Pink Pig

Why do custom homes cost more to build?

Surely a house is a house, so why does it cost so much more to build a custom home?

Firstly I would like to say there are many benefits to building a custom home and there is and should be a lot of prestige that goes with building a custom home but as people begin their journey in considering building their own home it is a common question.

In another blog I have/will discuss the pros and cons of custom building and project and volume housing but in this blog we touch on why a custom home costs so much more than a project home.

Cookie Cutter Homes
Cookie Cutter

Over the years of speaking with clients about the best analogy I can use to discuss this is the “Ikea model”.  Even if you have never bought a piece of furniture from Ikea I think you will understand the example…

Go back to the first time you bought a piece of furniture from Ikea, say a TV cabinet.  You would have stopped to read the instructions (possibly) layout the flat pack pieces, convince yourself there is a piece missing, turn them over and around, insert C before B and then start again consulting the instructions.  An hour later the TV cabinet is finished and you feel great.

Your friend visits and decides that they like the TV cabinet and decide to buy one.  Not only do you give them tips and advice but you help them build it and it takes you only 30 mins.

If you were to charge for your time say $100 per hour, the first time you built the cabinet the labour cost would have been $100, the second time $50.

In this scenario the first time you built the TV cabinet this is relative to your custom home and as you see them more you build even the same piece of furniture the costs fall the more you build it, this is the same for project or volume housing.

Clearly there are more complexities to this but over the years I have found this a very simple way to explain why it costs more to build a custom home to building clients.

Old House

Its Hard to Move

Every person develops a feeling of affection for anything they spend time with. It is in the nature of man, so it is unlikely for a person to not get emotionally attached to a house he has been living in. Especially when they have spent countless memorable moments in it!  While shifting to a new house, all those memories may come rushing past through the windows of ones brain and leaving them nostalgic. There may be, of course a hint of excitement for the new place somewhere in his heart but it is usually overcome by the gloominess of leaving the old one. Various reasons are at work due to which a person might feel homesick. I shall discuss a few of them.

The main aspect is the neighbourhood of which you have become used to. The caring neighbours always provide the feeling of your dear ones near you. And while getting shifted to the new house, you may not know a single person near you. The new home will shine with the occupation of advancements of the contemporary world, but the oldness of existing house will reside the grace and love of your elders.

Sometime it so happens that you are fed up with the daily routine and the provisions of your daily use. It could also happen with your existing home, maybe someday you would think that you are done with this house as it is old and not elegant enough to maintain your status in the society and you may think to buy a new one, but I think it is not a good idea at least if your parents are also living with you. This is because when a person grows old, he gets more attached to the things in his use, specifically the house in which he has been living for years. It is his least desire to leave that house.

But if you are not that sentimental and are willing to build a house heartily for your children or even for yourself, try to eliminate the flaws which you noticed in your existing home. Try to use smart sizing in the construction to save some money for building something more valuable than what were you going to build before. You can even buy new furniture for the new house.

The new home must be way better than the existing one and should have all the necessary advancements to keep up with the world. If the existing home is on rent then there will be much excitement because the money, spent every month on rent would now be saved and could be spent in other more worthy activities.

If a person finally decides to change his house, it would be better if he has it built rather than buying it. Having the house built leaves space for alterations which are not possible if you’re buying an already built house.

To conclude, I would say that it is not always easy to abandon your existing home for a new one, especially when you have aged, but if you are willing to do so, make sure you do your best to make it worth living.

Choosing the right builder

Choosing your Builder

Would you agree that choosing the right builder for your new home would be the cornerstone of its success?  It’s a massive task and for those new to the home building process it is difficult to know where to start.

What I tell my friends or anyone wanting to build is that you need to find a builder you like.  This is for many reasons but if you like them, chances are they are going to do a good job and an honest job.  Also consider that you are going to spend the next 2 years working with them and if you don’t like them it’s going to be a very long 2 years. (Don’t panic it’s not going to take 2 years to build the house, I’ve included the maintenance period into the time frame!)

Before you start testing the waters with your builder you need to have a good idea of your budget because different builders build in different market segments. Just like buying a car, there are Daewoo’s and there are BMWs and within the different brands there are cars that work across different market segments like Holden has Barinas, Commodores and  4×4 Rodeos.

Broadly the 3 market segments for new homes are Volume, Custom and Bespoke.

Volume Builders

Typically Volume Builders look after homes at entry level from around $130k and up to $500k.  Volume builders are also known in the market place as Project Home Builders or ‘The Majors.’  By definition a volume builder builds multiples of the same house.  That is they have their own plans that you can choose from.

In Australia the Top 100 Builders would be deemed to be typical of the Volume Builders and make up almost 40% of the market.

Volume Builders typically service the first home buyer and second home buyer market.  Examples of a volume builders in Melbourne include Metricon Homes, Simonds Homes, Porter Davis Homes, Carlise Homes, Henley Homes and Burbank Homes.  Ashley Road Homes is a smaller volume builder but uses architects to design smart sized efficient homes.

Custom Builders

Then there are the custom builders. Custom builders build 1 off homes and are generally designed from scratch.  A Custom Built Home will cost more than a volume home because of its uniqueness and are generally smaller building companies building 10-20 homes per year valued from approximately $350k to $1.2m.   Custom Builders seldom build for the first home buyer, their buyers are a little more sophisticated and established.

Bespoke Builders

Finally the high end of town, Bespoke Housing.  These are high end architectural homes valued well in excess of $2.0m-$3.0m and know to be upwards of $10m.  These are beautiful prestigious homes seen in the magazines and require a specialised builder to build them.  Ducon are a Bespoke Builders and like all the other builders in this market are focused on quality and delivery with dedicated teams working on the one project and a given time.  In this market segment liking your builder is more critical than what you may think.

So now you know which market segment you fall into start googling. Spend some time with your builder asking questions and don’t be afraid to share your budget with the builder, it actually helps the process and remember if you like your builder chances are they are doing the right thing by you!

Galley Kitchen

The Butlers Pantry

The Benefits of a Butler’s Pantry

Lets first consider the history of the butlers pantry which is put into perspective with my view on a Butlers Pantry …

The word “Pantry” is derived from a Latin word; “panis” which means ‘bread’ in French.  A pantry is a kind of a store room for a kitchen. It’s a place where foods, provisions, dishes or linens are stored and are used when needed in the kitchen. The term “Butler’s Pantry” refers to a service room, mostly in large houses, mainly used to store serving items instead of food. Conventionally, a butler’s pantry was used not only to store food, but also for the safe keeping and counting of silver, and occasionally the wine log and merchant’s account book may also have been kept there. Butlers in Europe normally slept there so as to keep the silver and the documents safe. Butler’s pantries in modern houses have all sorts of items in them like countertops, and storage for tableware, serving pieces, table linens, candles, wine, and other dining-room articles. More elaborate versions may include refrigerators, sinks, or dishwashers.

Which leads me to my rant (but if you’re looking to build a house over $2.0m look away now) … over the last five years the butler’s pantry has emerged as one of the hottest trends in new home housing schemes in Australia.  The main purpose for this pantry, in modern households, is to serve the food gracefully and elegantly and house refrigerators, sinks, or dishwashers … isn’t that what a kitchen is for!!??

With the evolution of the modern busy family and kitchens, surely the butler’s pantry other than being a large food storage area is a total waste of space and therefore money.  Some of the butler’s pantries are second kitchens and are way over designed!  When this is the case what is the point then in having a first kitchen!

Now lets consider the additional cost … $15k – $40k++. So unless your butlers pantry is purely to show off to your friends I am sure there are better things you could do with the money.  A nice large storage pantry is great, but the evolutions of the ‘Aussie” butler’s pantry has become absurd.

People nowadays are bent on following this trend without carefully examining its pros and cons.

We continually hear, “but when I am entertaining,” … “when I have people over I like to conceal it all.”  You are entertaining, your friends are there to interact with you.  When designing your home consider how you live now and would a butler’s pantry that necessary?

I think it is pointless to have a butler’s pantry in times like these especially when one doesn’t have large amounts of silver that need security. If you want the kitchen concealed how about putting a wall around it? Saves money and occupies less space.

In conclusion, I guess if your budget is less than $2.0m and you want a butler’s pantry you won’t be calling me to build your home!

Smart Size Girl

Smart Sizing

Smart Sizing

I love this term!!! …. Smart Sizing!

Smart Sizing is a term used in America for retirees downsizing their home. In Australia I am adopting the same term but using if for clever design.

Lets take a home with all the functionality of a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, separate living areas and build it on a construction footprint considerably less than a traditional 3 bedroom home.  Now with the savings of the smaller footprint add some features into the home and here we have smart sizing in Australia.

A smart sized home is perfect for young trendy couples and singles or empty nesters.

My first introduction to a smart sized home was the home of the architect who designed the Q16 for Ashley Road.  He built his house on a narrow block in inner Melbourne and entering it was like entering Dr Whos Tardis.  The block was only 7.0m wide but felt twice as wide on the inside.

He created this affect by using sliding walls rather than doors, feature flooring, rooms that had more than one function and strategically placed windows. To be honest all clever ideas that only a specialist architect could do.

His design of the Ashley Road Q16 embraces all of these principles and genuinely needs to be seen to be appreciated and is why we are building the Q16 for display. (On a side note the Q stands for Quintessential, as in embracing the quintessential elements of a smart sized home.)

What we are also doing with a smart sized home is being realistic about what you really need in a home.  Theatre rooms, butlers pantries, formal living, formal dining, rumpus rooms and studies etc etc have all been made redundant and been replaced with outdoor living and a back yard.

My favourite saying is “smaller block bigger backyard.”

The technique of smart sizing can be efficiently implemented while building any house. In the first instance take a snap shot of your living patterns now.  What rooms do you use now, be honest and you will find that these desirable rooms will actually never be used.  Design not to leave vacant spaces, the size of the room should be large enough to occupy a queen size bed and not unnecessarily oversized.  Same is the case with bathrooms and kitchen. Bathrooms must be big enough to take the bath easily and not to create a water park there as most of the rich people do while building their bathrooms. Kitchens can be created to accommodate all the essentials without encroaching into key living spaces. A galley kitchen, for example is an outstanding specimen of smart sizing a trend rapidly being embraced in Australia.

To conclude, if smart people build smart sized homes then perhaps the others are not so smart after all.