When going through my plans, this is the last thing I wanted to think about. Yes, there's a wall there, a window there, door there etc. Yes I did think about if the window was big enough for the room and the aesthetics from the outside (I still managed to miss one window). But my brain kept wanting to stop there. Isn't a window a window??

This is another entry to prevent you from living with a big regret, or two, or three.

🌄There are many windows to choose from. Builders generally only use one provider for these, so ask who their provider is. Go on-line and check out the many options. Things to look for are mainly - AIRFLOW. I can't say this enough. I've had a few styles over the years and the current ones, while they look good, provide very little airflow. I should never have listened to the Sales Rep. Have a look in the display homes on the exact window they are discussing. Open it up, don't be afraid to sit near it and feel the breeze.

🌄Placement. Really think about airflow in the bedrooms and in the main areas, ie if the kitchen steams up can you get some air in there? Do you want a window above your bed to feel the wind at night? Are the windows big enough in the bathrooms to allow natural ventilation?

🌄Window Tinting. Every house I've built I've tinted to the darkest colour possible. This provides more privacy, but obviously also good for keeping some of the sun out. Don't be afraid, dark isn't too dark when it's installed. You will be amazed how cheap this is if you order from manufacture stage.

🌄Screens. Not all windows accommodate for screens. Not all builders provide fly screens. Think about this ahead of time. You can either order at time of your colour selection or have them installed at a later date. I opted for the later and gained quotes after the build, one didn't even know how to install a flyscreen on one of the windows! So I went with the original window manufacturer. I saved money here as the builder couldn't add in their mark up.

🌄Lining windows up on the plan is crucial. I made a change/variation later on in the planning stages and both the Rep and myself forgot to line it up with the other nearby window. This really is noticeable now I'm in the house and the blinds are on. This only happened because I raised the ceiling.

🌄Wet area windows are a fun negotiation (yes that was sarcasm). My builder just wouldn't place the window any lower in the bathroom stating because they'e had too many maintenance issues. Even though water would never hit it, it's an aluminium window frame and would be tiled all the way around.

🌄Location of windows could also dictate privacy and noise control. When planning this house I was lucky enough to already have a neighbour so I could see where their entertainment area was so I could ensure none of my windows are located near it. This also helps with the cigarette smell! You may not be able to do this, but well worth considering.

🌄Morning sun and street lights are just plainly not friendly! You could add car lights into this section too. If you're an early riser then you probably won't mind the bedroom getting really hot first thing in the morning. If you're not, you may want to reconsider your plan, your windows, insulating the walls, internal and external blinds or fast growing trees. You can tell I am not a morning person! Street lights near any bedroom is difficult, but if you get the right window furnishings (blinds/curtains) you will be able to counter this. I'll chat about this later.

🌄I've said it before, but window coverings are expensive. In the 10 years between builds the price increased SO much, I just didn't take this into account. My advice for you is to check a standard blind size in the shops and see if your windows will accommodate. Also when choosing windows think about the window opening and where the blinds or curtains will sit, ie do you want them flapping around in the wind making noise and possibly destroying them in the process?

🌄In my current home I have two fixed windows in the main areas where window fittings just won't work. It will simply destroy that open look I was going for. But that comes at an expense, my privacy. I do have tinted windows (so fine for during the day) and hubby has also built an 8 foot "ornamental" wall. There's just one window in a double storey that can see in now, but that's a small price to pay

Windows can be your friend, if you choose wisely !

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Money may be an issue. Land size may be an issue. Convenants may also be an issue. Whatever concerns/issues you have you will want the best out of your plan. You will want value for money. You will want more bang for your buck.

In the planning stages, this is where it starts. There's many ideas/suggestions to make that smaller house look larger, or put in some more practical ideas into motion. To capture the breeze, to feel the sun, to enjoy your kitchen, to give you some privacy.

Throughout the houses I've built, and many chats with friends and work colleagues pouring over their plans, there are some ideas I have listed below for you to consider once you have that basic plan.

Space - Lift your ceiling height to give the illusion of more space (remember to increase your door heights as well). Also be careful to raise your window heights, and make sure all windows are level with each other, plus your door frames (yes a current lesson learnt from me).

Space - I've always tried to have limited hallways as this is just unusable space.

Space - I've used sliding doors in all of my homes, this frees up the space behind the doors (be aware of light switches and shelving on walls when you do this).

Hidden Space - Are there any unused areas on the plan that you could turn into a niche? Or perhaps just a space which you could put a mirror and shelving into?

More Hidden Space - Think about pushing out some of the areas under your eaves. I've pushed out my vanity and a robe. It makes the rooms bigger and yet doesn't utilise any additional land.

Niches - Make sure you have the depth, length, height listed on the plan. Not all niches are the same and trust me this is hard to fix at a later date.

Laundry Chute - Always handy to have. If you can manouvre your rooms around then I recommend this. Either a side by side laundry/bathroom or upstairs/downstairs. I'm a clutz on my feet so we had one upstairs and it worked a treat! I built the chute into the bathroom cupboard at very little expense.

Windows - Are there enough? Are they big enough? A plan I looked at last week (thus inspiring this Blog) had very small windows in the wet areas, not only will it make the room look smaller, but also provides the room with little natural ventilation.

Window Trimmings - Recommended if you're on a budget. Window furnishings are expensive if they have to be custom made. For whatever reason builders like to use windows that don't match up to ready made blinds thus forcing you into tailor made. Have a look at the window sizes, have a look at the generic blind sizes - it's never too early to plan ahead on this one.

Laundry Sliding Doors - Make sure they are wide enough for your hips and heavy washing basket to squeeze through, without grazing your knuckles (yes, a big lesson learnt for me).

Bi-Fold Doors - They really do open up the space, but from a current owner of these and a previous owner of large glass sliding doors, there is more to consider here. I'll write more on this in a future entry.

Odd angles - Are there any corners of walls you can change to help open a door completely? Or make it more flowing to walk around a corner? You may just be cutting into a small slice of robe to provide you with a more grand entrance to a room.

Bath - If you are having a tiled in bath, consider having the bottom of it recessed in. This will give you more floor space (and looks great).

Coffered Ceiling - If you need more height, or perhaps need to define a room consider a Coffered Ceiling. This is where only part of the ceiling is raised.

Open the house up - Do you really need all those separate rooms? Can you open it up more? Do you need that separate Dining Room? Will you use it? Can that separate study for the kids be more open plan? Is a separate toilet really required when you have an ensuite and a bathroom?

Kitchen - consider a more open kitchen, one that has an entry and exit point (this will save running into each other). Is there natural light?

Lighting - consider the dark spots, do you need more windows or sky-lights?

Entry Way - is it big enough? is it too dark? Can you put in a side window or a window in the door? Can you widen this area?

Garage door height - we have a 4WD with roof racks so we needed a 2.4 high roller/panel door. Also consider lengthening the garage another 200-300mm longer to accommodate for the longer 4WD's. This is also a great selling point later on.

A man's home is his castle!

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I've built three homes, one from a builder who worked next door to me, one was more of a budget builder who had display homes (should be noted, no longer working in this State!) and the last/current one from a more top end builder who has many display homes. We were nearly caught out by a builder recommended by the Developer (obviously there was a kick back there!). On visiting the builder hubby was told he's never had a client visit him from that Estate (that should of told us something then and there). Anyway, thankfully we didn't go with him (one of current neighbours is renting from him and there's only one light on one end of a stairwell). A good example of a house, not a home.

There's no doubt about it - most Display Homes are gorgeous! We all want to live in one (well I do anyway). They're a great place for ideas and if it's a week day, serenity.

If you're getting the exact plan from a display home - lucky you! You get to actually feel the space of each room, see what doors work where, what you like and what you don't. But given the ever diminishing size of blocks these days most of us don't get that luxury. So it's a best guess on paper.

As I've said before I am very visual, so we often had to measure out the plan sizes in our current rooms. I would use masking tape on the floor for this. We even mapped out an entire house on the beach once! It was great - you get to walk in each room.

Some thoughts for you when looking in Display Homes:

  • 🏠You don't get that nice flooring, nice paint work, doors, tiles, kitchen splashback, ceiling height, cornicing, tapware, windows in the price they give you. More ideas on that later.
  • 🏠The price they give you will be for building on a basic "S" class soil (soil test from an independent company will determine your soil type) , with little no nil sloping land.
  • 🏠It is expected for that price you will have your own town water, sewerage etc.
  • 🏠The Builders will tell you they have put in a "provisional" amount for flooring, electricity, higher soil rating etc - be warned, this is NEVER enough. But as long as you know this, you can budget for it.
  • 🏠When they say turn-key, ask what that means. You may be able to get your fencing/driveway/turf cheaper elsewhere.
  • 🏠You really must like that sales rep, you will be speaking to them a lot! I've asked for another sales rep before and have no qualms about doing it again.
  • 🏠Some sales reps may not even want your business. We were turned away in particular by one of the top end builders because they won't change their plans (to be told later that they would of loved to have helped us). Be aware of arrogance, this is not your friend when you're negotiating and you need their ideas and honesty.
  • 🏠By the time you select your builder, make changes to your plans (many times), negotiate costings, sign contracts, council approvals and the build finally starts those tiles you liked in that bathroom may no longer be available due to the builder changing suppliers, or just old stock (just something for you to be aware of)
  • 🏠Check terminology as your ideas could be different to theirs! We asked for recess stained wooden doors into our media and main bedroom the same as the display home - only to find out months down the track that they are classified as 2 doors, not one - thus double the price!
  • 🏠Ask if they have an exact break down of all the additional items in the house, some (not many) do. This will help you with budgeting and your terminology.
  • 🏠Remember builders only show their best work in a Display Home, so if it's not quality in that home, what will it be like in yours??

Display Homes are alluring and addictive, enjoy!

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Finding your perfect bit of dirt is stressful. I don't know what stage you are at but we felt the land was selling faster than we had time to think about it. Also, in each development the land was getting smaller and smaller! We were told by a Developer once that they start off with larger parcels of land to attract the new owners to the Estate, it also gives it greater street appeal at the start of the Estate. Great for the ones who got in first!

Firstly, take a breathe - ask about the new stages being released, see if you can go on a waiting list, or similar (that way you won't miss out). Keep looking around.

The list I've provided doesn't cover everything, but hopefully will give you some ideas and prevent you from a regretful sale. 

It's all about your little place of paradise!

  • Traffic! Do test drives at peak hour, morning and night - see how long the traffic takes to disperse.
  • Get out of your car! Listen, how is the traffic noise? If you have a headache, could you tolerate it? Could you have a bbq outside and still enjoy the serenity? What about the neighbours? Neighbours don't last forever, but talk to them, listen to them. Dogs barking? Is there a noisy sports field/school nearby? All things to consider.
  • Stay out of your Car! Yes, take lots of time and walk around the land, is there a breeze? Where does the sun rise/set? Does this work with your plan? We always tape out the block of land (I'm very visual) so this may help, especially if it's an odd shape.
  • Fall of the land! It's a shock the first time you see "site fees" quoted. The greater the fall of the land, the more $$ it will cost you. If they need to build a flat pad that will cost you as well (also dependant on soil types which you find out later unless you pay up front for a test, but if you expect the worst you will be pleasantly surprised).
  • Investigation time! Ring a reputable insurance company and get a quote for household insurance. It's always good to know if it's double what you're currently paying because there "might be" a flood.
  • Keep Investigating! Go to the Council web-site, check out any future developments around your area. Do a search to see if the land is in a flood prone area.
  • Schools! If you have little ones and you want them in a particular school make sure it's not zoned and the land isn't out of the area.
  • Local Shops! Not a big issue, I just wish I did a thorough shop before getting excited it was semi-close by. Now I have to drive a few kilometres to get what I need, so don't assume because it's one of the big stores it will have everything you normally buy.
  • Local Dump/Tip! Is it too close for your nose? If you're new to the area find out where it is.
  • Public Transport! Another lesson here, don't just go by what the Developer tells you. Check the Bus' web-site, see if it does actually go through/near the Estate. Does the school bus pick up/drop off? Is it a safe area?
  • Insects!!!!!! We were stung big time on this one (literally). We had been to the land many times, but never on dusk - silly us! Go on dusk, check the mosquito/midge count. Your call if you can live with it. There's always mosquito repellant plants (and we have most of them!)
  • Plans - current and future! Will it fit your plan (if you already have one)? If you've already chosen a builder, will they travel to the area at no additional charge? Do you need two driveways? Are there any water pipes, electricity boxes etc impeding future driveways? Pool? Is there enough room? Do you have privacy? Sheds etc
  • Convenants! Ask the Developer for a copy, not an extract, or a summary, the entire thing. Your builder will need it anyway. Are you okay with all of the requirements? (The 50% maximum coverage was a killer for us).

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Whether you've bought land and are now looking for the "perfect" plan, or have a plan and are looking for the land - there's no right way to go.

My experience tells me, if you absolutely love a plan - then find land to accommodate it. Don't forget to keep in mind if it's North facing etc (more practical living advice on that later), the slope of the land, who's your neighbours, is it relatively quiet? I'll break it down for you later so you have a mental tick list if you like.

If you find land and have a plan that just won't fit, really sit down and discuss what you like about the plan, how many changes can be made by the builder.  

I've learnt along the way to keep a note book with me with headers on each page of each room. When I think of what I would like in that room I write it down, if it's a must have then it's asterixed. 

If you have land and are looking for a plan/builder the notebook idea will really help, because you will be blown away by the Display Homes and it's easy to be swayed away from your must haves.

There really is so much in planning a house. But before we go any further ask yourself a simple question - is it going to a "home" or a "house"?  My preference is always build a "home" because when you sell it you want the prospective buyers to feel welcome and "homely". Re-sale may not be on your radar now, but it is inevitable, whether it be by yourselves, your kids or your Estate. 

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