14 Tips For Building Your First Home

The new home building process can be quite daunting for first-timers; there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of people who are relying on you to answer them. The good news is that the key to a successful build is all in the planning. To help you make sense of it all we have put together this handy guide to 14 top tips when building a new house.

1. Build To Your Section

The key to good home design is to build to the section, not the other way around. You want to design or choose a house plan that is going to make the most of the site’s best attributes and minimise its worst features. Working with what you’ve got and will achieve the best possible outcome all round. This may mean integrating your home and garden into the existing site features, considering the orientation of the home, altering the plans to meet the current slope of the section to reduce earthworks, or working in the positioning of a rainwater tank and other external features.

2. Plan Ahead

Can’t emphasise this one enough – any new build requires a huge amount of planning and preparation - even before signing any contracts. The more you know the more likely you are to make the right decisions. Do Your Research. Understand the stages of the building process. Read the fine print. Ask questions. Meet deadlines. Reply to emails! Prepare ahead of time and know what's happening next – you will reap the benefits.

3. Spend Money On The Stuff That Matters

Wherever possible spend money on the things you can’t easily change later. This includes the materials you build your home from (the framing to the cladding), electrical, plumbing and glass, through to the roofing, insulation, and interior linings. Fittings such as taps, the bath, and home decoration are easily altered at a later date with very little disruption to the home, however, you cannot change your framing and it is very difficult and expensive to change windows or roof coverings.

4. Sign A Fixed-Price Contract

A fixed-price contract is the only way to go for your first build – it keeps the budget under control and ensures there are no surprises down the track. You know exactly what funds you have to come up with and when. This works perfectly for mortgage planning and the release of progress payments from the bank.

5. Stick To The Plan

Any changes you make during the build will cost extra. This can include a fee just for asking for the change as well as the extra cost of making the change. Work out all the details before you begin, decide on every single detail of the house from colours, to taps, floor coverings to the kitchen layout and you can avoid these extra unnecessary costs. This is one of the things that people always wish they paid more attention to.

6. Choose Your Builder Carefully

Where possible choose your builder based on recommendations from other satisfied customers. Best practice is to obtain at least three options, meet with them personally, seek out previous customer testimonials and get all three to quote for the job. See here for more information on how to choose the right builder.

7. Don’t Forget About Outdoor Living

Kiwis love their year-round outdoor living spaces and for most areas in NZ, it is possible to include this in the design of your home (with a little help). Strategically placed alcoves, outdoor heating, pergolas, and sunshades are all options for the outdoor entertainer and best included in your original design to ensure the best use of space.

8. Don’t Try To Project Manage Your Own Build

This one is a bit of a contentious topic in a country brimming with avid DIY’ers – egos aside, the reality is, when it comes to building a house the professionals can get the job done much faster and much easier than you ever could. The time (and stress) saved will almost always outweigh the perception of saving money by doing it yourself.

9. Get Your Priorities Straight

Building is all about learning to compromise, you’re going to have to if it means sticking to the budget. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up everything on your wish list. Hold firm on those things that matter to you the most or you are always going to look back and wish you did.

10. Stick To The Budget

Make a budget that includes everything. And that means everything – right down to the letterbox (which isn’t usually included in the build price), the clothesline, the driveway, the landscaping, the shrubs you want to plant, and that new lounge suite you need because the old one won’t fit the space anymore, blinds or curtains, extra towel rails, and even outdoor furniture. Not being able to complete the project due to running out of funds is frustrating and disappointing.

11. Make The Rounds

Go to the Home and Building Shows, visit every show home within easy driving distance, check out the showrooms for carpets, kitchens, bathrooms, and anything else you can find. Learn about what you want. Sometimes you don’t know what is even out there until you look, you have to know what’s available to know to ask for it!

12. Position For The Best Sun

The orientation of your home on your section can make a huge difference to the comfort and warmth of your home. Always position your home so that you have maximum sunshine year-round. In NZ your main living areas should face north, this includes the lounge and dining room and sometimes the master bedroom. Windows should be sized and positioned to make the most of the sun. However, be aware that too much sun on the western side can be detrimental in the middle of summer as the house may overheat. South-facing windows should always be small to minimise heat loss. See here for more information on the importance of house orientation.

13. Don’t Forget About Ventilation – Its More Important Than You Think

Home ventilation is one of the most important factors in building a healthy home, modern homes are much more airtight than their predecessors and problems associated with poor ventilation have become more prevalent. Whether building or renovating, ventilation should be at the top of the list early on in the design process. Good design should maintain the balance between the need to introduce fresh air and the need to maintain comfortable internal temperatures.

14. Visit The Build Site As Often As Possible

Even though you have spent hours and hours pouring over the plans and measuring things down to the last millimetre, you will spot things that aren’t quite right when the build begins to take shape. These could be things that have been interpreted differently by the builder, plumber, or electrician, things that you didn’t notice until you saw it built, or simply mistakes that have been made. As the homeowner you are the one who is most invested in getting this build right – picking up any discrepancies early on in the build can save a lot of time and money.

Need more information on building a new home? It is best to speak to a qualified builder or see here for tips on choosing the right section and finding that perfect house design.