Starting out on your project and wondering how you can stretch your building budget? Here are 7 tips to help you get it right.
In a recent blog, I provided info on what options are available to you when building a new home – but not by looking at your total budget. (Read here for my suggested method). In this blog, let’s look at how you can stretch that precious building budget to get bang for buck in your new home (ps – it applies to renovations too!)
#01 Find the right builder
Ask builders what their general build costs are per square metre, so you can start the conversation with the right builder for you. This can save MOUNTAINS of time and confusion, and help you get a team together faster that’s on the same page as you.
Having a like-minded team will help you communicate more efficiently, and generally smooth the process. It stretches your time, as well as your budget – and saves stress overall.
#02 Build less, build better
More and bigger does not always equal better. Well designed homes that feel great can be compact in design, have less rooms, and still perfectly suit your needs. Better still, you won’t have the financial stress of the large mortgage looming over your life.
Quality over quantity will impact your everyday life. Every time.
#03 Be innovative with traditional domestic building techniques and materials.
Using traditional domestic building methods and materials will give you access to more tradespeople and builders when looking for your team. You can still create interesting and clever designs using standard, off-the-shelf elements to keep things affordable.
#04 Build in the ability to add later
Most homeowners I speak to set their budget based on the highest possible amount they can afford to spend – right now.
However, chances are your financial situation will change. Your career progression may mean higher pay. Once the kids are older, you may have both of you in the workforce.
I’m not advocating you budgeting on having access to more money in the future! However, it is possible that down the track, you can afford to do things to your home you may not be able to afford now.
That extra living space, pool, bigger deck, or parents’ retreat, might be able to wait until then – so build in the ability to add it now with the way you choose your design, and position it on your block of land.
#05 Build flexible spaces that work hard for you
Compact homes feel spacious and work well because they’re doing more with less.
Rooms that serve more than one function. Great storage. Connectivity within the home, and to the spaces beyond it.
Get the spaces you’re investing in to work harder for you, and it will save you stress and money in the long run.
Read here for more info on how to design compact spaces that work well.
#06 Hold onto non-negotiables that will impact how you live and feel in your home
Don’t compromise on orientation – in the southern hemisphere, getting access to northern sunlight into your living spaces will fundamentally impact how your home feels, and your electricity bills will thank you.
Push your ceiling heights in living spaces to 2,700mm. It’s still a standard residential height, and makes a huge difference to the feel of a space. If you can’t afford 2,700mm, aim for 2,550mm (the next standard height). It means you won’t lose your hands on the ceiling fan when you take off your jumper (as you can do with 2,400mm ceilings!)
In 2,700mm high living spaces, install glazing that’s 2,400mm overall in height. In aluminium-framed glass, this is the tallest size you can do in standard residential frames. It makes a big difference to light and breezes in your home.
Focus attention on your living areas, and their connection to outdoors. Get them in the best orientation possible, with views and light. You’ll spend most of your time in the home in these spaces, and they’re where you’ll entertain family and friends. Getting them to work well will improve the overall feel of the home.
Choose materials for functionality, durability and neutrality. Whilst you can be seduced (and chew up budget) with beautiful stones, gorgeous pendant light fittings and herringbone tiles, long term fun and love of a home comes when materials suit their purpose, can be cleaned easily and endure the punishment a family can inflict. You can bring personality in your easily-replaceable soft furnishings.
#07 Choose design first
For you to really get it right, design has to be chosen first and prioritised. I’ll be brutally honest … it’s in the design where a home works, or doesn’t.
Going straight to the builder, and selecting one of their floorplans (or working with their draftsperson to tweak or create one for you) does not, in my experience, prioritise design.
I say this after all the times I’ve seen homeowners do this, and then helped them undo it before they build. More often than not, it’s because they usually don’t know how to ask for what they want. It seems non-designers (such as builders and draftspeople) convert direct instruction into drawings … rather interpreting your needs and pulling ideas from you as a design professional does. (Note: sometimes you can find builders and draftspeople who are good designers – so do your homework before you start).
So unless you’ve done a lot of research and self-education first to understand exactly what you’re looking for, and know how to assess floor plans, or brief the builder in exactly HOW you want things (instead of WHAT you want), get help from a designer, and prioritise design.
Design makes the difference
Get a designer to help you navigate the process – whether to review the design you’re choosing (if selecting off-the-plan), or to create a design for you.
I firmly believe that, whichever option you choose, working with a designer to get some advice along the way, will make a MASSIVE difference to the outcome for your home.
I shared this post about draftspeople, and that I believe you can only expect them to draw and not design. You can also read about the differences between design professionals in this blog post here.
Great design is possible at any budget level. Design that works with the orientation of your site. Design that makes your home functional and your life better.
Design will maximise the potential for your home, and make sure every cent you spend on your home returns dividends in how you get to live in it long term.
What if you can’t afford a designer?
I do believe people make choices about what they can afford to spend their money on without understanding the impact of those choices.
They seek to save money in design fees without understanding it’s an investment that will save them money long term – and make a big difference to how they get to live.
So I challenge your assumption that you can’t afford a designer.
I say this not because I am a designer. I say it because I’ve seen homeowners, at all budgets, have different opinions about what they will spend their money on – and who they seek help from.
What (or who) they choose to spend their money on does not directly correlate to their budget level – or the size of their home, or how ‘basic’ their needs are (their words).
It correlates to how much they value design – and how critical they see design is in unlocking the full potential of their home, and the life it will help them lead.
Working with a designer can give you access to knowledge, expertise and experience that will save you more than their fees ever cost. Help from a designer closes the gap between what you know you know, and what you don’t know you don’t know. (That’s not a typo – read it out loud!)
Still not convinced?
If you choose to not spend money on a designer, then spend lots of time here on Undercover Architect. It’s why I write my blog. It is my commitment to give you professional expertise, information and advice – at no cost – to help you unlock what is possible for your home.
I think something is broken in this system because I keep getting emails from homeowners making choices that won’t get them to where they want those choices to lead them. And they’re spending hard-earned money on doing it!
The home building industry is failing you
When I started UA, it was off the back of two decades in this industry. Sitting at meeting tables with builders and developers who would say “they (the customer) won’t pay for better, so we won’t offer better.”
It honestly blows my mind that we build so many houses that perform so poorly, and are horrible places for their owners to live. I think that’s an industry failing its customers, and relying on you being uninformed in order to get away with it.
I could spend my days working with builders, draftspeople and other members of the industry to convince them to do better for their clients.
However, I realised early on that is was going to be much more powerful to teach you, the homeowner, that you can and should demand better – and then support you in doing that.
The reason UA exists is to inform and empower you – so you don’t have to go through a not-so-great (or terrible) experience in order to discover what not to do.
I will fight passionately for you to be fully informed, and empowered to ask the right questions, so you know what to expect and how to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
There’s a lot at stake here. It’s your home, and it’s where you’ll be launching your life from. Get informed and get it right.
And remember, I’m always here … Undercover Architect is your voice –and your secret ally.
What about you? Have you seen clever ways that others have stretched their building budget? Pop in your comment below!