Friday, February 25, 2011

90 day service: why are things getting worse, not better?

So after we had some general fixing done a week or so ago, we ran the dishwasher and found our kitchen sink drainage with added extra leakiness.

As part of the 90 day service, the trades came and tested all the sink for drainage - but it looks like something got screwed up here, because out kitchen sink wasn't leaking before, and now it is.

Of course, I've tried tightening the drainage clamps around that U-bend, but it's still leaking. Don't know what the problem is, we didn't cause it, someone's gonna have to come fix it.

Still haven't heard back from Metricon about the few remaining items that need to be completed.
  1. Repair and repaint cornice and plaster in garage from where garage door was fixed
  2. Straighten/replace ensuite cavity door frame
  3. Fix leaking kitchen sink
*edit* Went and checked the kitchen sink top to bottom - turns out they loosened the drain plug and forgot to tighten that one. So far so good.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Custom blinds ordered

So, we're both been hugely preoccupied with major works the last few weeks, but managed to get around to ordering some custom blinds in.

We're getting blackout blinds for the home theatre room (finally! no more bedsheets and towels over the windows!), as well as dual roller blinds for the master bed. Hopefully will have them installed in about 3 weeks.

After they're done, that'll only leave the study, family and dining rooms without window coverings - we'll decide on those later.

*EDIT* At first I recommended the company supplying our custom blinds - due to some MAJOR problems with the blinds though, I won't name the company in this blog post - yet.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Broadband - naughty Optus! NBN failboat.

So Optus is getting a slap on the wrist for advertising "Unlimited" broadband - with some limits.

ZDNet reporting on Optus misleading advertising

The analogue equivalent here is of a restaurant advertising an "All You Can Eat" seafood buffet for $29.95 - but after the first plate of food, you're only allowed to have dry crackers and water. Naughty Optus (but then again, they're not alone in misleading advertising!)

When we were planning the house, it's wired for cable broadband, but we decided to go with ADSL2+. Mainly because there's only two players in cable broadband in our area, Tel$tra and Optus, and a duopoly is no better than a monopoly. Oh well - the cable provision could always be used for Pay TV, though I reckon that's an absolute waste of time & money.

At first I wanted TPG, but all their nodes were full in our area, so we went with iiNet. Slightly more expensive, but probably the best customer service I've ever experienced, so two thumbs up for them!

And is anyone else wondering how much more Australia can screw itself up by building the NBN? Let's invest bazillions of dollars into a "broadband" network that's outdated and overpriced even before it gets started. Sending data through bits of wire and glass is as outdated as the landline phone. Plus the argument that Australia is a bigger country with less population density compared to everywhere else is a fallacious argument - population centres are dense and localised. As usual, Stephen Conroy shows how out of touch with reality he is by stating Australia's population density is 2.7/square km - even a Year 7 student knows that stating an average value is meaningless, because the average human has one boob and one ball. Myki fiasco x 10,000.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The money value of time

There's been a few ads for knock down & rebuild in our local paper - here's a couple that we saved because (of course) it features a Nolan!

Can you spot the difference - December 2010 on the left, and February 2011 on the right?

Anyway, the basic difference comes down to the money value of time, or as most people know it - "time is money", and this is a great example of that in real life.

Would you rather have $100 today, or $100 in 10 years? Here's a hint - take it today. Inflation alone means $100 in 10 years won't buy you as much as $100 today, ignoring any other benefit from investing or growing the original $100 over 10 years.

Same thing applies to building a house. As time goes by, labour and material costs increase, let alone other associated costs to operating a business. One largely overlooked factor in leaving your initial $1000 deposit is that although it locks in the base price for your house, it only does so providing you start building within 150 days (or however many specified days according to your builder).

To be fair, it would be unreasonable to expect your $1000 deposit to hold the price of your house for 6, 12, 18, 24 months into the future, for all the reasons mentioned beforehand. How would you like it if your boss decided to commit to paying you your exact salary for the next 5 years?

If you're building, make sure the builder isn't dragging their heels in organising appointments for precontract, contract, colour appointments, tile appointments etc. Similarly, make sure you're as organised as possible - do your homework in picking colours and selections, know exactly how and where to make modifications and upgrades if you want, demolish any old house asap if you're rebuilding, know your block of land inside out and get to know people at council if you have to regarding building permits.

A special warning for those building in new estates, land developers are notoriously optimistic in having your land titled - delays of 6-12 months and beyond in titling is not uncommon, and you're the one who will have to foot the bill for delaying the builder - you can bet the developers have a good legal team writing their contracts to make sure they're not responsible for delay costs!

Anyway, getting back to that picture of the ads, in 2 months the price has changed $11,000. This doesn't mean that every 2 months the base price will keep increasing by that amount, typically prices hold for 4-6 months before increasing again. Factor in price increases when building - base prices change, upgrade prices change, upgrade categories change and so on.

More food for thought - let's say that extra $11,000 is paid back over 25 years at 6.45%. The extra interest alone on $11,000 is about $11,165 - so now instead of paying $11,000 more, it's cost you $22,165 more.

Unlike flat screen TVs and computers, building a house doesn't get cheaper year on year, exactly the opposite!

Hmm... I should really start writing a book about building new houses - any readers out there work for a publishing firm?


Friday, February 11, 2011

90 day service: Antenna saga FINALLY ended

Got a txt yesterday from the antenna people - called them back this morning, and by the afternoon someone had come around to finally connect our antenna.

So this is how it goes - when you build a house, you don't get an antenna. Your choice is to
  1. Add the antenna into your contract - let's say it's $400. This is maybe double what it would cost you to do after handover, but you should be able to move right in, plug in your TV and start watching whatever you want to watch.
  2. Organise the antenna to be installed after handover. Might cost you $200. Much less than the builder, but you have to make a few phonecalls.
Anyway, I thought we'd bite the bullet and pay the builder to install it for us... and get the benefit of having it ready to go as soon as we had the keys. Instead, we ended up getting it finally connected nearly five months after we had handover, despite me constantly reminding, calling, emailing Metricon to get it fixed - and it only took a 10 minute visit from the antenna technician.

Anyway, moral of this story is for anyone building a house, whatever you can get done yourself, do it yourself. Things like higher ceilings, floorplan changes, door locations etc you can't really change yourself after handover without spending huge amounts of cash so you'll have to get it drawn into contract.

Here are some things you may consider doing yourself once the house is yours.
  • TV Antenna (See above rant). But not extra TV points, easier & cheaper to do it through the builder.
  • Driveway, outside decking, rendering, stackstone, exterior tiling etc. You could pay $5000 to render your facade through whatever builder, or pay a tradesman $2000 for the same thing, avoiding the builder's markup.
  • Light fittings. You will get standard builder's light fittings in most rooms, which are the cheapest, nastiest things you can get - bare lightbulbs and a plastic hat. But you can choose exactly what light fittings you want, and get an electrician to wire them in later. Note that downlights are a tricky issue -you should put in downlights downstairs (in a 2 storey house) through the builder as it can be impossible or very difficult to add them in after plaster is up (floor trusses can block transformers etc).
  • Flooring (carpet, timber etc). You'd probably find better quality and range available cheaper if done yourself after handover. We used Fowles Clayton for our carpet and they did a great job.
  • Window coverings. Same as above. Except don't call Spotlight - they were meant to show up today to measure our remaining windows for custom blinds, and never showed up. Shitty customer service (by not keeping basic promises) is the easiest way to lose not 1, but 1000 customers. Ever been to a Spotlight store and watched 1 person try to serve 500 frustrated customers?
  • Feature walls - if you're handy with a paintbrush, cheap to DIY.
So, things that are integral to the house that you want, or if you're too busy to organise things yourself, get it through the builder. Everything else, organise it yourself if you want better range and price.

So, now only a couple of remaining items for our 90 day inspection - bowed cavity frame in ensuite, and plaster repair and paint in garage.

Ultimately, I'm happy I finally got my antenna connected, but since I paid the builder's premium to get it done during the house construction, it should've been ready at handover 5 months ago, not now. Or at least fixed within a few days of moving in - it's not like it was an expensive thing to organise, and it really soured our new house experience. You don't need a postgraduate degree in marketing to figure out what I'm trying to get across here - but if you do, my consulting services are available!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

90 day service: General fixing

Had a couple of guys subcontracting from Metricon come in this morning and stay for about 3 hours doing most of the general service items. This included
  • checking all doors for open/closing and latching properly
  • checking all windows for correct opening/closing
  • fixing other misc items from 90 day inspection list
  • checking plumbing - correct filling & drainage and overflow operation
Anyway, the only thing they couldn't fix today was the cavity door in the ensuite - the door is not bowed, but the frame is slightly bowed. Apparently there's a couple of ways to fix it, so when he ges in contact with M they'll let us know how it'll be done.

Still antenna connection and garage cornice fixing also outstanding.

Finally got around to fixing my laptop last night - again, another product warning - DO NOT BUY HP BRANDED STUFF! Overpriced, underperforming, poor product support, zero long-term support (apparently a 3 year old laptop is so obsolete they're not supporting it in any way anymore) and crappy product design (nearly as bad as the xbox 360).

The main problem with HP notebooks - if you should be so daring as to want to actually open or close the screen on the computer, the hinge design is so poor that about 100% or them (more or less) will fracture. See this picture below - there's all the stress of the movement focussed on about 4mm of thin flexible metal. Idiots. Google "HP laptop broken hinge"and see how many million dissatisfied ex-customers HP have made enemies of.

Anyway, I was just about to do this to my DV9000...

but ended up buying some ebay hinges and replacing them myself. Next notebook computer - maybe an Acer (I have one from 2002 that's slow but otherwise works 100%) or Toshiba I think - definitely NOT HP JUNK!



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