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Custom home building pitfalls

Are you considering building a custom home? If so, you need to be aware of the pitfalls before launching into it and engaging an architect or builder. The aim of this article is to outline the key pitfalls in the design and construction of your new home and to highlight the consequences of getting it wrong.



Pitfall Number 1 - Design

There are a couple of things that should concern you in relation to the design of you dream home. These are: expectations and affordability.


So what are your expectations? In short, we are considering your needs and wants. The needs being things that you can’t do without; eg, the number and type of rooms and type of appliances and the wants the considerations you want incorporated into the design – such as the looks, quality and sustainability of the home.


You think to yourself – I should get an architect involved. They are professional designers and I want a beautiful and functional home. You brief them on your expectations – and this is your first mistake!


An architect is focused on what a home will look like. They are focused on how they can build their reputation; form over function so to speak. They rarely factor in the true costs to build. What you end up with is a design that is very expensive to build.


So at the end of the day you have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours for a beautiful design that is not buildable within your budget.

Pitfall Number 2 - Budget

Speaking of budget. It is not just the architect that can drain you of your hard-earned dollars. There are two areas that can really eat into your budget – they being the selections (your specification) and variations.

How many stories have your heard of people having to find tens of thousands of dollars to finish the home despite having signed a fixed price contract?

The affordability of your home is linked to the design process, but what usually blows the budget, after grandiose architectural decisions, is the selections process.

Unfortunately, there are cowboys out there in the construction industry.

You sign a great deal for a new 4 bedroom home based on the price. However, after you have signed the contract and the build has commenced you find that the provisional sums (builders estimates) allocated are woefully inadequate.

Regrettably, this is not the end of this sad, but recurring, story.

Variations get introduced because you change your mind on something after the contract has been signed. As this is no longer a competitive process you are again be gouged by the builder.

Unscrupulous builder’s deliberately underquote to win on price and then make their money, after the contract has been signed and you are locked in, by way of inadequate provisional sums and variations. This leaves you to search of additional funds from your bank and family members. 

Pitfall Number 3 – Planning

.Ever heard the saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

It’s certainly the case when it comes to builders.

The reason for this is simple: there are a lot of moving parts that need to be coordinated. Let’s take one component of a house – the bathroom for example:

There are up to seven different tradespeople required including:

·           Plumbers

·           Electricians

·           Builders

·           Glaziers

·           Cabinetmakers

·           Painters and

·           Tilers

What’s more, most of these jobs are dependent on specific materials.

And often, one is dependent on the other (for instance, the plumber may be unable to complete his job until after the electrician has worked on the wiring).

It’s way more complicated than most people realise. That’s why, when it comes to building your home on time and on budget organisational skills are critical.

But if you ask most builders what their plan is, and exactly what’s going to happen they won’t be able to give you an answer. This is a major problem, particularly if you:

·           Want everything done within budget – time equals money.

·           Need to hit a deadline – paying unwarranted rent and mortgage repayments.

·           Are concerned about quality – a rushed job usually results in defects.

So if there is no plan: budgets will blow out; shortcuts will be taken on quality; or you’ll miss your deadline – all of these will cost you money

Pitfall Number 4 -Communication

The contract has been signed; the job has commenced and things are going well until the frame is up. Then the site is vacant and the build is not progressing. Calls go unanswered and you start worrying about getting into your dream home before the lease expires on your rental property.


You realise now that you have lost control of the build of your dream home.


When building your dream home poor communication will have an impact: it may affect the budget, it could result in a home that does not meet your expectations, or worse still an un-finished project.


Poor communication is the primary reason why projects fail one-third of the time. Even if the project isn’t a failure, the effects of poor communication is still a detriment. Poor communication can impact the delivery of your dream home in several ways:

Confusion – Lack of communication in construction is a problem. But miscommunication can also have a negative impact on a project by creating confusion for everyone.

Unnecessary delays – Poor communication is a major contributor to project delays. It can take several forms, such as delays in the flow of information, directing communication to the worong person or area and unclear communication leading to confusion ot wrong interpretation. 

Dispute – The worst case scenario is dispute, Poor communication is one of the main causes of disputes between the owner and the builder.

Budget/cost over-runs – More than half of all project budget risk is due to ineffective communication and improper management of project communications.

The quality of communication between the home owner and the builder can be the difference between a successful home build and the subject of a horror movie!

Overcoming the pitfalls

So how do we overcome the pitfalls and end up like the happy couple in the photo above?  You follow a blueprint!

Hi, my name is Craig, the owner of Imagine Homes. 

Prior to establishing Imagine Homes I served 35 years in the Australian Defence Force as a proud member of the Royal Australian Engineers. The experience of planning for the conduct of construction projects and military operations in austere environments shaped the development of Imagine Homes and our approach to turning your new home dreams into reality. 

We have developed a blueprint to ensure that the pitfalls to custom new home building can be avoided.

This approach, which should be undertaken by any professional builder, is outlined in our Custom Home Building Blueprint eBook.

In this blueprint I will provide you with my personal tips on how to select a professional builder to deliver your custom new home. A builder who will ensure that your build not only meets your design needs, but is completed within budget and delivered on time. Moreover, I will show you how to ensure that you are fully informed throughout your build of the build status, your selections and the budget.


Your Custom Home Building Blueprint is available for download here.