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

4 thoughts on “A lucky escape”