A lucky escape

I haven’t blogged for a while because we’ve been incredibly busy recently. Having struggled to find a house we both like, we’ve decided build our own. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot to think about…

Over the past few weekends we have looked at several builders’ display centres (such as Porter Davis, Metricon, AV Jennings and Henley). Most of the larger builders have a few show homes on display at various new estates around Melbourne, so we visited the display sites in Cranbourne and Berwick to get a feel for what we might be able to do. Spacious, modern, open-plan designer homes can be built for, relatively speaking, not a lot of money :-ss

Having picked out a few designs and worked out what we can afford, we then set about trying to find a suitable plot of land to build on. We scoured the internet and visited dozens of vacant lots, but it’s pretty hard to find nice, flat plots in the suburbs of Melbourne that we like; most of the ones we looked at were either too small, too hilly or too remote.

After a lot of searching we finally found a nice block in Tecoma, half way between Upwey and Belgrave. It’s very rare to find a large, flat-ish block like this: one-third of an acre (22m by 60m), in a nice leafy suburb within walking distance of the village and train station. 🙂

We ummed and aahed for a couple of days, did our sums and then put in an offer of $200,000 for the land (about £80,000) which the vendor accepted. We signed the contracts: Nick & Sara owned a small piece of Australia! <:-p Next came the fun part. We chose a nice, modern house design and tailored the plan to our requirements at $180,000. We then budgeted for legal fees, site costs and other contingencies (like a pool) at about $50,000. Since there's no stamp duty to pay on new builds, the whole project actually worked out cheaper than some of the homes we've been looking at. $-) Problem #1: The builder we chose wouldn't build in Tecoma. Even though they build 5 minutes down the road, they won't come the extra few kms. Problem #2: We chose another builder but, with me due to fly to Sydney for a few days, he couldn't come and view the plot until the following weekend. We ordered a "soil test" but didn't really know whether our chosen design would be possible. Problem #3: When the builder came out he walked around it, shaking his head. "It's not as flat as you think", he said, "you'll need to excavate at the back and underpin the slab at the front. You'll need to build root barriers too, because the council won't let you remove all of these native gum trees". Hmm. "There's probably rock, too, which we'd have to blast out. You'd be crazy to buy this plot, I hope you haven't signed anything. It could cost $80,000 or more just to prepare the site." 😮 Problem #4: I read the local council's planning policy and found that the builder was right, they would insist that we built around the huge gumtrees wherever possible and replaced any trees we felled during the build. Furthermore they would only let us build on 25% of the plot (other councils allow 80% or more) and they wanted us to have a traditional-style wooden house, if possible. There goes our idea of a modern design! :-t So, our plans were in tatters but we had signed the contract and the statutory 3-day cooling off period had already passed. We were seriously worried that we could be stuck with the land, unable to build what we wanted and facing huge site preparation costs. Our only possible get-out was the "subject to satisfactory soil test and finance" clause that we had added to the contract when we signed. ~:>

I won’t go into the details here but, after a sleepless night or two, we managed to wriggle out of the contact. 😉

Our deposit was finally refunded yesterday, so we can relax and start the whole process again. Lessons learned. #:-s

Edit: In other news, United won the Premiership and lost the FA Cup final whilst we’ve been worrying about this. I probably won’t blog about football again until next season (Melbourne Victory, perhaps?) but I’ll leave you with this one: What’s big and red and goes beep beep beep beep? …. Liverpool’s open-top bus, reversing back into the garage. :d

Edit II: Click

Manchester/Melbourne Skyline

I was looking at the picture of Manchester at the top of this blog earlier, thinking maybe I should update it with a similar view of Melbourne. 😕

I also realised that my current banner picture doesn’t show the tallest bulding in Manchester, Beetham Tower. I remember standing at the bottom of it, on one of our all-dayers, looking up and thinking “bloody hell, that’s a big bugger”. Apparently it’s 157 meters tall (plus another 12 meters for the spire at the top). They hadn’t quite finished building it when we left the UK, but I believe it’s now the Hilton Hotel.

Melbourne has a very impressive skyline too. I went for an interview on one of the top floors of the ANZ building last year and the views from up there were spectacular, but until today I didn’t realise just how tall it was — 185 metres! :-ss

But the ANZ building isn’t even the tallest in Melbourne. The tallest building, Eureka Tower, is virtually twice as tall as Beetham Tower at 300 meters — in fact, Beetham Tower wouldn’t even be in the top 25 skyscraper buildings in Melbourne. But despite having so many tall, modern buildings, Melbourne also plenty of old Victorian-style buildings and small churches dotted around the city centre.

I’ll start looking for a new picture for the blog, but in the meantime here’s a link to some superb photos of Melbourne. b-)

Edit: Done. I found a panoramic picture of Melbourne to use as a banner. It’s taken from the Docklands area or Waterfront City, I think. If you’re still seeing the old picture press CTRL-F5 to refresh the page.

A.C. Milan 3 – 0 Manchester United &
City 0 – 1 United

You can’t really argue about going out of Europe like that. :((

There’s no point making excuses about individual mistakes, the injuries to key players, lack of depth in the squad or Fergie’s 4-5-1 tactics, the bottom line is that Milan were by far the better side last night and United were poor. I just hope Milan play this well in the final against the Scousers, rather than rolling over again.

In truth it’s probably a good job we didn’t meet the Scousers in the cup final in Athens, there would’ve been a riot and I could see English clubs being banned from Europe for years to come. b-(

So, United’s next big challenge is the derby game against City this weekend. If we get a good result there the league’s virtually wrapped up. [-o< Edit: Bernard Manning, Curly Watts, Noel Gallagher, Little & Large, Stuart Hall… your boys took one helluva beating.