Top tips for building a new house

Want to build a house but don’t know where to start? Architect? Architectural designer? Housing company? Private builder? A house and land package? What’s the difference and where to begin?

Start by asking yourself: What do you want to achieve? The biggest house for the least money or a high-end bespoke home with unique character? Or a combination of the two?

Each of these goals will lead you down a different path when building a new home.

Buying a section

Choosing the right section is the difference between a good result and a great one. Here are our top four tips for buying a section:

Make the most of the sun

That big yellow circle in the sky is your best source of FREE heating – don’t underestimate its importance when choosing your section.

Avoid prevailing winds

The last thing you want is to have built your beautiful home and not be able to open the doors or windows or enjoy sitting on the deck because it’s too windy.

Maximise the view

A particularly important element for hill builds, or sites on a lake or with a particularly impressive outlook. You definitely don’t want to block it out.

Ask for advice

If you already have a builder in mind for your project, get their opinion on the site before you commit. They’ll give you invaluable advice on the extra costs associated with a site. A hill site will usually incur extra costs for drainage, water retention tanks and retaining walls – some sites are a lot worse than others. Access for the build and section orientation are all crucial parts of a successful home build.

Choosing a builder and architect/designer

How do I select a designer or architect? Or do I select a builder first? Naturally, we’re slightly biased here but we believe choosing a builder should come first when considering building a new home. Your builder will have meaningful conversations with you. They’ll get to know you and understand your goals for the build. They can then use this knowledge to help you select a designer or architect, depending on the size and complexity of your build and most importantly, your budget. Alternatively, some clients select a designer or architect first (there’s no right or wrong way). Most designers prefer to involve a builder early in the process as this brings an element of accuracy to cost checks, and the client, builder and designer can work together as a team. If you’re looking at using a housing company, the designer will most likely be in-house. The biggest difference is that the will contract out the building labour to an independent contractor. They may not know who exactly will be building the house, which is quite a different process to a company who employs their own staff on wages.

Seven questions to ask your prospective builder

If you don’t know of any builders or you just don’t know where to start, try asking your designer or architect. They’ll likely have a (or several) builders to recommend who they will have worked with before. This brings a significant element of trust to the process.

We suggest meeting with a couple of different builders and/or designers to find out which ones resonate with you best. It’s a big deal to design and build a house, so your design and build team needs to feel right. 

We’ve put together the best questions to ask your prospective builder to help make the process of finding the right builder easier.

  1. Who will we be dealing with?
  2. Who is our point of contact through the process? Will it be one person, or will there be multiple people?
  3. How much is it going to cost?
  4. How long do you think it will take?
  5. Do you see any hurdles?
  6. How many houses have you built or designed like this before?
  7. Can we speak to some recent clients that you have worked with?

Private builder vs housing company

To answer this question, you first need to consider what’s important to you when it comes to a building company. Is it the person or people you will be dealing with and the relationship you will have throughout the process? Or does that not really matter? Perhaps it’s all about the best price?

For larger housing companies, builds are often placed in the hands of a project manager. This person will be your point of contact for the build and will liaise between you and the builder, contractors, suppliers and the housing company. Large housing companies often have an extensive list of preferred contractors and suppliers with the ability to buy in bulk.

Private builders often provide a more personal approach. You’ll speak directly to the builder, discuss issues and ideas and take advice on changes or problems that may arise. Sourcing product and services is done on an as-needed basis and can mean a better deal is struck along the way.

The earlier in the process the builder is involved, the more value they can bring to the project – after all, they’ve done this fair few times before. Ideally, they’ll also be able to recommend a designer, or they may have their own in-house designer if they are a housing company.

What about a house and land package?

A house and land package is when the builder or building company have purchased the land and have a design already picked out. Usually everything will be decided and planned so realistically you won’t have much ability to change major things.

A house and land package deal might be ideal if you want an investment property and/or you don’t have time to deal with the extra work, time commitments or stress involved in designing and building your own home.

For most house and land deals, the builder will have bought the land at a cheaper rate and will be able to pass the savings on to you, making it a more affordable option for many. House and land packages can be an excellent option for those wanting less involvement and who aren’t emotionally attached to the project – often the case for an investment property.

The more technical the job is, the more crucial the decisions around choosing the right section and finding the best builder becomes. The important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way – consider our advice, apply it to your situation, then make the most logical decision you can.

If you’re still not sure where to begin when building a new house, give us a call – we’re happy to help.