What You Need to Know Before You Build

There are lots of things to consider before actually starting your build process. In fact, the research component should be factored in to ensure you’re going to end up with a home just as you want it to be.

What things should you consider, and why?

1. Have a good idea of what you want and what you don’t want by doing your research.

The best places to start are online and magazines. Houzz is particularly good as they cover whole houses, and Pinterest is great for getting specific ideas. There are many sites where you can view houses, and going to open houses that are on the market is another great research tool.

Open houses also give you a good idea of proportions, the way spaces are laid out, and the flow between them. Proportion and flow are critical to how a house works, and makes it beautiful to live in. It allows you to think about how big you may need some of your key areas to be.

So, why is it important to do your research? It gives you ideas, food for thought, inspiration for what would suit you and your lifestyle, and how you live.

2. Future-proofing your home.

Most of the time we’re at a stage in our lives where we’re building a Forever Home with the consideration of family in mind. It may be young children, or older kids, but certainly somewhere children will be living at some point. But what happens when those children leave? What happens when they become teenagers? What happens when you become empty nesters?

You need to think about if this is a home that’s going to last you 10, 15, 20 years, or longer – how is it going to be adaptable? How is it going to meet the needs of the future in terms of how the family and the people in that home change over time? Thinking of the needs of each of these different life stages enables you to make sure that your Forever Home is adaptable, and will stand the test of time for your family’s requirements.

3. Know your budget.

In essence, there are two ways to look at your budget. The first is to decide how much money you’ve got: I have X amount, and that’s my budget. You then need to build to that. The second is when you decide that this is the home you like, so you have to figure out how much it will cost to build. You then establish a budget from there.

Engaging a quantity surveyor is one way to work out how much it’s going to cost you. A quantity surveyor will look at the specification of a proposed home, and based on building materials and labour, will provide an estimate for what the house should cost to build. It’s an excellent sanity check before you even go to tender to give you some idea on what to expect.

4. Why do we need to have a budget?

We need to know what we can afford before we start the design. You need to be able to give the architect a budget and say, ‘this is my budget, so you need to design a home that meets it’. A good architect should be able to do this.

A budget also allows you to make decisions about what’s important so you can choose things that matter, and perhaps save in other areas. It minimises surprises later on if you know exactly what’s being allocated.

5. Site orientation.

This is something that’s often overlooked, but it’s actually very important for maximising the amenity in the home. Essentially, it’s about which way your block faces. For example, you may have an east/west orientation (so east to the front of the property, and west to the rear). A key question is: will the site orientation maximise amenity and provide sunlight where you want it? If you’ve got a south-facing back garden and you want an alfresco area with a roof, it means you’re going to minimise your light into the home and it may appear dark.

In the Southern Hemisphere, having a north-facing back garden is often regarded as the best you can get, (and likewise in Europe/Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing rear garden is prized). However, a different orientation allowing northern or some western sun into the main living areas means you’re still able to utilise the sun to warm your home. Alternately, you may want a west-facing back garden so you can watch the sunsets.

6. Local council regulations.

Understand what restrictions may apply in your municipality in terms of the site coverage (how much of the site can be built on) and setbacks to the front, rear, and sides. Check the permeability of the site (how much water has to run off the site – for instance, concrete is not permeable so it may determine how much slab you can have, versus a deck where water can run through and off into soil). How much private open space is required? What are the overlooking regulations? Do you need a permit, and on what size block do you need one?

Council regulations vary a lot. Some councils have tighter restrictions than what the state building regulations are, so it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding, even though your architect will research the regulations.

All of this research is basically the backbone to your project, so do it well and you won’t end up with surprises.

Keen to know more? I have dedicated a whole chapter to ‘What You Need to Know Before You Build’ in my book ‘Your Forever Home’. Order your copy here.

And remember if you’d like to receive the first three chapters of the book ‘Your Forever Home’ for FREE, download it here. 

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