable to the neighbours house, so it now crosses in from across the road, instead of across our block. Nice one mate!

Finally, nothing but clear sky over our land. Have emailed our preconstruction CSC and our new construction CSC (we haven't spoken to her yet) to let them know the site is finally cleared and ready to go. While there's no chance of site start before xmas, I'm hoping that we might be told before xmas when site start will be next year!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Telephone line issue, mostly resolved

OK - so the phone line hanging over our block in the last blog post... well, it's more or less on the way to being resolved. If anyone else ends up getting this problem, call up Telstra, and ask to be put through to "Network Integrity". An inspector will come look at the problem (actually quite quickly in our case, within a week of reporting the problem) and let you know how to fix the problem and how much $$$ it will cost.

Hoping to have that phone line moved by xmas - as soon as it's gone I'll email back our CSC, and hopefully we'll get a site start date pretty soon after. Definitely won't be until late Jan at this rate, but no big deal.

Way too many other things to organise and keep track of - doing a couple of weeks housesitting starting next week (if anyone needs a housesitter in Melbourne, contact us!), then off to NZ for a few days in January to sort out as well.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

OK readers, please help us out by commenting on this picture!

So this is the phone line in question - you can kind of see it being strung across our land here. It goes from an underground Telstra pit in front of our land, up a pole, then across to our neighbours house.

I'm still waiting on Telstra/subcontractor to call me back - anywhere from 3-7 working days, just to get a phone call, on relocating the phone line.

Either we shift it to hang from another pole, or organise an underground telephone connection. It's right at the front of our block, at least 3.5, 4m up in the air? Would it really get in the way of construction? mmmmmm.... I'm hoping it wouldn't, just frustrated late at night having to deal with all these things which delay our construction.

Anyway, I'm hoping some bright blog reader out there can suggest any ways to speed up the removal/relocation of this phone line lead-in wire. Annoying thing!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Site start? Erm... not just yet

Went by the site yesterday to clean up a pile of dirt on the nature strip that Metricon told me must be gone prior to site start - even though United Energy are meant to come back soon for a review and cleanup, I figured I'd break out a shovel and clean it up myself. Also stuck in a few star pickets and rope just to cordon off the front, and stuck up a sign with our lot number and details for the construction crew.

Also received a letter from our CSC saying the contract was now (finally) unconditional as of December 3rd! But of course, I then received a phone call on Friday 4th, saying that because of one little issue, construction still can't start!

Turns out that our neighbour has a phone line running from the phone pole in front of our site, and because it runs across our block it's an OH&S issue. Meh! Anyway, contacted Telstra straight away and hopefully it'l be fixed... but probably not in time to get a pre Xmas site start. Oh well - it will allow the soil to settle a few more weeks before slab goes down, anyway. With any luck, we might be told of a site start date before xmas, but no site start before xmas.

One thing we're grateful for are great neighbours that we've met - spoke to our next door neighbour today about the phone line thing, to get consent for a contractor to go into her front yard sometime, and she was quite happy to allow that - thanks heaps Tina & Craig!

Also went today for the open inspection of the Nolan that is going for auction in a few weeks (see prior blog post). Also took my parents to check it out. And to "anonymous" who was thinking this house for sale is a Liberty - nope, definitely a Nolan (real estate agent confirms it).

The main thing was that it was nice to see a Nolan without all the display home upgrades - usually the display home Nolan has an ensuite to every bedroom, but we were able to see the original 3-way upstairs bathroom for a change - and it works really well! In our opinion, not worth the extra $20,000 to put an ensuite in every bedroom.

Main notes about this house:
  • Sitting room converted to guest bedroom
  • Study has double cavity doors (as we have optioned on our Nolan too) but with cutout niche in the front wall; a little odd.
  • Rumpus room and dining/outdoor rooms swapped in position, done in this particular Nolan to take advantage of the NW orientation.
  • Beautiful floor tiles on ground floor - but white grout would get kind of dirty once a family gets in there to live!
  • Upstairs had plain vinyl sliding doors, upgraded to taller size. I still think mirrored robe doors look better.
  • Kitchen had upgraded vinyl wrap doors - very nice! Plus upgraded handles, same as what we have selected for cupboards.
  • Laundry entrance was kept standard, off the kitchen, with lots of extra storage.
  • Semi-recessed basins all around with ceasarstone drop edge benchtops.
  • Austral Hawthorn bricks, with off white rolled mortar - our brick selection, but we chose flush mortar. Looks beautiful in real life up close, so glad we upgraded to this brick!
Didn't take any photos inside, but scanned in the floorplan from the brochure - enjoy!

Also had a comment by "anonymous" asking about our floorplan modifications - if you search through this blog, you should be able to find our modified floorplan layout.

However, we did some thinking, and looking through our Metricon catalogues and books, it seems that you won't get offered floorplan modifications if you go straight to contract, and perhaps also if you choose a house & land package.

Why not - that's my main question? I mean, it's not like the house is already built and they have to knock down walls or anything. I guess it's to minimise paperwork and administration and time spent in drafting.

My advice to anonymous: If you want changes to your floorplan, take it up with your sales consultant, if you don't get anywhere with them, ask to speak to another sales consultant - don't forget, they get paid based on sales made! But then again, check again to see whether you must/need floorplan modifications. If you want extensive changes, maybe you should select another builder or floorplan that suits you better. Our main reason for choosing the Nolan was that it needed very little changes (and honestly, we could build the house as standard and be very happy with it). We also looked at Henley & PD, but some of their floorplans just didn't work for us, or ones we liked couldn't fit our narrow building area, or had poor orientation for our block. Liked the double storey Carlisle designs a lot (good standard inclusions too), but they flat out refuse to build in our area - oh well, one sale lost for them!

Our main "nonstandard" floorplan changes were:
  • Modified laundry - entrance swapped to be near powder room
  • Modified powder room - WC and basin in one enclosed room
  • Modified ensuite - shower and WC swapped position
  • Extra doors: To study, rumpus, ensuite, hallway.
Really, not major changes, all able to be done with internal wall changes only, no structural changes. Good luck anonymous!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

OMG... there's "our house" for sale a few streets away!

Tina came across a crazy interesting find on Domain tonight - there's a brand new house for sale, only 3-4 mins from our site that appears to be our Nolan but with the outdoor room and rumpus room position swapped at the rear!

This is the Manor facade. Looks fine (not particularly to our taste), but for this particular style (Neoclassical? Georgian?)I think it looks better if the first floor extends above the garage. A good safe choice if you're building to sell, as it's conservative yet timeless. As it is, it looks like the house is half the width it should be! Could be our bricks though (Austral Hawthorn), and the front landscaping is quite nice. Check out the retaining wall running along the left side of the boundary under the existing fenceline - pretty significant slope, and you can see how much elevated the house to the left is as well!

This photo showing the entry certainly gives us the impression it's a Nolan floorplan! Very wide, grand entry makes a terrific first impression and feeling of spaciousness - one of the things we liked about the Nolan. Also, the staircase is offset/hidden to one side with a 90 degree turn - good feng shui. The standard study is visible to the right, with a feature cutout niche. Because we've got double cavity doors to the study, the niche is deleted so we can close off the study in case it gets messy. The other change we made to our Nolan was for a custom made wide cavity door that will close off the rear half of the house - in the photo above, you can see from the front door right to the back door - bad feng shui. Plus, being able to close off the rear of the house is better for climate control, and also stopping any cooking odours from reaching everywhere! The gloss white floor tiles are a nice elegant touch though.

From the looks of it, this was someone's redevelopment project - Google Earth still shows the old house on the block, and this house looks like it was built to sell rather than owner occupied.

Here's where things get interesting - see the room with the lamp? In the standard Nolan design this is the rumpus room, and it would be located on the opposite side of the hosue to where the kitchen is. Looks like the rumpus and the dining/outdoor room has been swapped. Since there's no first floor overhead, probably a relatively easy swap to do in preplanning.

Nice furniture too - probably hired in to make the house look good to sell (does it remind you of a typical display home?) Anyway, we'll see it in more detail this Saturday afternoon at the open for inspection! Want to go see it too? Check it out here - http://www.domain.com.au/Public/PropertyDetails.aspx?adid=2008116306


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hurry up and wait, rinse, repeat.

Here's a story that anyone who's built a home with a project builder will be familiar with.

1) Make a choice on an item... for example, choose what brick you want.
2) Builder will then write up a contract item, getting the item wrong, wrong price, wrong size, wrong location etc etc. This may take a day, or a month.
3) Buyer emails builder telling them in plain english the exact steps needed to fix the problem.
4) Builder fixes issue described in item #2 above (if you're lucky) and then manages to screw up at least one other thing. Again, this may take a day, or a month.
5) Go to step 3.

And if you're lucky, you get to the point where maybe 80% of things are right, and you're so sick of fixing up things that you let a few little things slide because it's simply not worth your time anymore to try and get it corrected.

And then you get to where we are now - we made a certain selection on roof tiles back at our colour appointment (12th September!) and now that virtually everything is signed off, locked in and approved, we get told that someone forgot to price in the "upgraded" roof tiles (yup, they're an upgrade, now...) and we're asked to approve another few thousand $$$ into the contract. But of course, the variation emailed to us is... wrong.... *sigh*... and so of course there is zero progress on the site, still.

Delay on colour selections.. too many things to list = builder's error sooo many times over.
Delay on tile selections... contract drawn wrong = builder's error.
Delay on site start (builder meant to be on site within 30 days of building permit approval, which was November 27)...

Doubt anything will get done this year. Having seen how fast other builders are getting homes done (check out all the build blogs on homeone forums) I'd have to say M are the sloooowest by far. No fault of our wonderful CSC or the fast drafting department, but a pretty miserable performance by the colour team.



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