Building a home is often seen as a more expensive and difficult option than buying an existing home or renovating. However, as home building expert, Natalie Stevens, shows, if you do it right, building your own home can be a surprisingly affordable and achievable way of getting the home of your dreams.
Through her website, buildinoz.com.au, and book, Building Home: The 5 Step Journey to Building Your Best Lifestyle, Natalie has helped hundreds of people successfully build the home that they want within their budget.
Natalie is famous for her practical, easy-to-follow and no-nonsense approach to the building process. That’s why it was such a pleasure to welcome her as a guest on a recent episode of the Spaces podcast where she shared her five-step process for getting the most from your building buck. Here’s a quick overview of Natalie’s process, or listen to the conversation in full here.
Get Your Borrowing Right
Natalie’s first step is to ensure you get the borrowing part right. “People have the misconception that building is the expensive option. One of the biggest benefits of building is it lets you have the best house for your budget, so the home you build is defined by your budget,” Natalie says.
“A lot of people fall in love with a dream they can’t afford because of all the amazing marketing that we see today, and the power of social media and the Internet,” she says. “I prefer, rather than falling in love with a dream you can’t afford, is that you consider what is my actual budget, and getting that set in concrete before you even think about going to engage builders, or look through display homes, etc. because a lot of that is all smoke and mirrors.”
Natalie points out that there are some significant financial incentives to build new. “Also when you start with your budget, and realise what you can really spend, that’s probably when you do find out some of the financial benefits of choosing to build as well,” she says. “A lot of people go and buy an existing home and pay the stamp duty on top of that, without really realising that, depending on where you live and how much the house costs, can be 15 or 20 grand more that you’re spending on stamp duty that could have gone into the value of your actual home.”
“So the first step is finding out about all those tips and tricks for how you can get the most out of your money, and to set you up for the next four steps, so that you’re not working backwards,” is how Natalie explains it.
Set Your Priorities
“On the face of it, setting your priorities sounds a little dull, but this is the most important step,” Natalie says. “
“This is where you can really consider; it really brings that living with intention or purpose idea to the arena of building your home. And it really highlights all of those areas where you will get sucked in, and where you will possibly, you know, sign up for a contract to build a home and not realise what they haven’t included,” Natalie explains.
“If you knew that you were possibly going to have to pay 20 thousand dollars in extra costs that you didn’t know you were going to have to pay for, it could be things like extending your driveway to be double, or a crossover, or just things like that that might not be in your contract, and you might not know that they are not in there until it’s too late,” she says.
“It kind of paints the whole picture and lays everything out on the table with all the things you’re going to need to consider, not from a sales perspective, not somebody who is selling you something and telling you what you should do, it’s about these are all the things that you could possibly want in your life. I estimate that there are about 52 things that you are at risk of not thinking about until the day you move in.”
Buy The Right Block
As Natalie says, the important thing here is to buy the right block that won’t blow your budget down the track.
“That’s one thing that I’m very passionate about is educating people on the process of creating their own house and land package, because that’s all it is,” Natalie says. “At the end of the day, you’ve just got to have a ruler and the dimensions of the house and the dimensions of the block and you can create your own house and land package.”
So how do you prioritise between the cost of the block and the cost of the home? “Well, it does all come back to your budget, and that’s why we nail that in the very first step, because if you start with the builder, the house or the land, you can end up somewhere you never meant to be. If you start with your budget, that helps you make those decisions,” Natalie says.
“You need to define areas that you love, first. The third and fourth step in my course are almost something that need to be worked on together, and you can blend them to create your own home and land package,” she says.
“Now is a really good time to be building a home for so many reasons. My course focuses a lot on how to identify blocks that you might be able to get for a really great price.”
Get the Floorplan Right
It’s important to know the differences between types of builders and know which type is right for you, and how your choice will affect the process you use to get the perfect floorplan.
Site costs are a massive thing for people. Unfortunately, many people get lumbered with a less than ideal floor plan, simply because volume builders have a set process for building. “In step four, when I talk about floorplans, there are options, whereas if you start with a builder, you’re defined by your builder’s process. I want to be defined by whatever the right process is for me. Know your facts and know your options,” Natalie says.
When it comes to floorplans, consider passive design. “Most of the run of the mill floor plans that you find, that are a dime a dozen, don’t have that flow of light, that flow of air, that togetherness that a home can bring a family. To free your mind, you’ve got to free your space a bit. Let’s strip it right back and cut out all the stuff we don’t need, and focus on just the stuff we do need. To me, that creates the most beautiful spaces to live.”
Find the Right Builder For You
Step five is getting the right builder that will deliver the best outcome with the budget you have, without compromising on quality.
“It’s all about education,” Natalie says. “There are so many different types of builders and people aren’t aware of what those types of builders are, and it’s not that complicated. It’s very simple. The education sits with you. It’s your responsibility. If you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, do your homework.”
“You need to approach builders that suit your kind of job. My course doesn’t focus so much on all the obvious things about choosing a builder,” Natalie says. “Of course, I talk about they’ve got to be registered, and all that obvious stuff. But to me, where my course brings the most value is educating you on some of the stuff that’s never talked about, some of the stuff you won’t find on the Internet that can only really be gained by having done it lots of times. That’s where the value lies in understanding the process from a consumer’s perspective not an industry perspective.”
You can hear the entire conversation with Natalie Stevens here.