Travel Issues

It’s a Saturday morning and your partner says “Why don’t we go and look at some blocks that have been advertised in the paper?”

So you jump in the car and in no time at all you are at the developers office.

“That was easy!” you say………….but how realistic is Saturday traffic compared with a future weekday commute?

Once you move you may find you are spending a long time looking through your windscreen at traffic!

Before you make a decision perhaps you need to try the traffic out:

    • Arrange to meet your partner straight after work and see how how long it will take to get home in rush hour. Twice as long?……….or four times as long!
    • If you are really keen, then get up at 6.00am, and drive to the site. You can then see how long it will take you to get to work.
    • A quick check might be to use Google Maps to estimate journeys for a few work days
    • You might  also try out the public transport.

Were you surprised how long it took to get to work after you moved?

See Blocks for more information on buying land.


Battleaxe Block

Have you seen a ‘Battleaxe Block’ advertised and wondered what it is?………….Well it is a block that only has a 3-4m frontage on the street.

Often these blocks are as a result of subdividing a long block with the rear block then becoming the ‘Battleaxe block” – coloured red, as in this plan.

In the plan the existing house has been retained.

You will also often find cases where the original house has been demolished to allow 2 blocks to be sold at the same time.

Another way of splitting a large block is a ‘Small Strata’ Development. (see this link: Small Strata)

What  are the issues with Battle Axe Blocks?


To get access to the site you will require at least 20m of driveway and perhaps a turning area. This will have a substantial costs. I would allow at least $600/m run of driveway for a temporary gravel driveway during construction and for final concrete at completion.

You may save on this cost by going for a Small Strata Development with a common driveway, instead of a Battle Axe Block but:

  • Getting agreement from your neighbour to use the access for the construction can be difficult.
  • In my experience the best way to have good relations with neighbours is minimise causes for dispute. Sharing a driveway means that your parking options are limited.
  • Looking after the shared driveway is like some of the ‘Community Title’ issues (see this link: Community Title )

An advantage of that long driveway is if you put a gate with a childproof lock at the front it gives a safe area for toddlers to play.

Additional Service Costs

You will be need to bring in some if not all of the following service for an extra 20-30m.

  • Power.
  • Phone.
  • Water, could be two services if you want recycled water.
  • Gas, if it is available.
  • Storm water drainage, can be a problem if inadequate fall and property drains to road.
  • Sewer, usually this is at the back of the block but check before you buy.

Additional Building Costs

I have heard additional building costs of more than $15,000 for battleaxe blocks because of a restricted site (see this link to find out more: Restricted Site)

In Conclusion

I am not saying don’t buy a Battleaxe Block, just make sure that you think carefully about the implications.

What issues have you found with Battleaxe blocks?


Lots more information in the anewhouse Guide to Buying a Block for only $4

See Blocks for more information on buying land.


Buying A Sloping Block.

It doesn’t take much of a slope to mean that costs will increase.

For the last house I built, in 2005, a 0.8m slope over a 26m wide by 32m deep block added $4,800 to the cost.

That’s for much less of a slope than the block in the picture.

The extra cost was for some cut and fill ($2,900) to level the site under the slab, and about 12m of 450mm high timber retaining wall ($1,900).

Much more of a slope and the costs can really shoot up.

Reasons for Additional Costs

As well as cut and fill costs you could have:

  • Drop Edge Beams – A sort of retaining wall as part of the foundation to make sure that the fill stays under the foundation.
  • Concrete Pier, or Screw Piles may be needed because the different depths of fill under the slab will have varying strengths.
  • Higher Strength Slab – Needed to span between the piles.
  • Extensive Retaining Walls – Once Retaining Walls go above 1m high the costs increase significantly.

One advantage of double storey houses on slopes is that the additional cost of foundations will be lower than those for a single storey house of similar total floor area due to the smaller foundation area.

Steeper Sites

For really steep slopes you may need to go for a Split Level Home or even build on ‘Stilts’.

Either way you are definitely going outside the typical project builders territory and probably looking to get a custom builder and architect involved in the house.

So why build on a slope?

Well for many people its a view, and means you may only be overlooked on one side of the house.

Without a view and I would only be looking at building on a slope if the block was significantly cheaper, to offset the additional costs.

For Similar Posts see Choosing Blocks

Or see Understanding Retaining Walls


Block or House First?

Should you choose the block, or decide on a house design first?

Cheaper Land

Well my preference has been to build on suburban blocks so we are close to shops, cafes, recreational facilities and public transport.

Blocks in these areas are relatively small so I’ve started by either sketching up the house I would like to build, or selecting a plan.

I then look for a block with good orientation that the house would fit on.

It means that I don’t even go and look at blocks that won’t fit my ideal house.

This has stopped me getting frustrated and have to start looking at a different house to fit an odd shaped block that I’ve set my heart on.

Expensive Land

With blocks getting smaller, and more expensive your approach may have to be varied.

Currently the price of the land close to cities is usually more expensive than building costs. This even applies to suburbs 40km or more from the CBD.

In can makes sense to divide your budget by two and see what size block you can get in an area you want to live in.

You are then able to look for designs that fit that size of block.

If you can’t find a block big enough for a single storey house of a size you want at an affordable price you may have to start looking for designs for a smaller house or a 2 storey house.

Rural Blocks

Of course if you want a rural or semi rural block rather than a suburban block the overall size of the block means that you can fit most houses on the block without any problem.

It therefore makes sense if you are in this market to look for blocks early.

You can then look to choose a house that makes the best use of the site.

These larger blocks do give you more choice with the house design because the additional space means that you can move away from the typical rectangular houses to square houses, courtyard layouts, or even round houses.

With these big blocks I have heard it said that you should move a caravan onto the site for a few nights or even camp there before you decide where on the block you will site the house.

That seems like a great idea to me!

For similar posts about buying Land see Blocks


Choosing an Area

So here is a map of places withing 50km of where I live now.

As you can see it covers City, Suburbs, Bayside, the Coast and Rural Areas.

Here are a few things you need to think about when deciding to look for an area to live:

  • How far is the area from your work? Will it still be convenient if you change your job?
  • Are there good road links to your work? Lots of traffic lights and railway crossings can add substantially to Journey Times.
  • Is there good public transport links? In some Melbourne suburbs being within easy walking distance of the station can put more than $50,000 on the cost of the house.

How close are the:

  • Shops and Supermarkets?
  • Restaurants and Cafes?
  • Pubs or Clubs? Saves worrying about the breathalyser!>
  • Sporting facilities? Most parents will appreciate this as most Saturdays can be spent running a ‘Taxi” Service.
  • Parks and playgrounds?
  • Doctors?
  • Hospitals?
  • How good are the local schools? Or will you be sending the childeren elsewhere which can brings up a whole extra range of transport problems.
  • Is it close to relatives? Close enough to babysit .but far enough to need to get the car out is my rule!
  • Is it close to the Beach or the Bush

What’s important to you?

 For Similar Posts see Choosing Blocks


House And Land Packages – Are They A Good Idea?

You often see house and land packages advertised and they may have an attractive price . . . . . but are they a good idea?

Here are a few more things to think about:

  1. These sort of deals are popular with property investors who just want to get a new house built and get tenants in as quickly as possible. . . Wouldn’t you prefer to have the houses next door owned by occupiers who are going to be more likely to care about the appearance of the house and garden than a tenant who has little interest.
  2. It seems to me they are usually offered on the hard to sell and the least attractive blocks which is one reason why they are cheaper. Typical problems I have seen include:
        • On a major road
        • Poor orientation
        • Be an odd shape
        • Have access issues.
  3. They are often based on the smallest possible block that will fit the house. Often they will have the houses so close together they will look more like a terrace and the back yard will be minimal.

One of the Real Estate maximums is that the way to make money on a house is by buying the right house.

Make sure you don’t harm your chances of a good future sale by buying a bad House and Land Package.

Much more advice in the   anewhouse – Guide to Buying a Block   for only $2

For similar posts on buying land see the Blocks section


Country Or City

It’s not as simple as Country or City, there are a lot of areas in between.

In the country it can be sea change, tree change, a rural block, or in a small town.

In the city it can be inner suburb, existing outer suburb, or new subdivision.

To some extent it depends on your time of life.

Country Experiences

When we were younger we were happy living in a rural town.

Running kids to sport and going to social events etc was all fairly easy as everything was no more than 2 -3km from home.

I could cycle home for lunch in 10 minutes. We could even drive for 50km,or more, without seeing a traffic light.

A friend of mine lived out on a rural block because he said he knew what his teenage kids were up to because they relied on him for rides.

Even so he was still only or six minutes drive into town.

City Experiences

Since we passed 50 we see real advantages of living closer to the city.

Good public transport means we only need one car

As you get older the risk of having an illness needing a stay in a city hospital gets higher and how would we manage if living in the country.

We support a Melbourne based football team (the Mighty Saints) and try to get to most matches.

A 70km round trip from the suburbs is better than a 450 +km one which we did for a number of years.

Did you go for the country lifestyle?

See similar posts see Choosing a Block


7 Things To Think About Standing On A Block

So you have visited the Developers Office and been shown a site plan with some blocks for sale that are the Size, and Orientation, you want.

The next thing is to get a copy of the Title Plan and go and look at the blocks you think may be OK.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Find the Boundary Pegs Normally the actual boundary peg will be driven in so the top is at ground level, there is normally a tall peg next to it to help locate it. Once you have found the pegs you know the piece of land you are thinking about buying.
  • Manholes Sewers and Drains A lot of blocks have Easements for sewers and drains which will restrict how much of the site you can build on. (The Title Plan will show the Easements) If you can see a manhole you will also need to think about how this might limit what you can do in the garden.
  • Site Slope As little as a 1m slope from front to back can add $3-4,000 to your site cost. A 1m slope from one side to the other can add even more. The steeper the slopes the more the builder will charge for site costs.
  • Below or Above the Road Where there is a sloping development site some blocks will be above the road and others below. Sites above the road are less likely to flood and can be more private than ones below the road.
  • Effect of Building on Neighbouring Blocks. Shading and blocking views are common problems that can affect your proposed house and garden. If you are keen on building a solar pasive house you can minimise the effect if the block you choose is higher than the one to the north. Obviously if the surrounding blocks are already developed its easier to consider the effects.
  • Road Crossover Many blocks now come with a driveway crossover if this doesn’t suit your design it will cost quite a bit to get it changed.
  • Look Up One thing I didn’t notice on my first visit to my current block was the overhead power cables just outside the block. They aren’t big pylons or anything and the poles are some distance away so its just a single cable. It does however restrict the size of tree we can have in our garden.


You will be very lucky if you get a perfect block so you are probably going to compromise on some of the above points. Good Luck!


Also see Choosing Blocks


Sub-Divided Block Issues

Want to build a new house in an established suburb?

One way is to look for a subdivided block, or even buy a house on a big block and sub-divide yourself.

I see quite a lot of large suburban blocks sub-divided with one, or more, house blocksadded.

In a number of cases the original house the original house is demolished and 3 houses are built on the block.

If you want to build the available block will normally at the rear known as a Battle Axe Block

So what do you need to think about when considering a subdivided blocks?

Here are some issues to consider:

Vehicle Access

Any shared vehicle access can be a cause of contention so a separate driveway is much the preferred option.

If you have the rear block and put a gate near the front this can provide extra play space for young children. That can be very useful as the backyard area will be fairly limited.

Adequate Off-Street Parking

With two properties sharing one frontage and the loss of parking if there are two crossovers On-Street parking will be at a premium.

I would recommend having space for at least two vehicles off the street (this can include the garage)


When you are squeezing a house on a small block windows are going to be closer to your neighbours on all sides, so overlooking, and being overlooked, is a potential issue.


A South facing block with living rooms to the rear (North) is going to give the best results if you are looking for a passive solar house to minimise heating and cooling costs.


For a rear block you could be hit with extra costs for:

  • 15m plus driveway construction.
  • Extra utility costs due to distance from existing services.
  • Builders charging a restricted access fee in addition to the typical/normal advertised price.

Sewer and Drainage Easements

Easements are often run along the back fence of the original block.

A typical 2-3m easement can severely limit what you can build on the block, particularly when you might also have an easement to service the front block running through your block.

I have heard of sewer lines on subdivided blocks running down the middle of the block, so its important you check this before you buy!


As part of arranging the subdivision the sub-divider will often get planning approval for a type of house.

If that’s not what you want make sure you get the owners written agreement to the design you offer to buy.

It might even be worth making an offer subject to planning permission.


As I haven’t personally built on a subdivided block I may have have missed an issue you have experienced. If you think so why not leave a comment?

To better understand what you can build see Restrictions in the Blocks section


Beware of Blocks Below The Road

On a summers day, during a period of dry weather, I came across these recently built houses with lines of sandbags!

You would think that the houses must have fronted a river!

Not much chance of getting a car in the garage!

So. . . . What’s the story?

Well its in a long established suburb where large blocks are being subdivided.

That means the drains, which were designed for an estate with lots of gardens, are now in an area where all the water quickly runs of the roofs.

Any heavy rain and the drains become overloaded and then water starts pooling on the road

Well the houses are built facing a low part of the street, so it doesn’t take long for the water level to rise to the footpath level and then start flowing down the driveways.

What makes it even worse is cars driving through the flood water and creating a wash!

For more unusual  house pictures go to  What the………………….?

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