Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tile Selection Completed, Not Without Grief

Yesterday, I went to Beaumont Tiles to choose our tiles.  Well, it really is just to submit the selection Von and I have made.  We've made at least three visits together and I have done another one or two on my own.  Last weekend, we finalised our selection because he wasn't going to be able to attend our appointment yesterday.

Apparently, we were allocated a couple of hours for this appointment.  When I walked in, I made eye contact with a consultant named Kristie.  We briefly spoke with her on the weekend and she gave us a rough estimate for floor to ceiling tiles in all wet areas except for laundry.  She seemed knowledgeable enough when I overheard her speaking with another customer and that's why I approached her to get her recommendation.  

Anyway, yesterday, there was hardly any warmth at all although she recognised that I had spoken with her on the weekend.  Well, that's alright, as long as she does her job well.  But the problem is, she didn't do her job well enough to satisfy my requirements.

I gave her our selection and she plugged them into the computer which is supposed to calculate the price of the tile supply and the labour cost.  No atempt at small talk.  Then, she gave me the pieces of paper that she wanted me to look over and sign.  No explanation given.  I looked it over and the figures didn't make sense to me.  It just had the number of square metres to be supplied (it didn't break down how much was included in the base price and how much extra it will cost to tile to the ceiling).  It didn't even have the unit cost.  When I asked Kristie to explain it to me, she said they were automatically calculated based on the figures that Clarendon gave them.

Not wanting to sound too pedantic, I just corrected a couple of things and then signed, paid for the extra tiles and left.  I was out within 30 minutes.  I sat in the car trying to make sense of the figures and when it still didn't make sense, I walked back in, pretending that the reason for my return was the error that I had her correct was still wrong in my copy.  She said she had the right one so it's ok but I insisted on having a copy of the correct selection.  She grudgingly photocopied it.  I asked about the invoice again and she was very dismissive so I left again.

I almost drove out of the carpark when it hit me that I just handed over nearly a couple of thousand dollars and I DESERVED to find out what it was for.  I was particularly concerned as I had done my own calculations before the appointment and had an idea of how much each room would cost and I was pretty close except for the main bathroom.  I wanted to know what the discrepancy is.  I rang Clarendon to ask for the basis of the figures they allegedly gave to Beaumont.  The receptionist didn't know who to put me through to but was going to find out.

I rang Von to seek his opinion on whether I was being too picky.  He confirmed that I should go back to get answers.  I walked in and as soon as she saw me, I could almost feel her desire to roll her eyes.  I told her I would like her to explain the invoice to me because it wasn't detailed enough and that mattered because we were being charged way more than we expected for the main bathroom.  She said it's a new software and it took four years to develop it but it's not perfect yet.  I wanted to say, "I don't care.  YOU explain it to me."  Instead, I asked her as nicely as I could.  She said, "We don't normally have people asking for the details and most people just accept the invoice as it is."  I was furious!  So I ended up raising my voice slightly and said, "Well, I'm not most people and besides, i find it hard to believe that people would accept that as it is when they have to hand over so much money."

She attempted to explain it to me with a calculator (really quickly) but she didn't come up with the total listed.  I could feel her embarrassment growing as she tried to BS her way through it.  Then she said, I would get a more detailed invoice in the mail shortly (and showed me an example).  DUH!  She should have told me that in the first place!  I'll just have to wait for it.

Our CSO rang me back as I was going home and said Clarendon had nothing to do with providing the figures for the calculation of tiles.  It's true, even if they provide the measurements, I would expect Beaumont to do their own calculation.  After all, they're the ones supplying the tiles.  Our CSO was very supportive and was wanting to ring Kristie because of the bad service I just received from her.  In the end, we agreed that I would wait for the detailed invoice and see where the difference is.

OUR CHOICE:  We decided to have those embossed designs with white coloured ones floor to ceiling, but chocolate coloured ones in the shower recess.  No borders, dark floors (as I have dark hair and seem to constantly shed hair!)   

Friday, December 19, 2008

First Payment Bungle - Broker Gets Us Through

I stuffed up the first payment which was due today!  I'm blogging this in the hope that someone else will benefit from this experience.  

I knew from our paperwork that we needed to have more money to put towards the construction before the first payment was due.  This was because when I calculated how much funds we have to build, I had taken into account the money we would be saving throughout the construction process.  When our nominated loan amount was approved, I did not realise that the bank would require for this amount to be already in the bank or paid into our builder before commencing issuing the payments.  I figured I would borrow the money from family and promise to pay them by the end of construction, as we should have saved the money by then.  Problem solved...or so, I thought.

On Tuesday, I emailed our broker to let him know that I was putting in the request for the first payment and he reminded me that I needed to provide evidence of putting up  the additional contribution required from us.  I said that was already in the bank.  I, then, got a big shock when he said, it was supposed to have been paid into Clarendon and the bank would be needing the receipt from Clarendon.  With the payment due in THREE working days, I didn't know what to do.

Fortunately, our broker suggested that I address a letter to the bank stating what happened and could they please issue a cheque that includes our contribution, because, after all, THAT was in the bank already.  He said he would take care of it but wasn't sure if our payment would go through in time.  I was a little worried because the tax invoice says at the bottom "Overdue accounts may attract penalty interest as per the terms of the Building Agreement."

Thank goodness for our broker!  The payment went through today as I got a call from the bank to say that they were transferring the payment electronically today.  Phew!  I am SOOO glad we have a broker who is willing to offer ongoing support despite already securing our business.  I would highly recommend him to anyone.  In fact, I already have and my brother has used him last year when he bought his house.  To think that I used to dislike the idea of a broker because I thought we would be paying more.  In fact, he has saved me valuable time and has been a great asset because he could find people to talk to in the bank better than I could.  Besides, we're not even paying him and whatever loan terms we got would have been the same if we walked into the banks ourselves. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vigilance Pays Off

All those times I read and re-read our contract has paid off.  I contacted Clarendon last week as when the fence went up, they only put it across the frontage.  We already have fences on both sides and at the back.

However, I remembered reading in our contract that we were charged extra for "additional sitesecurity  fencing...over the standard allowance of 27Lm".  Hello?!?!  Our frontage is only 17m.  Someone from Clarendon rang me back on Friday and he said they would look into it.  Today, he said we were indeed entitled to the $400 refund.

I had also mentioned to Clarendon that we were charged a lot more for spoil removal when after speaking to the men taking away the excavated soil, he said they only took away the grass and the rest were used to fill the land (we had to cut and fill due to the slope towards the back).  The man had the nerve to say, "Well, we have to estimate these costs at the beginning.  If we find that we would incur more than what is in your contract for other items, would you like us to charge you the extra cost to us?"  Yeah right!  As if they would underestimate their costs!  Anyway, it was worth the try.  Be this a reminder to carefully study your contract if you're building.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

External Drainage

External drainage was installed yesterday.  If all goes well, apparently the frames would start in 2 days!

It's taken them only 2 weeks to complete what another timeline I saw would need about 4-5 weeks!  Wow!  I truly didn't expect this. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Concrete Slab

Concrete slab was poured today.  They were practically halfway through just before 9am and in the afternoon, the concrete was treated to prevent it from drying too quickly.

Now, we can see the footprint of the house relative to the land.  The right side was meant to be a 3m clearance, wide enough to have a carport there.  It didn't kook that wide today, though.  We could have had less than the 2m clearance on the left but that would have meant "double handling" of the bricks.  In short, it would have cost us another $2k or $3k because the space was going to be too narrow for the contractors.  It wasn't too bad, though.  We never really liked the idea of being too close to the neighbours.  That's a pet hate of ours whenever we see the new estates being built with quite pathetic narrow streets and gaps between houses so small you could probably hear "conversations" next door (Von would say something more crude but I wouldn't do that on this site!  HaHaHa!!!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

That Was Quick

Yesterday, the fences went up.  They only had to fence right across the front because we had fences on both sides and at the back already.  Must check with Clarendon as I'm sure they charged us extra for needing more than the length they normally include in the price.

Supposedly, the piering works were completed and the internal drainage installed yesterday, too.

Today, the formwork, pods and steel were installed.  

I cannot even explain the excitement I'm feeling.  I'm visiting the site twice, sometimes, three times a day.  Luckily, we live pretty close by. 

Monday, December 1, 2008

Excavation Day

This is a very important day - finally, we have seen obvious work done on our land with the excavation of our site!  It was amazing how quickly the men were driving the bobcat around the site, cutting and filling and by 10am, we could see the land taking shape.  By the time we returned at 1.30pm, it was all done, the portaloo was even delivered already!

At around 10am.

At 1.30pm, it's all done!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We're Building a Clarendon Waterford!

After much research, Von and I have decided to go with Clarendon and build a Waterford. We actually also visited the Waterhaven, a slightly smaller version of the Waterford, with my mum. As soon as we walked in, mum said, "No, don't get this. Get the Waterford for the extra money, even if I give you the money for it." That's an extra $12k, mum. She's right, though. We thought, it's worth it.

It had the perfect lay out at the bottom floor and when we looked at the first floor, we were pleasantly surprised to find five bedrooms. That gives us a spare bedroom for guests, family or the clothes that needs to be folded - hehehe!

From the experience of our many friends who have built, we've gathered that one of the ways to cut down on extra cost is to avoid too many structural changes. Well, all we're doing is putting in a shower in the powder room; pushing the door to the WC out a little to fit in a basin; popping storage under the staircase, and; putting a wall between the formal lounge and formal dining and then enclosing access to formal dining via foyer with sliding doors. We'll be using that as my office/study. Then the designated study can become a toy room / play room, with the possibility of becoming another room if either my parents or Von's parents should decide to live with us in the future.

Here is the facade we decided to go with - the Abbotsbury. Today, we put in our deposit. Our salesperson at Minchinbury, Craig, has been very patient with us. During our first visit to Clarendon (whilst we were in cooling off period), he even drove to our block as we were concerned about site costs. We have heard people being charged ridiculous amounts which have made them sell to build elsewhere. After Craig reassured us that the fall towards the back was minimal and that we're probably looking at only $15k for site costs, we were happy.

What we didn't expect was the $12k for BASIX! The price we pay for the environment, eh? In the end, though, it means we do save on utilities. Don't know when we'll break even but there's no choice in the matter.

We put in our deposit today, pretty much our last chance to get the $3k bonus offer which is worth $25k retail. I'm excited about having a 2 car garage with auto opener! Hahaha!!! Shame our land cannot fit a third garage and our budget cannot either.

We've got additional enhancements which we don't want to disclose here yet as we want to surprise family and friends when they visit us for the first time. The price is rapidly going up though. At least, we're a little prepared for this as we've invited close friends to look at the house and make recommendations (Thanks, guys!) and some even shared with us how much extra they ended up paying on top of their base price. From our understanding, it could easily be another 50% of the base price by the time we upgrade certain things and install the floor coverings, driveway, etc. That's not even including the landscaping! We're glad we talked to our friends. They were more than happy to share their learnings from their own buidling experiences.

We'll try to be wise with our choices but I know the temptation would be, "Well, we're only going to do this once. So, let's do it right." We'll see...

Here's a picture of how it will sit on our land...

Monday, February 18, 2008

We've Sold Our House!

What perfect timing! Our agents have brought in viewers right on the first day we were officially on the market, Friday, the 15th of February. On Saturday, three lots of people came through and by yesterday morning, one of them has made an offer. A little low but by 8.30 this morning, they were apparently at the real estate agent's office coming to the party with our counter offer.

Woohoo! Thanks to our agents who were very clever in pitching our house at the right praice so we got lots of interest straight away. They took great pics, worked really fast and most importantly, understood how much we wanted for our house. They gave us the realistic price right from the beginning but pushed for a little more at our request and got it!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Great Piece of Land

We've been looking for our dream home and I have spent countless nights researching on the net as well as actually checking out the properties myself so that I can just show Von the best of the lot. Luckily, my business lets me do this.

Last week, I stumbled upon a piece of land in Rooty Hill, not even 2kms from where we live. It's in an established cul-de-sac, but the street is off a newly developed area. It's only 460sqm, with a 17.5m frontage. Pretty much a rectangle.

We hurriedly looked at project homes and how much they are. Fortunately, the agent for the seller is actually our agent. They showed us how a Waterford from Clarendon would fit the land. We needed a box, pretty much. And that's what the Waterford is like.

However, because we haven't even sold our house, we had a limited budget. We made an offer on Wednesday but the sellers wanted just a little more. We scrape just enough to meet their request and today, they accepted our offer - Hurrah! Tomorrow, we sign the paperwork.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Year, New Adventure

2008 has just started and as usual, I've been thinking of my personal and business goals, as well as our family goals.

I can no longer resist the urge to find a bigger home for our family of five: Von, me, James (6 y.o.), David (4 y.o.) and Adam (9 mos). Von and I are both subscribed to real estate websites - just dreaming, maybe planning a little for the future. Once more, I mentioned to Von that we need the extra space as David would be joining James at school this year and sure, the two boys sharing a bedroom has been great and the 3rd bedroom can still pass for their study/computer/playroom. However, what will we do once we want Adam out of our room???

Von said, "You know we can't do anything unless we sell our house first." I said, "Ok", then proceeded to contact an agent I've spoken with last year (who was really nice and not pushy at all when we thought of putting the house on the market). She was at our house within 2 or 3 days and we agreed to put our house of 7 years and 4 months, on the market, after we clear out a few things, ie garage sale, scheduled for the 9th of February.

I think Von was a little surprised with how quickly things happened. He probably didn't expect me to act on his statement. Well, it's a new year after all - I felt our family was ready for a new adventure.