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Designing a Home the Smart Way

It may shock you to know the high percentage of people who lose thousands of dollars during the home design process. The home design process meaning: concept idea through to final plans and engineering.

Smart House DesignDesigning a house is a project in itself and it takes skill and experience to do it successfully.

In just the last few months UBuild Homes have come across at least four different prospective Owner Builder/Kit Home customers who have had losses between $5,000 and $50,000 each on designing/creating house plans that they just cannot afford to build! Unfortunately, the drafting/architect service providers they dealt with did not properly assess their situation and took them down a misguided path that resulted in tragic outcomes. And that was before any ground was even broken!

It is important to complete some research before engaging a drafting, architectural or plan drawing service for your dream home.

Here are some tips that will point you in the right direction:

1. Don’t allow a drafting firm or an architect to be involved in estimating the cost of your home. Drafting people know how to draft plans. Only a very small percentage of these service providers can estimate the cost of a building accurately. The same goes for architects. An architect should only be engaged if you want an architecturally designed home with an open ended budget.

2. The first goal of any design is to meet your budget. You must be very clear from the outset what you are trying to achieve and ensure that your drafting service understands. Also be aware that during the design you will quite often focus on the things you “like” instead of the things you “need”. Always remember that the things you like may not be mainstream and as a result will cost more to construct – even if you are owner building.

3. Builders and trades generally do not like working with architects because they most often design something that is either very difficult or near impossible to build. Most builders and trades will describe architects as too creative and lacking in practicality. So unless you want a complex designed home and you have a hefty budget then stick with a reputable drafting firm. How do you find one? Ask UBuild Homes. You’ll have access to a panel of highly skilled, cost effective drafting professionals.

4. All costs associated with house plans, building reports, engineering plans, soil tests and energy reports must be fixed priced. Never engage any of these service providers without a fixed quote upfront.

5. The average home design process will need:

  • Budget and Finance to be pre-approved and fully advised to the drafting service. They must be under strict instructions that the cost of the home cannot exceed the budget provided. If they do not know what the design is going to cost then do not use them. 
  • Finance provision is a critical component. Do not get your design then go and talk to the bank. That is the wrong way around. If you are having challenges obtaining Owner Builder Finance then talk to us – we could have the solution you’re searching for. 
  • Before you decide on a house design service you will need a survey, contour plan and a soil test. If you need help finding a reputable service provider then let us know – we’d be delighted to help.

6. If you don’t understand the technical challenges of building a home then be wary of unique roof designs and roof lines. UBuild Homes recently had a set of plans presented to us (from an unkown third party drafting service)  that literally could not be built. These plans cost $5,000 and were useless. What a waste.

7. Try not to be too emotionally attached to the things that you “want”. These “wants” are sure to blow your budget. Unless you are not concerned about your budget stick to conventional rules in construction and the power of resale value. Sometimes a slightly smaller design with better use of space and design features will be a more valuable commodity than a giant box with a funny roof!

8. Consider energy, water, and the outside design of the total space being used. The first thing people see when they come to your home is the outside. They will also ask about water and energy efficient features of the home. Bear this in mind early on and you can design accordingly. Trying to fix this in hindsight is an expensive process.

By following some of these simple steps correctly you will have a more accurate and predictable outcome to your budget. Too many Owner Builders are unable to complete their homes due to poor quality up front planning. This is the main reason most lending institutions refuse finance to owner builders.

Building an Extension

“How come building an extension costs so much?”

High Prices for RenovationsThis is a common question asked by Owner Builders who are looking at a major extension and renovation to an existing property. But it’s not just Owner Builders who query the high costs of extension projects. Many people who wanted to contract a builder to take care of an extension project have been shocked by builder’s quotes, and even though these people never dreamed of Owner Building, they now feel that it’s the best choice available to them.

Extensions are tricky and challenging, and often builders don’t enjoy doing them. They never really know what’s behind that blank wall, so to speak, and so when they quote they do so accordingly. It’s not unusual for builders to quote well over $2000 per square metre and as much as $3000 per square metre. Crazy, isn’t it! If you accept the price quoted and it turns out to be a straightforward job – then the builder will do very well from your business!

Here are some questions you should ask when considering a large extension project:

  1. “Will I be over capitalising?”

    This is difficult to answer as each situation is unique.

    Do the research and then consider what you are trying to achieve and then budget $2000 per square metre for the cost of building the extension to begin with. Costing out the renovation of the existing property is much more difficult and depends on many variables, but you must have a conservative budget.

    Consider then what the finished product would be worth in terms of the market value. And be reasonable; everyone overvalues their property. The numbers will tell you if you are on the right track.

    Get independent experts to review your numbers and let them give you constructive feedback.

  2. “How will I get the design to work?”

    The first challenge with a good extension project is design.  The key is finding a good draftsman who has real experience with major extensions.

    Now before we go any further, let’s define a major extension: Anything in which you are adding additional floor space and roof span to an existing dwelling in excess of around 60m2. Anything less than that you should not be getting quoted the ridiculous prices. But you should definitely consider Owner Building because the degree of difficulty is manageable. 

  3. “What are my planning requirements? Will it get approved by council?”

    Again this particular issue needs to be dealt side by side with the drafting and design. Make sure your draftsman knows his or her stuff before hiring them. Ask for referrals from people who have undertaken similar extension projects.

    Alternatively, find out if the council use Private Certifiers and if so, locate a good one. Still unsure? Give us a call and we will give you some advice based on what you wish to achieve. UBuild Homes provide Kit Home Packages tailored to Owner Builders who are taking on the challenge of building an extension to their existing home.  

  4. “Can I live in the house while I do the extension and renovation?”

    This is a great question. Ideally, if possible, stay in the house. It’s cheaper and you can be close by to manage the extension project and the trades, etc. Downside is it’s a bit of pain to get the gain – you have to live in some pretty messy surroundings for a while. Then the question becomes – are you actually able to stay in the house? And that’s a question for council and the Private Certifiers.

As more and more home owners consider a major extension and renovation to their homes as an alternative to selling up and buying or building elsewhere, the prices and hassles involved are steering them along the Owner Builder path. It certainly makes sense financially – but you still need to do your research and tick all the boxes.

If you have an extension or renovation in mind why not touch base with us? UBuild Homes can offer you a customised, cost effective kit package that will help you successfully complete your reno project far cheaper than most builders can.

The Answer to Finding Owner Builder Finance

If you are serious about Owner Building and you need to get a loan in order to finance your project then you really need to read this article.

Owner Builder Finance Now AvailableYou may already have spoken to some banks and lenders and are feeling either confused or frustrated by the outcome. Or you may not yet have spoken to your bank and you are assuming that it is going to be a fairly straightforward process.

Here’s an important fact you need to come to terms with: Banks and Financial Institutions generally do not lend to Owner Builders.

Surprising, isn’t it? Especially considering the fact that Owner Builders make up a significant portion of the residential building market.

Why don’t Banks and Financial Institutions support Owner Builders?

The one word answer is: risk.

It doesn’t matter if you are Owner Building from scratch, or if you are Owner Building a Kit Home, please understand this: most (meaning more than half) of all Owner Builders fail to successfully complete their project on time and on budget. Because the finance industry know this, they are reluctant to lend to Owner Builders. Owner Builders are simply too high risk and cause problems for the financial institution.

Another important factor you need to be aware of is that the standard financier does not truly understand the needs of the Owner Builder. They lack flexibility in their approach and often fail to accommodate your needs, further supporting the ‘avoid lending to Owner Builders’ perception adopted by many financial institutions.

So what can you do about it?

Firstly, understand that as an Owner Builder your finance needs are very different to other borrowers. The process is not the same as that of a standard building contract with a project home builder. Owner Builders need flexible funding solutions to allow them access to the money needed to pay for their suppliers and trades as they work through the building project. As an Owner Builder you won’t get 30 day accounts to pay your bills. You will have to pay deposits on many of your purchases and then the balance upon delivery. Funding availability when you need it is critical. If you don’t have that then you are at risk of failing before you even start.

UBuild Homes recognizes this challenge and has been lobbying financial institutions to take a different approach when dealing with Owner Builders. Our pitch has been that customers of UBuild Homes should be treated differently because all of our UBuild Homes Premium Package Customers successfully complete their projects; on time and on budget. As a UBuild Homes Premium Package Customer the risks are dramatically reduced – for both you and your Bank.

Unfortunately the big banks have remained negative towards owner builders. It’s hard to blame them considering the statistics.

Owner Builder Finance is best left to those smaller lending institutions that have a sound relationship upon which to work. That is why we recommend working with our Finance Providers at Coastline Credit Union.

Why?

Because the Coastline Credit Union have recognised that if an Owner Builder is operating under a UBuild Homes Premium Package System then risk is minimised to a point where the Credit Union’s money is safer than virtually any other building process. This has been tested over many years and many loans and they now want to work actively with our customers. This is the only financial institution in Australia that is actively seeking out Owner Builders. But only if they are willing to use a quality, proven system.

This is a unique situation for the Owner Builder market, and one that UBuild Homes is proud to offer you.

Why not take this opportunity to chat to us about it. We can introduce you to people at the Coastline Credit Union who are properly and specifically trained to deal with the needs of Owner Builders. There’s no obligation and it could be your way of finding out the best finance option for you, and will help you on your path to building your dream home.

Just visit Owner Builder Finance to find out how to obtain your Owner Builder Finance.

Debunking the Myths around Owner Building and Kit Homes

Finding the Truth about Kit HomesOkay, it’s time to debunk some myths that are perpetuated by the Kit Home industry marketing hype that gets spun out by sales people. These myths are created solely for the purpose of making sales. No other reason. 

Myth No. 1: Owner Building is easy, anyone can do it.

This is a myth.

Think about it; a builder needs approximately 6+ years of combined on the job training and intensive study in order to obtain a licence to build a house under contract. If building a house was easy – why would this be the case?

Banks and finance companies shun Owner Builders like the plague. Why?

Consulting companies (private certifiers and drafting services, etc) and suppliers generally stiff Owner Builders with prices that reflect the degree of difficulty in providing the product or service. Wonder why they do this?

Because…

Owner Building is not easy. It can be very satisfying, successful and cost effective, but it is not easy. If you chat with an Owner Builder they will agree. They might be very proud of their achievement, but in the same breath they may also tell you they will never do it again!

Myth No. 2: Putting together a budget to build a house is pretty simple, anyone can do it.

This is a myth.

You will be told all manner of vague information, twisted tales and outright lies by salespeople who are determined to convince you that the cost of building a house is a straight forward excercise. It isn’t and you must understand that 80%+ of Owner Builder projects fail to get their financial budget accurately assessed before commencing. This is why lenders do not like Owner Builders.

Another twisted tale from the Kit Home industry is:

“It’s easy to work out a price; just take the cost of the kit and add 1.5 times to that price and that is your budget to build.”

What a crazy thing to say about something that has so many variables attached. But sadly it’s a tale that’s being told on a regular basis. 

Myth No. 3: Owner Building is the cheapest option of building a new home.

This is a myth.

Don’t get us wrong. Owner Building can be a very cost effective outcome and it can be the cheapest building option… but it depends on a number of variables.

Many people are desperate to save money, but the cost of materials and labour is extremely high and to many people these costs are well in excess of their perception. You cannot cost out a home based on perception. You must base it on realistic budget research.

Actually, the cheapest way to build a house is to find a basic brick veneer home built on a concrete slab through one of the large volume, project home builders.  It may not be the best quality home, but you will get a roof over your head, and you will almost never beat them on price.

If your sole purpose is to come up with the cheapest option then you have to expect the cheapest outcome. It can still be cheerful looking home and still be of reasonable quality – but you can’t redefine cheap; it is what it is.

What can you do about these myths? 

Be aware that anyone who is trying to sell you a kit home using one of these myths is a sales person – nothing more and nothing less. Once the sale is made their commitment to you is over. You still have to build the house and they certainly aren’t going to help you to do that.

If you are going to Owner Build, and we recommend that you seriously consider it – depending on your circumstances and your goals – then you must be seriously committed as the Project Manager/Principle Contractor (you don’t have to get your hands dirty if you don’t want to) and follow a professionally planned and systemised approach to building your home. If you cannot make this commitment then it is probably likely that you are not suited to Owner Building. 

Okay, myths aside, let’s talk about being a successful Owner Builder and why a first positive step towards successful Owner Building is buying a Kit Home Package.

A Kit Home Package is a cost effective way of getting a set of plans and specified material package to a fixed price, helping you in the overall management of your building project.

If you are going to buy a kit home it is assumed you are going to Owner Build. Why would you pay a kit home company to buy a bunch of materials and then pay a builder to build it? You might as well get the builder to purchase the same products at the same price under his contract.

Being a successful Owner Builder means three things:

  1. Your home is built on time. As measured against a realistic time frame to begin with. 
  2. Your home is built to budget. As measured against a realistic budget to begin with.
  3. Your home is built to a high level of quality. An experienced builder should be able to come to your home and applaud the quality of workmanship.

This is how success is measured. There are no other measurements.

UBuild Homes was created to ensure one thing: Successful Owner Builders. That is what we care about. Yes, we sell kit homes, but we also give people good advice rather than sales pitches. We are builders first and foremost and we are dedicated to providing people like you with honest, integrity based solutions, even if that means introducing you to a contract builder with no benefit to us.

But we can’t help unless we talk to you.

When considering Owner Building, please consider buying a kit home in order to give your project a greater chance of success. But more than that, please don’t get hooked into doing this based on a myth. Do some research, or even better why not talk to us on the phone and schedule a complimentary 2 hour consultation where we will spend that time educating you on how to be a successful owner builder.