Building a single storey Clarendon home
Beginning of May 2014, we finally put a deposit on a block of land in north-western Sydney. At time of sale, the land was supposed to be registered in July-August, but that’s another story. From there it went to Aug-Sep, and currently is estimated to settle around Sep-Oct.
FINDING A PLAN/BUILDER
Once the deposit was paid, the fun part began. Finding a floorplan that suited us, and then getting a builder to build it. We went to-and-fro between going to a project home builder vs owner-builder. Later on, I was glad that we went with a project home builder.
I was amazed by the number of builders servicing the Sydney region. Close to 100 ! http://www.ulh.com.au/resources/sydney-builders/
We had decided that we will be building a single storey home for various reasons. Now started the various trips to Homeworld at Kellyville and The Ponds display villages. We looked at almost all single storey homes at both sites !
A few came close, including Champion Homes (Novara 243), Eden Brae (Sheffield 25), Wisdom Homes (Providence 26), and later on, Clarendon. Since our block was irregular (not rectangular) and had a depth of 29m (most builders cater for a depth of 30m) it wasn’t easy to fit a floorplan on our block. After a lot of tweaking, we weren’t satisfied with the Eden Brae outcome. As for Wisdom, they had recently sold their display homes in Georges Fair and our selected floorplan was one of them. The nice lady at Wisdom Homes Kellyville arranged for a client who had recently moved into their new Providence 26 home to let us go through their house and see if the floorplan would suit us. We went for a 1 hour drive to southern Sydney and looked at the house inside out. We didn’t like it that much as a Clarendon design we were also looking at. Clarendon have their own big display village at Parklea – a total of 11 homes which is a big number by a single builder.
Having satisfied ourselves that the Killara 24 from Clarendon was the closest design to what we preferred so far, we paid the initial deposit of $1000 which would give us a Tender. That was done on 24th May 2014. Before that we had various sittings with our salesperson at Parklea to achieve the best possible outcome for our floorplan. Finally when we received an email that our Tender is to be presented on 25th June we were happy that progress has been made and now we could see something real. But soon we received another email that the design cannot fit and some more modifications were needed. We had to go back and see our salesperson again and she suggested an alternative which ended up being even better ! This delay led the date for Tender to be postponed to 2nd July 2014. Other reports like the Contour survey and Geotech report were also ready by this time. We had less than 1m cut and fill and our soil classification was ‘P’ due to some trees/vegetation being present there previously. But the slab classification came back as “H”.
Finally the day came. We arrived at their head office in Baulkham Hills and met the presenter. He then went through the plans and the Tender with us. Some more modifications/refinements were selected on that day. We ended up singing up on the day itself. Also parted with $4000 which is required at this stage.
There are some items on the Tender, especially the Client selected variations for which you may want to know the actual costs. Most of the time, the costings are not given in Tender. A ‘final figure’ sum is displayed for any client variations. I persisted with them that I needed to go through the itemised costings and they provided me with the same. Numbers, numbers, numbers everywhere ! It ended up being all in line, but was interesting to see how they costed any changes.
One thing that certainly came out of reading the itemised costings was that when the builder has to charge us (the client) they do so with both open hands, but when they have to credit back to us, they close their fists and very little trickles through to us. It is basically a take-it-or-leave it scenario. Not to say that I wasn’t aware of this, but this exercise just confirmed it. I was told by my Tender presenter that they “try to be fair all the time”. Keyword here being ‘try’. In the Tender, we were given a Preliminary sketch of our design and a email copy of what a blank Contract would look like. It is highly advisable that any structural changes are finalised before you proceed to Contract stage.
The package we selected for our home was the Sapphire package. The inclusions can be viewed here: Ruby/Sapphire/Diamond Inclusions 2014 [PDF 4MB] You can select any package and then select any individual items of the higher package as an upgrade.
There was another promotion running at that time (Builder promos run all the time, they just change the names !) At that time it was called the “People’s Choice Promotion.” [PDF 7.5MB] Before this promotion came on in May 2014, Clarendon had the “Summer of Choice” promotion. I later compared and most items offered in the promotions were similar. The Peoples Choice promo was quite decent IMO. It cost us $5,950 and contained some of the items that we were definitely going to go for, eg. 2600 mm ceilings. Other meaty inclusions were: 40mm stone kitchen benchtops with waterfall edge to island, kitchen glass splashback, SMEG kitchen appliances and a 1200mm pivot entry door. I must point out here that in all other promotions that I had seen with other builders, none had the 40mm stone benchtop or the glass splashback included in any promotion. Even the top-of-the-range Prestige Inclusions package from Wisdom Homes didn’t have 40mm stone benchtops included. Also, thrown in for ‘FREE’ in Peoples Choice were ducted aircon, automatic garage door opener, inline under sink water filter, aluminium stacker door, upgraded ceiling insulation to R3.5, and Hills alarm system. I wonder how they give all these items for “free” and then charge us $500 for a garage step-down, which used to be included anyway not long ago !
All in all we thought it was a nice chunk of upgrades which we may have not have gone for otherwise, but they certainly add glam, value & comfort to a house.
After a couple of weeks of signing Tender, our contract appointment was fixed for 16 July 2014. Now this was the big day – Yes or No !
We had satisfied ourselves that the Killara 24 would be our home that we would like to live in. It had ticked all boxes for us. At the contract meeting we were given detailed copies of the floorplan with all dimensions. Certain items in the promotion or designs modified by us weren’t shown on the plan, for which variations were raised. A Home Owners Warranty certificate was also issued to us. We took three copies of the contract home that day to be signed (where applicable) and initialled (every page). Read it carefully and try and understand the clauses. If unclear ask Clarendon or your solicitor. Within 5 days I returned the copies back to them all signed and initialled by us, so they could sign their part. Again, parted with roughly $8000. I never knew that I would have to spend almost $13-$14k out of my own pocket to get to this stage. Bank loan comes much later when they actually start construction. This now totalled upto 5% of contract price which I had paid to Clarendon so far.
Let me also say here that signing the Tender or Contract doesn’t mean that you cannot make any more changes. But bear in mind that if you make major structural changes, they may charge you to redraw the plans, but other minor things can still be done. Any changes done after signing contract are done via a Post Contract Variation.
Once you have signed Tender, you may go to their Colour selection studio (located at Baulkham Hills for Sydney clients) and go through the various selections/upgrades that are available. Upto now you would have only read the names in the inclusions booklet. Here you can actually see what you will get. Colour chart, kitchen/laundry vanities, stone benchtop colours, kitchen appliances, toilet fittings, baths, roof tiles, cornices, stairs, windows, doors, door handles/locks etc. Roughly 6 weeks after contract we got our Colour appointment on 28th August. Be prepared for a long and mentally tiring day. Before you go there, they ask you to go to the Austral brickyard at Horsley Park and select your bricks. If you select the upgrade bricks, you can get a price through your colour appointment. 9am-5pm is hardly enough for single storey selections, let alone a double storey. They should allow for 1.5 days for single storey and 2 days for double storey. After all, you will be choosing what you will be seeing every day for how ever long you live there.