Saturday, April 23, 2011

Long rant ahead in favour of bigger houses!

A bit of action in the week before the Easter break - Tina got a call from Metricon about someone coming over to have a look at our cavity door (the only remaining thing to be done from 90 day inspection). I also got a call the other day from the installer of our blinds apologising for their poor quality - even though he wasn't at fault. Fault for the blinds lies in the manufacturing, so when the 2 blinds are remade, he'll come back to reinstall them and also recheck all the other blinds to make sure they're not going to fall apart. Things are looking up!

"Metricon's signature brand "Monarch" has a floor area of 456 square metres with a starting price of $477,000. Photo: Angela Wylie"

Here's an article that we stumbled across a few days ago, while going through The Age - Room to Move, but is a bigger house better?

Now the article is a decent read - of course, we tend to read everything about homes and housing, having gone through the process. However the real reading is in the 100+ comments left after the article; if you half an hour free, have a read through yourself!

* warning rant begins *

It seems pretty much all the comments have been left by people who have not had first hand experience of building their dream house - let's summarise their small-minded negativity here:
  • Big houses = "McMansions", unpayable massive mortgages, huge utility bills, no backyards, too much cleaning, too many unused rooms, too far from the city, self-indulgent, consumerist... the list of whinging goes on and on.
#1: If you want to score easy points in an argument, come up with a catchy label. Obviously, McMansion sounds good as it brings in all the negative connotations with McDonalds. Other labels used to instantly denigrate opposing arguments are "Boat People" and "Cash For Clunkers", for a start.

#2: Affordability of mortgages are relative to the position of the mortgage payer. No doubt many of the comments on The Age are from those unable to fund any kind of mortgage for any sized property, so naturally there is an assumption that "bigger house = bigger mortgage" and the jealous green dragon rears its ugly, bitchy head. Any smart home owner has worked out their own personal level of mortgage affordability risk.

#3: Utility bills? Our first house was a 12 square cottage in Mitcham. We cooked in the summer, despite 2 airconditioners, and froze in the winter despite central heating and a log fire. Our utility bills were all higher in that cottage compared to our new house, which is far more comfortable in all seasons. Our new place has a 5.5 star energy rating, solar hot water, better orientation, better layout... the list goes on.

#4: No backyard: OK, this is one thing we could probably have more of. From our outdoor room to the back fence is about 7 metres. However, we tend not to spend much time in the backyard and have no want for a pool. My parents had a massive backyard in Templestowe which again was never used. Other people may have different priorities. Plus we have a beautiful huge park 2 streets away, the Eastlink bike trail is 3 streets away and a fantastic ride, and the dog loves going for long walks around the area.

#5: Cleaning? Rooms we don't currently use don't need much cleaning - we have a couple of rooms reserved for kids when they arrive, at the moment they're used for drying clothes (no need for a clothes dryer). We don't do any more cleaning than we used to.

#6: Unused rooms: We certainly use all the rooms we need to at the moment! The home theatre gets a workout frequently (and all our extended family loves it for movies, Rock Band/Guitar Hero sessions etc), our study is home to 3 computers and a mountain of paperwork, another spare bedroom is used for a home business, and everything is efficiently laid out as we have the space to do so.

#7: Too far from the city: Not an issue for us as neither of us need to go to the city. And when we do, it's a 20 minute drive on the Eastern Freeway. Plus the city sucks anyway - parking is hard to find and expensive, there's too many d!ckheads on the streets and everything we need isn't in the city anyway.

#8: Self indulgent/consumerist: Well, all people have different goals in life. Our goal was to have a comfortable, modern house for us and our future family, with a little bit of luxury to enjoy coming home to every night, and that's what we've achieved. We love cooking in our big kitchen. We love (or maybe it's me) playing video games, watching TV shows and movies in the home theatre. We love our massive bedroom and its ensuite - it's like being in a 5 star hotel every day, without the minibar and pay-per-view fees. Since we spend a lot of time at home, why not make it something you love?

Anyway, my final view is that there's a small subsection of the community out there who feel they need to mask their inferiority complex by being overly critical of other people, other people's choices and strangely enough, other people's homes. Give these people the attention and respect they deserve, which (no surprise), is zero on both counts.

*end rant *

Edit/postscript: Looks like the first article was so popular,an opinion piece was published afterwards. Let the fun continue!

Days of the humble home at an end as goliaths invade suburbia



  1. These stories tend to pop up every few months then the media hype dies down again.
    I always find it amusing when these 'experts' never actually speak to anyone who has or is building a big house to ask them why.
    We are building a 5br house with 4 living areas including HT Room) and there is only 3 of us. People keep asking us why build so big? The reasons are simple :)
    We are buiding for the future hopefully more kids, inlaws want to retire & travel in a few years so they will move in too and plenty of room for us to do family things and individual things.
    If we couldnt afford it we wouldnt be building it and of course we have factored in future interest increases and considered worst case scenarios.
    I wont be cleaning my unused rooms, my zoned air con will deliver comfort to only the rooms where I need it, my gardens and trees will be lush and green thanks to recycled water, and our future roof top solar farm could probably provide for half our street.
    Its easier for people to finger point and act all judgemental than to consider that someone elses choice of housing may suit them just fine, they dont have to like it.
    Now Im off to the M website to check out the Monarch, they have got a lot of free publicity today :0
    Great Post!

  2. Tim, I totally agree with you there. When our home was built we had to go through "planning process" and got nasty objections from people who either got angry/jealous because a newer/bigger house is next to their own houses or just plainly free with nothing to do.

    Our house is the newest on the street and by far the most energy efficient. Our older (close to 100 years old cottage house) was aweful. It used so much energy to heat up/cool down in Australian weather. When it comes to building a house, I find that heaps of people are skeptical because of their modest budget as well as the lack of will so they get angry and become so resentful that we almost took them to court over non-issues they created for us. Tim, I smile now that we are living in our comfortable/environmentally friendly/modern home with our 2 kids. We are still doing our decking around the house and yet to build our verandahs and driveway etc but hey, we love every moment of it ! Good luck to you sensible and smart couple ! Hope your new house will be your comfort for many years to come.

    Liam & family

  3. Agree with your sentiments - as mentioned, no-one questions the right of people in Toorak or Vaclause to have large mansions, just us mere mortals who have to struggle with a considerable mortage to build a new home, and so go down the project home route.

    Our Liberty is 42 squares, which is large, but this is because we're planning ahead for a medium sized family (at least!) and so won't have to move anytime soon.

    We would've liked a larger rear yard, but its just unaffordable with land prices the way they are at the moment!

  4. Couldn't agree more guys. I was amazed at some of the vitriol on The Age website, although it's probably to be expected in that forum. I love how they assume that everyone who builds a modern house does it for greed/power/ego/status and how everyone with a newly built modern house must have a giant mortgage and no backyard. We're currently building with Metricon (Whittaker) in SE suburbs. We decided to build because it provides much better value for money than buying an established house in the areas we were looking - our mortgage would have been the same either way.

    The picture they used for The Age article is almost a perfect replica for our Oakpark facade which we thought was pretty funny.

    Your website has been really helpful to us, so many thanks and please keep the updates coming (congrats too on your recent wedding).


  5. Tim, spot on mate. We too decided to build a "McMansion" (we dont consider it that) but only after careful consideration of our financial position, distance to work, transport, etc. End of the day we came to the same conclusion as you - we'd rather have a very nice house to come home to and give our children plenty of room to grow up in than to be close to the city and live in a cramped apartment. Its a tradeoff for most people who cant afford both.

  6. Hi Tim. I saw said article too and laughed. There was a similar article some time ago about a PD home called Bondi that is 52 squares and this was described as a "behemoth"! We're building M's Lindrum at 52 squares, and we're building it because the floorplan suited us. Our last home was half the size AND had a formal lounge and dining room that we used five times in the 15 years we were there! I work from home and although we only have two kids, we only have one spare bedroom. This is for guests that stay as we have a large extended family. As for block size, we have 5 metres to the back fench and 4 metres from house to side fence on the side of the house where our family/living areas are and these face north so perfect orientation. We also have a large park opposite plus a cycle path directly behind. And did I mention we'll be having a vegie garden and fruit trees in our backyard as well?
    Looks, it's horses for courses I say and we're building this house for our circumstances, not someone elses. When I last built everyone said have a formal lounge and dining room for resale value - WTF! A little wiser now and we're building for us and what our needs are. We're building OUR home and it suits us perfectly.

  7. Hi Tim
    I feel it is nobody elses buisness what we build or don't, look if its gets councils approval then no problems. These people are just venting their jealousy as somewhere deep within they know had they made different choices in life then they too would have their own McMansion.
    We are building a Nolan 45 and we have heaps of garden. 7 meters either side and 6m to back fence. Perfect for a family with a young child. Gives us room to grow, have plenty of visitors and useable space and storage. Plus it fits in with the surrounding houses. If people want to put a big house on their block and have no garden as is the trend then let them be. Most new estates these days have parks, open spaces and walking tracks so the need for a massive backyard no longer applies.

  8. This was the best comment on the thread.. I especialy love the quote! " I came, I saw, I concreted "

    Yes indeed, those beautiful quaint old houses, with their asbestos smells, termite company and low maintenance gardens (due to the lethal chemical "treatment" prior to building). When you speak to the original owners/builders of the era you quickly discover the reason those houses were as they were was due to lack of funds and the scarcity of building materials at the time. In most cases the kitchens and cupboards were made of building scraps and offcuts. Oh yeah, and on the environmental question, those open fire places burnt (beautiful) trees and produced smog and what we now call "carbon", and the general lack on insulation meant a lot of it needed to be burnt, continually, to keep warm. This is just another "lefty" romanticied recollection of the past, it's just that few people who lived in the past seem to have such fond memories of it... As for me " I came, I saw, I concreted ".

    pete - April 23, 2011, 9:56PM

  9. You are right there Pete, our old house smells really bad. It's not because we don't keep it clean or something like that, it's just an "old" moldy smell not so healthy I can tell you that for especially our young children.

    Laughing reading your comment, thanks Clinton too :), as for us, we are now living in a brand spanking new house with so much more energy efficient heating/cooling/appliances etc.....So much to enjoy !

    Shawn & Lily

  10. Hi Tim,

    Just ran into your blog today when searching for feedback of building a house with Metricon. Congratulations on your new house!

    We are currently building with Metricon, up to fixing stage now. Just wondering, during the construction, do you need the builder's permission to get inside your property? So far, what we've been doing was observing the construction of our house from outside the fence, but since after the lockup stage, we couldn't really see what's going on inside the house.

    Thanks in advance and great job on the blog :)

    Rudy & Ernie



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