Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Preliminary Works Contract Appointment

We we just got back from our PWC appointment and we have signed our lives away! We are now building with Boutique Homes.

They have taken a $1,500 deposit on the PWC and now we have a 8 - 10 week wait until our colour and electrical appointments.

Today was all about confirming any structural changes and outlining the category of fixtures, fittings and flooring that we are interested in. The final floor plan for the house is below.

Final Floor Plan

We also found out that if we are to build the pool before the house (to save on pool excavation costs) we can't have the pool within 2.5M of the house. This is further out than I wanted as I had planned for a 2m space around all sides of the pool to allow plenty of room for play and lounging. In the end I don't think it will really matter as the fence side of the pool will be the least used area and given that a garden will travel the length of the fence (to stop water seeping under the fence into the neighbour's yard) it won't be a high traffic area.

Back to today's appointment...

Upon arriving at the Boutique Homes office we were met by Troy and Mina. We had a 2 hour booking however ended up staying for 3. It was another great experience with both agents giving as much time and advice as we needed.

Part of our PWC total price is made up of $4,500 colour appointment allowance and a $5,000 electrical allowance. This is a great idea as it gives us some idea of what our final home will cost and gives us a budget to work towards.

Some of the category options we have chosen are as follows.

- Additional Gas Point and Hot and Cold water taps to Outdoor Living Area for future outdoor kitchen.
- We have selected Category 3 bricks for the home. Not sure on the colours yet however we wanted to be able to choose between Cat 1 and Cat 3 bricks. If we chose a cheaper option during our colour appointment we will be credited back the difference.
- We choose double glazing for 5 windows. Bedrooms 3 and 4, Living room windows (exluding the sliding doors) and the theatre room. Basically these windows will receive the most direct sunlight so want to help keep the inside temperatures consistent.
Gutter colour options.

Example of a Category 3 brick. Initially like the idea of white brick however have since seen it on a house and now not so sure.

Tiles on offer. Now leaning towards colourbond roof which will cost another $1,600

- Sqaure set cornice to the Entry, Home Theatre, Home Office, Kitchen, Dining and Living areas (Saw this in the display and really liked it).
- We had to raise our ceilings to 2700mm. Originally we were happy with the 2550mm however found out that we need to raise the ceilings to allow for the double triple stacker doors. It was an added cost of $3,519 however we can't live without the doors so will wear it.
- We upgraded our cabinetry throughout the home to Sheen (around Cat 3).
- Chose Cat 2 carpet. We have removed the carpet from the hallway leading to the smaller bedrooms and replaced with tiles. This will mean that only the bedrooms, theatre and office will have carpet. All other areas will be tiled.
- Chose Cat 2 tiles and are currently looking at long rectangle tiles instead of square.

Possible Tile and Carpet Combination

The upgraded cabinetry. Sheen style with textured finish
We have chosen the handle second from the top
- After looking at the IIve appliance range we have decided to go with Westinghouse. We understand the IIve may be better however we like the look and feel of Westinghouse instead. This is actually a credit to us of around $1,000.
- We have Cat 1 Caesarstone Benchtops for our Kitchen and Bathrooms however will use the Colour Appointment credit to upgrade if required. We are currently looking at a Cat 2 benchtop and it only adds around $500
- Increased depth of kitchen bench to 950mm which includes a 300mm overhang for stools.
- We splurged and selected a Clark Pete Evans double bowl sink with Dorf Jovian Sink Mixer for $1,858.
Organic White is our current benchtop Selection

The amazing Clarke Pete Evans double bowl. It comes with the 2 wood and metal inserts. We have also chosen the mixer pictured.

The Westinghouse oven and stove top.

Westinghouse Dishwasher

Westinghouse Microwave

- Added a 325mm high X 1025mm wide X 90mm deep shower niche in the large ensuite shower
- Added a set of 3 drawers to the middle of the ensuite bathroom vanity.
- Upgraded the basins to 520mm wide inset basins and upgraded the shower fittings to 1 rain head at 1 end and a standard shower head at the other.

The sink we have chosen for the bathrooms
- Added a 600mm wide broom cupboard and 800mm over head cupboards to the laundry

Very similar laundry and colour combination we will have

After all that we increased our PWC total price by around $6k however $3k of this was the increase in ceiling heights which we had to do to allow for our alfresco doors.

Now we have a 8 - 10 week wait before locking in our colours and electrical options. In this time Natalie and I hope to visit every Boutique display around Metro Melbourne to get colour combination ideas. We also have to obtain quotes on the driveways, fence, blinds, landscaping and finalise the pool.

Very exciting times ahead.

Monday, January 11, 2016

St Tropez - A guided tour

Wow. That is pretty much all we could say.

After Natalie and I spent all week back and forth on the Langdon home and what we had seen in St Tropez we were a little underwhelmed by the thought of the guided tour. We actually went into the tour thinking that we were just there to compare prices, knowing that we would eventually end up back at the Langdon.

The actual experience was just so different to what we had experienced at Metricon.

We were greeted by Troy at the display office in Clyde North for our private tour. The St Tropez was closed to the public for the duration of our tour so we could walk through and speak as much as was required. Not long after the walk through started Mina also joined us. 2 agents just for us!

The experience was such a pleasure. Both Mina and Troy were extremely friendly and it never really felt like we were there for a quote. It just felt like we were there speaking casually to experts regarding the home and they could answer every question on the spot. Mina was amazing. She really knows her stuff and was reeling off additions and extras like they were second nature.

We spent over an hour and a half walking through each room of the house discussing the options and inclusions we were interested in. We were surprised and delighted to find that most of the display was standard. There wasn't really a whole lot that we needed to upgrade.

The more time we spent in the display talking about it with the agents the more it grew on us. By the time we were ready to leave the house an go back to the office to display the quote we could hardly contain our excitement.

While we waited for Mina and Troy to prepare the PWC (preliminary works contract) Natalie and I took a walk through the other displays. We were not really looking at anything in particular, just excitingly discussing what we had just experienced.

Upon returning to the office Mina and Troy let us know the PWC costs. We were quoted the same site costs as Metricon (around $20k). The base house costs were more expensive than the Langdon which is what we expected from our tour around the home and looking at the standard inclusions (around $230k at time of PWC). As a result of the high base and impressive inclusions we only added $75k (compared to $130k at Metricon) in variations which was mostly made up of the major structural variations like the 3rd Garage, Extended Alfresco, Powder Room, Extended Pantry, Double triple stacker alfresco doors with support pole deletion. This also includes a electrical credit of $5k and a colour showroom credit of $3k to spend on whatever we wish. Because the overall costs were lower than expected we added the luxury of some refrigerated cooling.

In the end the total price comes in slightly under the quote from Metricon. However keep in mind that the boutique quote is basically a finished home with very little we will need to spend. Natalie and I are allowing a few thousand dollars extra to upgrade some of the fittings however we really aren't expecting to spend it as the showroom credit should cover most of it.

Mina drew up a scale geo-siting of the house on the block. You can see that with the 3rd garage and the extended alfresco it really creates the perfect entertaining area around the pool. The house is positioned the minimum 1.2M from the left boundry to create the most room possible for the pool. With the angle of the frontage we will have a long driveway however we don't mind this as it just creates more room for parking. With all that in mind we still have a 20m X 5.6m back yard. and a house of around 30sqm.

Overall Natalie and I couldn't fault the experience with Mina and Troy. In a total of 2 face to face conversations we had such a clear understanding and detailed quoted price for what we wanted compared with 5 - 6 face to face conversations and numerous emails with Metricon.

We left the Clyde North display home extremely excited with our heart now firmly set on the St Tropez. A colour show room appointment has been made for Wednesday and after this point we will need to decide if we put down a deposit to secure the PWC.

The excitement builds again...

In an unexpected and surprising development we took an unguided walk through of the St Tropez and actually liked the plan.

Natalie was not 100% sold as you couldn't compare the kitchen to the Langdon. The design and cupboard space were less impressive.

I also had my concerns. The entrance way was very wide. Almost to the point of feeling like wasted space. The living/kitchen area also felt a bit small however after a while I realised I was just comparing this to the Langdon. If you look closely at the two floor plans in the previous post you will notice the Langdon's kitchen is set back more which opens up the living area slightly more than the St Tropez.

Having said all that we both still like the open plan style and the ability to open up the alfresco and walk into the future pool area.

However, the most impressive part was discovered upon walking out of the display and speaking with the agent.

Apart from some upgraded features like style of tiling and floor coverings and shelving etc the majority of what you see in the display is standard.

- The double vanity in the ensuite is standard.
- The stone bench tops in kitchen AND bathrooms are standard.
- The kitchen as a whole is mostly standard except for some upgraded tap fitting extras and the cupboards hiding the range hood.
- The oversize shower in the ensuite is standard. 1.6m of standard shower goodness!
- The list continues...!

None of the above is included in the Langdon. Meaning that while the base price of the house is very low you have to spend money to end up with a house you are happy with.

If you also look at the premium inclusions (which are standard with the base price) you will notice they are very impressive!


We were unable to secure any detailed pricing on the home (Boutique doesn't advertise their base house prices) so we booked in a guided walk through with the agent in the hope of securing a quote so we could compare with the Langdon. We advised the agent of our extras like the third garage, alfresco doors stacker options and extended alfresco.

Now we had to wait a whole 7 days until we could walk through the home and really find out what was included.

Some photos of the display home below.

Plenty of houses in the sea..

After spending hours (literally hours and hours) looking up builders and house designers on the internet I stumbled onto a floor plan that was surprising similar to the Langdon.

The house was from Boutique Homes. You can compare the plans below. The Langdon is on the left.

The house from Boutique Homes (right hand side) is the St Tropez 28.

The overall house size was exactly the same. The difference seemed to be in a slightly smaller living area in the St Tropez to allow an addition of a home office. The kitchen was also a little smaller and didn't have the corner bench top leading towards the laundry.

With our interest peaked we decided to take a drive out to the only display in or around Melbourne in Clyde North (around 1 hour 10 minutes away).

Metricon Frustration - Quick update

After falling for the Langdon 28 so quickly it was even more depressing realising that the dream of building and living in that home was a lot more expensive than we thought.

We had another tour through the house with the agent and another meeting to discuss the quote. No matter what we did we couldn't get the house under our budget with room to spare for the Studio appointment.

In the end we both left the display quite frustrated and upset. We had long discussion in the car on the drive home about if we should just go for it and spend the money. The house would be the one we make a future in and would we be happy living in a home when we know we could have spent a little extra for those features that so appealed to us in the first place?! The bank had already advised that we could borrow a lot more than what we set our budget however we also wanted to ensure we could live the lifestyle the house would provide.

In the end it was decided that we would have a quick look around at what else was out there in the market and compare the prices. We realised we had pretty much just jumped head first into the first home we both liked.

Whilst we had made the decision to look around we were both slightly confident that we wouldn't find anything else we liked in comparison to the Langdon's design and floor plan so we were mentally preparing ourselves for a return visit to the Craigieburn display.

Researching a pool

With the house details becoming a little tedious Natalie and I started looking at the type of pool we would get. This really started to get us excited again.

I really liked the idea of a square/rectangle swimming pool. I felt this would best fit in the area between the alfresco and the boundary and behind the third garage.

After doing our research on types of pools we settled on fiberglass. Concrete has it's advantages with flexibility of shape and the overall finish however as we were looking at a rectangle shape we felt a fiberglass pool would be fine. Looking at some displays and searching the internet showed the end result and quality was equally as good.

Here are a couple of fiberglass pools. Still looks impressive.

We also semi settled on a style/shape of pool. It turns out that most pool manufactures have similar style of fiberglass pools, just under different names.

With some initial decisions made we asked for a quote.

With advice from the pool company we decided that we would build the pool before the house went in. This would mean that the pool company had free access to the block and ease to excavate the pool. As we pay by the hour for the excavating equipment this would keep costs down. A small downside is that you then have to pay for temporary fencing and an engineered lid to ensure the pool is safe during the construction of the house. We also found that the fiberglass pool has to be filled with water immediately after being installed to ensure it keeps it's shape.

The quote came back at;
$49,500 inc gst (10.5m Maradona)
$47,500 inc gst (10.0m Franklin)

Pretty much what I was expecting. The quote does not include Pool Fencing or Paving around the pool. Both items which we will probably source ourselves.

The steps during the construction process of the pool is as follows.

- Excavate the hole.
- Install the pool with a concrete beam around edge to help maintain shape.
- Fill with water.
- Install engineered lid and temporary fencing to ensure it is kept safe during consturction of the home (you can just picture tradies leaving bricks and rubbish on the pool!)
- Once house construction is done they will return to finish any paving or pool fencing if required.
- Connect plumbing equipment and heating.
- Swim!

For those interested here is what is included in the quote.


 Excavator and 2 x tipper trucks (1 x day) 

 Tipping fees and cartage of soil

 Access – full access


Base (aggregate) and backfill (stabilized sand mix) to secure the shell

 10,000lts of water (by tanker) to ensure safe and secure shell installation

 380mm-600mm concrete beam (100mm thick) with reinforced steel mesh, tied to pool shell

 Large Skimmer box (for filtration and sanitisation)

 Suction / return fittings (for filtration and heating)

 40mm & 50mm pressure pipe for fluent water recirculation 

 Hydrostatic Relief valve (for safety and levelling of the pool pressure)

 POOL shell to be pre-plumbed in factory, ensuring stronger installation of all fittings & pipe

 All start up chemicals and pool salt

 Complete supervision by our own fully trained staff. We will follow the installation of the 

pool with an extensive tuition of the pool maintenance and equipment operation.

 180 days temporary fencing

 OH&S Hard cover, fully engineered (will pass all requirements by home builders)


POOL PUMP – DAVEY: PowerMaster Eco / multi speed / 8 star energy rated pump

 POOL FILTER – DAVEY: EC1550 Cartridge filter or 25” GLASS MEDIA filter

 POOL SANITISER –DAVEY: Salt Chlorinator / Self cleaning w/timer MSC24C

 POOL LIGHTING – Multi colour changing LED underwater pool lights x 3

 POOL HEATING – SOLAR HEATING, 100% coverage, fully automatic



Supply of electrical or gas lines for the filtration and heating

 Excavation of rock or other sub-surface materials that may extend the excavation

 Existing pipe diversions due to excavation

 Sewer connection for Sand filters 

 Council application fees for ASSET PROTECTION (must be done)

 Council application fees for PLANNING PERMITS (only if required)

Negotiating the quote

After looking at the quote for a few days the agent emailed us back removing $30k from the quote. A excellent result, until we read through it. Basically all they did was left all the structural changes and reverted all the upgrades back to standard. Laminate bench tops anyone!?? I don't think so!

More discussions with the agent and we decided that we had to stick with some of the display options. Natalie was really set on the display standard kitchen and bathroom. After all that is what made the house and the reason we liked it in the first place. I loved the alfresco doors and felt this is what would best compliment the pool area.

A few more discussions and emails with the agent and he mentioned that he would try to add the luxury inclusions package for us. Basically you spend around $20k in one package and this upgrades all your choices to a higher category hopefully saving you money at the same time.

However that was also a disappointment because of the display options we had included. It turns out the display options are in a standard they do not offer in their normal packages which basically means you are paying that extra money for only a few areas of the house. Your displays options still cost you more!

Luxury inclusions are listed below. The package is not always offered and the price varies on the size of the house you are interested in.


Langdon Walk Through

The more we walked through the Langdon the more we loved it. It just felt perfect. We booked a walk through with the Metricon agent and put down the list of extras and additions we wanted.

We understood that this would inflate the price by a significant amount however we were of the opinion that we would start big and then cut back to achieve our budget. Once we were able to see the price for the additions we could review them all.

The Langdon 28 has a base starting price of around $200k. The display in Craigieburn sits around $280k. We managed to add around $130k in inclusions including our site costs (around $20k due to rock) to the base starting price! Some of the major inclusions are listed below.

NOTE: prices are accurate at the time of our quote and our particular situation. Use only as a guide...

Provide 2700mm ceiling height in lieu of 2400mm to single storey.  $6,150.00
Provide Option for Three Car Garage (Recessed) in lieu of standard: $12,430.00
Provide corner butt-joined aluminium stacker (tri-slide) door unit in lieu of standard: $13,037.00
Provide Extended Grand Outdoor Room to Langdon 28 in lieu of standard: $7,200.00

We were comfortable with the above addition prices and felt the prices were comparative to other builders we had looked at. The double triple stacker doors to the alfresco with the support pole missing was a surprise however once they explained the engineering involved we understood.

However the more we looked through the quote the more concerned we started becoming. It turns out that there is very little as standard. Who would be happy with laminate bench tops? To upgrade the kitchen to match the display you had to spend around $15k. If you don't upgrade the kitchen you are left with wasted space and a useless layout!

This is a $15k Kitchen

It become very hard to justify removing any of the smaller items from the quote. We felt our overall plan for the house meant we couldn't sacrifice the third garage or alfresco options however we also didn't want to live in a house being disappointed with the overall finish.

To make matters worse it then became apparent the quote only included basic lighting packages and a trip through the Metricon colour and fittings studio would set us back even more! I estimated that we would need to spend another $20k - $30k to get a finished home which included decent cooling and flooring finishes that we were happy with.

We raised our concerns with the agent and explained we wanted to strip back the quote a little to see what we could live without. We could forgo 40mm bench tops for 20mm and we could select the cheaper tap fittings etc.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Choosing a house!

With the land secured we started looking for a house to suit the block and the future pool. We both decided that we would find a house that suited a pool and not a pool that suited the house. Probably not the smartest idea however we were really set on a pool and now that we had a block big enough we felt we didn't want to waste the space.

With that in mind we wanted to find something with a great indoor/outdoor entertaining area which would open up into the pool area.

As luck would have it, it didn't take long.

We stumbled across the Langdon 28 from Metricon. A house that could be seen as too small for the block however once a pool was added would fit perfectly.

Natalie fell in love with the kitchen area immediately. The cupboard space going around the corner towards the laundry was excellent. I loved the open plan family/dining and the 2 stacker doors with the pillar delete which really opened up the space and turned the out door room into an extended family room. Just imagine this with a pool running a long side!

Because of the 20M frontage to our block we decided that we would have a 3rd garage option. This would create the perfect space for the pool behind it and help settle the house on the street so it wasn't dwarfed by the land. I jumped in Photoshop and drew up some scale plans of how I saw the house sitting on the block. The pool in the image below is 10m X 4m.

The green is the easement at the back of the block. The blue is the minimum 4m setback. You can also see that I have flipped the plan and then flipped the front back so the living area is facing north and the garage and pool could also be on the north side.

At this point we were very excited and couldn't wait to see this develop into our dream home!

The Journey Begins


Our journey begins with a snap decision to purchase a block of land due to title in May of 2016. We had been half heatedly keeping an eye out for land for some time and Natalie heard about a new release in the Aurora Estate in Wollert, North of Melbourne. We had to register our interest through a website at a specific time. This would secure a position in the queue to look at put a deposit down on some land.

We looked at the blocks available and were happy to see some large sized blocks. With the dream of having a decent backyard with a swimming pool we decided it would be worth registering our interest to view the pricing.

As luck would have it (or Natalie's determination to register on the website as soon as it opened) we managed to secure position number 2 out of 70 interested parties. All were hoping to have a chance to look at and purchase 1 of 15 available blocks in the stage.

With our position secured we had to arrange a meeting with the land agent. During this meeting we had to inform the agent of our preferences. As luck would have it we found out the other party who was ahead of us in the queue decided to withdraw their interested in the new stage. This effectively meant we had our choice of any of the blocks in the stage! A great feeling!

After informing the agent of the blocks we were interested in (we were able to choose 3) we then had to arrange another meeting to come in and put down a $1,000 deposit to secure our position and interest in the blocks. This basically meant that no one else could take the blocks form us for a period of 7 days.

After a few days of discussions between ourselves and some further discussions with the bank to find out if we could afford the block (including the house and future pool) we made the appointment to pay the 10% deposit and purchase the block of land! The block is due to title in May of 2016! They also gave us a little care package!

And the block below. At 715m2 quite a nice size! Second biggest in the stage and one of the biggest in the whole development!

Exciting times ahead!