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)

Privacy

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.

Orientation

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.

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!

Planning

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………………….?

Base Plan has 6 Star Energy Rating

But What Does it Mean?

If you think it means is that your house will have a 6 Star Energy Rating you could be wrong!

You could be up for thousands of dollars of upgrades to meet the required standards.

All the following, and more, can lower your energy rating.

  • Less than ideal orientation
  • Add windows or increased window sizes
  • Add stacker doors, or even just ordinary doors
  • Increase room sizes
  • Adding down lights
  • Removing a rainwater tank

If you aren’t careful you could find you will be getting a bill for extra insulation and double glazing to restore the rating to 6 star.

 

Which Way Is North?

Don’t rely on a compass!

Or a mobile phone either!

There are different Norths

  • True North
  • Grid North
  • Magnetic North

The difference can be more than 10 degrees which can affect your view and the solar performance of your house and solar panels.

Just to make it more complicated the difference can change depending on where you live and the date!

True North

True North points to the North Pole, the axis of the earth’s rotation.

Grid North

Grid North is the basis of the grid lines on a paper map as your north reference.

Grid north is typically close ( within 2° east or west of true north) and varies with your position within a zone.

It is used when establishing geographic co-ordinates so it will be the direction the North Arrow points on a house plan prepared for construction.

Magnetic North

A compass needle will align with the earths magnetic field and thus points to the ‘magnetic’ poles.

The Earths magnetic field and thus the ‘Magnetic Pole’ moves over time.

The difference between Magnetic and True North (called Declination) is also different depending on your position.

 

Want to find the difference for your site? . . . . Follow this link:  Geoscience

Overflowing Drains

Its not unusual to see local flooding around a house, or on streets, during exceptionally heavy rainfall.

If you are unlucky you might even see a manhole ‘Pop It’s Top!’  like this one!

This is because the council drains don’t have the capacity to deal with these really heavy rains!

Why It Happens

The roof drainage to get the water off your roof will be designed for very severe storms.

This is because the risk to your property from gutters and downpipes not being able to cope is very high. (see this link: Roof Risk)

Some localised shallow flooding around the house, that will be drained away over an hour or two, however is low risk.

Council Design Considerations

To design the public drains to cope with extreme events would have huge costs.  . . Even if the pipes were big enough downstream flooding of rivers would be made worse.

For this reason although the roof drainage will be designed for a storm that may occur only over every 20, or even more years apart; the public drains may be designed for no more than a storm that occurs every 5 years.

The difference in additional rainfall between a 1 in 5 year storm and a 1 in 20 year storm can be an extra 50%. (See this link: Rainfall Intensity)

This is the water that could cause short term flooding around your house.

What You Can Do

Basically the best advise I can give is to avoid buying blocks at the bottom of slopes (These will be the worst affected by temporary flooding)

If you do get some localised flooding in your garden that either

  • Doesn’t drain away as the rain eases; or
  • Occurs every time it rains.

You should contact the council as it could be a sign of a problem.