Square Metre Rates: What are they and how can you use them?

What are square metre rates for building or renovating? 

And how can you use them to determine your costs? Read more here.

“What’s the square metre rate?”

Square metre rates. They’re the place that so many people begin their projects – both inside the industry and outside of it (as homeowners / clients).

And yet, they can be such a dicey way of commencing your project, and provide such huge misinformation, so there’s some things to be aware of.

Why do we start with square metre rates?

Well, projects need to begin somewhere. And it seems simple enough to understand that if a square metre rate is, say $2,500, and our budget is $500,000, then our budget should accommodate 200m2 of home for that.

And that gives us somewhere to start – not only with the design, but in discussion with professionals about fees, and briefs, and looking at ideas of what a 200m2 home would look like.

But what is that square metre rate based on?

One of the trickiest things with square metre rates is knowing exactly what they include, and what they represent.

I recently saw a designer’s fee proposal that outlined a budget analysis for their client. It had a base square metre rate for the home. Then, they added fixed amounts for cost-intensive areas such as kitchen joinery, bathroom fitout, built-in storage. Then they added GST and a contingency.

And the square metre rate almost doubled.

When you speak to volume builders, they’ll usually have quite a low square metre rate, but it doesn’t include floor finishes, light fittings, or any external works such as driveways, landscaping or fencing (which can sometimes increase the square metre rate by 1.5 – 2X).

Speak to custom builders, and their square metre rate is likely to include all of those things.

Unless you understand (with some transparency) exactly what the square metre rate covers and includes, it can be a deceptive source of costing information.

Who is giving you the square metre rate?

The source of the square metre rate can also create some problems. So, you need to ask some questions to determine the reliability of it.

If it’s from your architect or designer…

How have they established that square metre rate? If it’s from their previous projects, do they know what the final sum on the job was (not just the contract rate or quoted amount at the beginning?) Is the square metre rate for jobs similar to yours, and is it recent information?

If it’s from your builder …

See above regarding what it includes. And is their square metre rate averaged over their range of projects? Or, can they show you a similar project to yours, and advise the square metre rate based on current prices.

Inside my other business, Live Life Build, we actually teach builders to create Project Sheets at the end their completed jobs. This is where they revisit what the job cost, vs what they should have charged for it to cover their overheads and profit, and create a document outlining the job type, site type, general finishes and standard of project, with a square metre rate (showing what it includes). That way, they have something to physically compare your project to (that you can look at and agree on), and benchmark the square metre rate you’re going to use.

If it’s a Quantity Surveyor …

Is it for projects like yours, built by builders who have similar business model to the type of builder you plan to work with? Some QS guides available online are really representative of the volume builder projects, and if you plan to do a full custom build, they won’t be relevant for you.

If it’s your own research …

Again, you really need to understand what the square metre rate includes. Be honest about the kind of project you want to do, and what impact that has on your level of specification and finish. Speak to professionals working on similar types of projects. Ideally, establish a square metre rate for the home itself, and then separate out chunks of your budget to cover landscaping, fencing, and external works.

So, you’ve done a lot of work to establish a relevant square metre rate?

If your project does include works to the exterior of your property, including items like driveways, external paths, landscaping, fencing and even a pool, separate out fixed estimates for this bundles of work, and take those out of of your overall budget.

And if the budget you’re discussing is ALL the money you have, then ensure you also deduct any professional fees and approval costs you’ll need to cover.

And then, you should have the budget allowance for the house itself. Divide that by your square metre rate, and you’ll get an approximate allowance for the number of square metres you’re working with.

However, remember your square metre rate is still is only a starting point.

Because your specific square metre rate can vary based on:

The size of your home, and if the square metre rate is being amortised over a smaller footprint that still includes cost intensive areas such as bathrooms, kitchen, etcAny unknowns on your propertyIf you plan to increase cost intensive areas (such as an ensuite for every bedroom or a larger kitchen, etc)

Remember that, with renovating, your square metre rate will often be higher than if you’re building new.

This is infuriating for most people planning a renovation. It’s why I use and teach the ‘bolt-on’ renovation strategy, so as to replicate new build efficiencies and capitalise on them to bring down the overall cost / m2.

And if you’re renovating, you’ll need to allocate the square metre rate over any part of the existing home you’re renovating or refurbishing.

If you start cooking your square metre rate right at the beginning of your project, and only allow a lower square metre rate for the works to the existing home, you’ll probably find you run into budget problems down the track. Work on an existing house (even small work) can be labour intensive, and cost intensive as a result.

If you’ve used your square metre rate to identify a number of square metres in floor area to work with … then stick to it.

I’ve seen a lot of clients – and designers for that matter – be given an indication of the size home they should be building or renovating, and then go ahead and design a bigger home.

Or they’ll start breaking down areas into different types of construction (say, garage, outdoor area, etc) to lower the square metre rate on those areas, and try and adjust the total estimated cost overall.

It can give a lot of false information, especially if it’s happening without builder input, or early in your project.

If you’re cooking your square metre rate over your home size and arrangement to try to meet your budget at this point, you’re likely to run into trouble as you start developing the design, and working out your materials, fixtures and finishes.

Your starting budget needs to be as accurate as it can be – but know that the accuracy will be limited at this point

I know it can be incredibly frustrating to be starting a project with ranges of estimates, and an inability to know straight away what your budget will get you. The need for iteration, testing and firming up decisions is a necessary part of your project journey.

And if you’re also pushing the envelope of your home’s size, the inclusions, and the style and overall design, that can push the original budget estimates too.

In my experience, it’s rare that a homeowner fully restrains themselves.

Every client I’ve worked with has always wanted more, and stretched their budget, figured out ways to find more money, waited until they had more money (or more equity in their home) or staged works to get what they wanted.

And they all started with a “this is all the money we really have” conversation too.

And even though I’d always be militant about juggling the budget and design, and showing options to meet the original budget, curbing selections and ideas to keep things on track, the client would usually spend more across the build. Because, we always want more.

If you are starting with square metre rates, then do your very best to understand what they represent, choose a square metre rate that’s relevant to your project wishes and wants, and then let it establish the ground rules to kick things off.

Don’t let square metre rates be the only way you cost the design though. Get better quality pricing input as the design develops, and work to increase the accuracy of your estimates as you go.

It’s going to be natural to discuss things in square metre rates.

Just know it’s only a starting point, but if it’s the starting point that professional fees, home size and project strategy are being set on, then try to make those square metre rates as relevant as possible.

Inside the HOME Method, I talk about other ways to set your budget at the early stage of your project.

And there’s also great information about setting and sticking to your budget inside the mini-course “Set + Stick to Your Budget”.

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN

Building a Passive Solar New Home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Rowena, together with her husband, has been designing and building a passive solar new home.

Hear about Rowena’s experience of building a passive solar new home with the expert guidance of Amelia Lee from Undercover Architect, through her membership in the Undercover Architect online program.

We’re located just outside Armidale, which is in northern New South Wales. We’re on a 120 acre block, which is obviously quite large. And because of the new bushfire regulations that have come into Australia, we were slightly limited on where we were actually going to start our house. 

We’ve been planning on building for about 10 years or so, and this is actually our third site to build on. So I’ve gone through the planning quite a bit and because I designed the house myself, with a bit of help from my husband. And we’re a passive solar off-the-grid home. I don’t have any background in that, I was just interested in it, and also my dad built one of the first sort of passive solar type homes in Canberra a long, long time ago. And just having that light come in, and the warmth, you know, that’s something that we’ve really missed. 

So I’ve harnessed all my project management skills from my work experience. I’ve got a science background, and I’ve worked a lot at universities and done a lot of project management. And so I thought, well, I think I can do it. But we were quite stressed about the whole process because we’ve never built before. And even though I’m quite resourceful and competent, you know, it’s the unknown. 

Yeah, so anyway, we’ve moved around a little bit in the last four or five years, and then we moved back to Armidale, where we’d lived previously for about 16 years. And we found a lovely block, just outside town, about 10 minutes from town, and a reasonably level site where, you know, we’re able to really take full advantage of the northerly aspect. Because Armidale is quite a cold environment during winter, it’s got the full four seasons, so we had to design, what I chose to design, for the winter. But also the summers have been getting hotter, so we incorporated a few additional things to take account of that. But that’s the sort of background it’s been 10 years in the making. But the actual design and build process was actually quite short for a house, so we were really pleased about that.

What made you decide to build off-the-grid?

Yeah, my husband and I are both environmentalists, and we’ve got that science background, and we wanted it to have a lighter footprint. And we thought, yep, let’s see if we can do it. And it just so happened that this block didn’t have any power to it, it didn’t have any water to it. So we were able to start from scratch, and design. So with the help of a solar designer, I designed the solar system and the battery system as well. And, you know, we had to do a full electrical audit. And yeah, the whole idea was so that we had lower bills, we could live a bit lighter off the earth, and also this area gets lots of thunderstorms. And being off the grid, we don’t have to worry anymore about having blackouts. And you know, we just, it’s very comfortable. 

What concerns did you have before you started?

Well, the main concern was, not having been through the build process before, how would we know if the builder was actually constructing the house well? And how do we communicate with the builder? How do we ensure that we’re running on schedule and budget? Those sorts of things. And when we’d been looking at building down the coast, I’d gone through a process of interviewing different builders. But you know, it still left me a bit wanting. I still wasn’t quite sure. And then when I was in Canberra, some other Master Builders actually were having a sort of information night, which I went along to. And that was really useful because it gave me lots of tips about, you know, the building process, how to go about thinking about it, and sort of debunk some of the myths about building. 

And that sort of encouraged me to do a little bit more research. And in the process of doing that, I discovered the Undercover Architect website and Amelia’s fantastic work. 

I think it’s fairly normal that if you haven’t approached anything or done anything before, you’re going to have a fair amount, or you know, of anxiety, because, you know, this is the biggest financial investment that we’ve made. And so there’s a lot riding on it. 

And also you want the house, you know, for us it was going to be our one and only home because we’re in our early 50s, and we were looking for a house that we could live in for the next 20 to 30 years. So you know there was that sort of pressure plus also the pressure about, well how do you know if you’re going to be diddled on the contract? Or is this a fair price? Are you keeping to the schedule? How would I know, you know, the steps of the build to go through? And you know, the contract, what should I be looking for? And you know, with all the different materials, how will I know if they’re going to work well together? 

You know, there’s just endless, endless … I think one of the things that I would say about building is it is just endless decision making. 

And being a researcher, I guess I just went into sort of normal-mode about, well okay, if I don’t know about something, what can I find to inform me and educate me a bit better, so then I will feel a little bit more comfortable about the process. 

And my husband, while he’s fantastic in his field of work, he doesn’t know anything about building, and for him it was even more scary, because he just, you know, it was totally unknown. And, you know, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. 

So we just sort of started searching and also talking to other people about their experiences, and whether they knew of a good builder and all that sort of stuff. So we, I guess we canvassed fairly widely and started reading some books and things like that. And because we’ve been thinking about passive solar and off the grid, we knew we didn’t want a conventional builder that was just going to want to build a project home. 

We needed someone that was going to be interested in doing the project. And that we would be able to communicate well with, so that if there were choices that had to be made, they would understand why we were making them. And then just to have a builder, who was really interested in doing something a little bit different from the norm. 

I guess we were hoping that we could build and be in the house within about a year, to a year and a half. But we didn’t know exactly how long it was going to take. But we wanted a builder that was just going to be focused on our job. They weren’t going to be going off and doing two other jobs and you know, we were being fitted in and all that sort of stuff. 

Yeah, so I guess some people might have a bit more relaxed attitude towards the build, but my husband and I are both quite methodical and organised. And we wanted to find a builder who had a similar approach to building, as we did too when we do other sorts of projects. And find one that would be able to work with us. 

Like probably a lot of people, we’ve watched a lot of Grand Design episodes. And my husband and I would just be groaning, you know, when they wouldn’t set a schedule, or they had to find money, or they decided they changed something at the last minute, or you know. 

And what we decided to do was to have our plan already, and not make any changes. Or if we were going to make any changes, they were going to be minimal. So they weren’t going to impact on the schedule for windows, or framing, or interiors, plastering, you know, those sorts of things. 

So I had the design, probably about three months before we actually started going into the official design phase. And during that period, my husband and I reviewed the design and we had a look at it. And we thought that, you know, we’re fine with it. So we’ve just, we basically stuck to that. And that was another thing that, you know, made it a lot easier and the builder appreciated it. 

Why did you decide to join the Undercover Architect course?

Yeah, well, as I said earlier, I decided to try and inform and educate myself a bit more about the building process. And we’ve done renovations, and we’d had a few issues with that. And so I started looking around for books, magazines, reading, anything I could find, you know, in front of me really, that I thought would assist me in learning about the building process. And the New South Wales Government has some useful information under Fair Trading and then the Master Builders do. And I thought, well, I really want something a bit more from the client’s side of things. You know, something that explained in more detail about the process and would give. 

Because the other thing that I also had in the back of my mind, being a woman, was whether or not all the tradees, and the subbies, and whatever, were actually going to respect my role there as the project manager, and the designer, and the client all in one. So I really wanted to make sure that I knew, you know, the different steps and what was happening. And then if I didn’t know, I knew where to go to find out that information. 

And so I started, you know, trawling the internet and just looking around and I found, eventually found, this Undercover Architect website and I had a bit of a scroll through it and saw the program for the Manage Your Build, and just sort of had a bit of a look and had a bit of a think. It actually, I didn’t do it straightaway. I took a little while to have a think about it, and then I thought, well, no, actually, that’s probably going to be the most useful. And even if it only saves us money in two or three areas, it’s still a great investment, you know. Because just reducing the financial cost and reducing the stress and worry about a build. So I thought, well yeah, just go ahead and do it. And so that’s sort of how I found it really, just trawling the internet. 

We were very fortunate both, I think, because we prepared and in our choice of builder and his team, and he had a fantastic team. And there was so much respect on site for me, and for my husband as the clients. But also in the preparation that I had done in the organisation, they could see that I was ready for this build. And I knew what we wanted, and I would be able to make the decisions quite quickly. And that if there was anything I didn’t know, I’d get back to them. 

So part of it was also just establishing a relationship with a builder and his team. And them to understand how, you know, I like to operate. And for me to recognise that any holdups on my side would actually hold the build up. So we, you know, we were quite clear about that sort of stuff. 

And then I’m, you know, I knew I didn’t know a lot about it. So I had quite a few discussions with our builder. And, yeah, you know, we didn’t have any problems, really. So it was, you know, I said to the builder afterwards, you know, it was much less stressful than I anticipated. I mean, it was still stressful. But it could have been a whole lot worse, I think. Yeah, and it is an important point. 

And I would have to say that after the build finished in, you know, a few weeks after we moved in, I did say to my husband, and also some friends, I felt like being around more feminine energy. I’d had enough of the male energy for a while. Even though they were lovely, you know, it was just, yeah, just different. 

Well, I think part of it was because I’d spent quite a bit of time having a look to see what was out there. And, I couldn’t find anything really other than an Amelia’s course. And I thought about the cost of it and then I had a bit of a look through the modules. 

And I thought about, well, other courses that I’ve done which might have been a craft course, or, you know, learning something else like a computer software program or something like that, and I thought, well, actually, it is a really good investment. 

You know, it was like a miniscule amount of the total budget. But it just made such a difference in terms of the budget coming in on time. Like we moved in a day after the scheduled finish date. So, you know, we were really, really pleased with that. 

And we, while we weren’t on budget, all the choices that we made to increase the budget, were our choice. They weren’t imposed necessarily by the builder. We did have a few small things, but you know, it just made such a difference. And it just gave me so much more confidence when I was liaising with so many different people in the industry about all the different aspects. I mean, all the tradies in town, you know, all the hardware stores, all that sort of stuff, they get to know you during the course of a build, because you’re going in there talking about all that sorts of stuff. 

And I think that was the other thing, that I wanted to have some ownership in the build. I didn’t want to just, you know, okay, here’s the design, hand it over to a builder and say, right, off you go. You know, I wanted to be part of the process. And I thought that Amelia’s Undercover Architect course would allow me to do that. And as I said, you know, I thought, well that’s a really small investment, for a huge amount of knowledge. So for me, it was well worth it. 

What did you do differently because of what you’ve learned?

Oh, you know, it just, it trickled through the whole build really. Site meetings, recording site meetings, making sure we had them regularly, and that we had follow up action happening. When we were laying the slab, just knowing what to expect, and even before that, being able to look through the contract with a builder. All the information that Amelia had there, and to be able to go through it page by page, to look for the things that, you know, I needed to look for. 

And to be able to negotiate and liaise with the builder about that, so that you knew exactly what was happening. What would be the situation, if the build went over time. What would be the situation if we had variations, so that then, you know, obviously going to be in writing, which we did have a few of, but yeah, it really just went all the way through the build. 

And it meant that, you know, the builder was also confident that I knew what was going on, and he wasn’t going to have to come and you know, harang me for information. He knew that I was wanting to do that as well. 

And you know, part of the information in Amelia’s thing is about setting up a communication rapport with the builder, getting the builder on site early. And that’s what we did. 

So I interviewed a couple of builders in the Armidale area and talked to Andrew Williams, from Adder Constructions, who became our builder. And really was quite open with him about what we were trying to achieve and could he be involved in the design process? And the reason for that was, so that if the formal building designer and I came up with an idea, we could check with Andrew about whether that was going to work or not, or whether it was going to cost a lot or, you know, was there a better way to do something. 

So you know, and it also meant that he knew what was happening on the build before we’d actually really started. And so it just made everything so much easier. And he had the contacts for the certifiers, and the engineers, and all that sort of stuff. So we didn’t actually need to go through a whole development approval process, we had a complying development. And so we didn’t have any of the waiting time, which meant we could get straight onto laying the slab before winter, which then meant that the build progressed a lot quicker. 

So look, there’s just so many things. Just knowing what to look for when the framings done. Knowing what to look for when the plasterings done. How to do an electrical plan, which I’d done before, but you know, it really helped me think about the lighting and what we wanted for this new one. And just, you know, it’s just endless, really, you know. There’s just so much in the course. And you can, depending on what type of build you’re doing, you can hone in on yours and your aspects that you’re interested in. 

And I think one of the other things that I wanted to mention is that some people have said, well, they don’t have six weeks to do the course. Well, neither did I. And I didn’t do it all at once. 

I started with the first module, and then the second one, and then we got to a certain phase where I had a bit of free time, so then I did the next one. And I did it sort of as the build progressed, but slightly ahead so that I wouldn’t sort of be surprised too much. 

So, you know, and it doesn’t actually take a lot of time. And I just think it’s, you know, just invaluable investment when you’re building your own home. 

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

Well, it was interesting, because I added up that during the build, we had drought, bushfires, snow, high wind, transport failures, COVID-19, and then huge rainfalls. You know, so we went through the whole canvas of things, but I think there was still less drama and less stress most definitely, then if I hadn’t discovered Undercover Architect. 

It just gave me so much confidence to be part of the build. And, you know, the builder said, you know, he wished everyone had done it, because it just made his job a whole lot easier as well. And it saved us money all over the place. 

So yeah, we still had, you know, our usual dramas and some things you just wouldn’t expect at all just happened. And you know, you just can’t plan for those things. You just have to roll with them. But yeah, definitely much less stressful. 

What was the best thing about being an Undercover Architect course member?

I think it’s just having access to that insider knowledge, and that it’s presented in such an easily accessible format, that you can understand it and apply it straight away. There’s just so much useful information in there. 

Because I just found it fantastic.

And I couldn’t recommend it more highly because I really think it’s incredibly valuable for people that are doing their own builds.

Waking up to wet windows? What to know about condensation in homes

Are you waking up to wet windows? Condensation in homes can be a big issue, even when you can’t see it.

It can be avoided though. Learn more about what you need to know, and what you can do, here.

The topic of Condensation is getting a lot of discussion at the moment in the industry. At the time of writing this blog, there’s potential changes coming in the National Construction Code in 2021 (for NCC2022) related to Condensation, although it’s unknown exactly what they’ll be (drafts are out for comment at the moment).

However, as I’ve learned (from Andy Russell from the Proctor Group, who is doing a lot of education in this space), Condensation has been discussed as a negative factor for buildings and occupant health for many, many years (Andy brought up some information shared by the Australian Standards Board back in 1992, and some industry literature from the 1930s!)

It’s estimated that over 40% of buildings (including homes) in Australia are impacted by condensation.

It occurs because cold air can’t carry as much moisture as warm air, and when you get moisture levels that are too high meeting temperatures in building fabric that are too low, or there’s an uncontrolled flow of water vapour moving from a source to a region of cold temperature (like the shower steam meeting the bathroom mirror) then condensation can occur.

When this happens in your home, it’s often when it’s cold outside, and warmer (and more humid) inside, and you’re seeing condensation form on the inside of your windows.

You’ll be seeing it on your windows (because they’re non-porous and can’t absorb water), but it can also be happening inside the walls of your home, and in the roof space as well.

Best case scenario is that you have the correct construction, with the required barriers in your walls and roof space, and adequate ventilation to prevent the condensation, or enable this moisture to quickly dry out or drain away.

Worst case scenario, the moisture is being absorbed into your insulation, timber framing, or other building fabric, and not drying out … where it can then cause mould and general deterioration to your home (and potentially your health as well).

Given over 40% of buildings are dealing with this, you’re most likely very familiar with it. And it’s not limited to cold climates. Condensation is an issue for any climate and location.

So, how do you avoid condensation in your future home?

In Canada in the 1980s, and then New Zealand in the 1990s, leaky buildings became a huge issue in the property industry, with buildings unable to withstand weather conditions. There were large financial ramifications, and big moves were made in building codes to improve the situation.

As part of this, they developed the 4Ds of Weathertightness, and they’re a great framework for any project. The 4Ds are:

#1 Deflection

This is about how your home sheds water, through the design of the roof, the use of eaves, and gutters etc. Aim to design these things so you keep water off the walls of your home, as it will help you reduce the chance of water penetrating your home’s exterior (because cladding may not be completely waterproof). Ensure good flashings over windows etc.

#2 Drainage

Promote water to move away from the home, plus ensure conditions around the home don’t enable water to sit close to walls and foundations.Cavities are included in your wall construction to provide space for water to drain behind cladding (and staying outside of your home’s interior). Vapour membranes and wall wraps prevent water from soaking your insulation or internal lining.

#3 Drying

Cavities in wall construction also provide an air gap that provides ventilation to evaporate water, or dry out any building elements that have absorbed water. Ventilation in roof spaces through vents in a controlled way (not whirlybirds) helps roof spaces dry and manages heat load to the home overall.

#4 Durability

Choose materials and products that are fit for purpose for the climate you’re building in and will last.

(You can read more about leaky buildings and the 4Ds in New Zealand here.)

In addition to keeping the weather out of our home, we also need to be aware that the various activities in the home can create a lot of humidity in our interiors.

We need to give that humidity a chance to dry out, otherwise it will be absorbed as vapour into our building envelope, potentially become condensation and make the inside of our walls wet.

It’s all ok if it can evaporate once in the wall cavity, or we can adequately ventilate or dehumidify our interiors. However, if you have a foil sarking on your walls that doesn’t allow vapour to escape from the interior, you could have some issues.

The volume building industry does not pay a lot of attention to condensation and its risks, such as dust mites and mould growth.

However, there are many people in our population dealing with chronic health conditions that are often dramatically improved or eliminated when their living environment is dryer and healthier.

There are houses all over Australia still being (legally) built without sarking on the roof, before metal roofing goes on. Look into those roof spaces of a morning, and you’ll see water dripping off the underside of the metal roof onto the ceiling insulation within the roof space.

Low pitch roofs that (due to the minimisation of space within them) don’t have adequate ventilation, and condensation can be a big issue in these instances if they haven’t been properly detailed.

We’re creating homes that are more airtight (which is actually good when done right).

It’s just that it’s happening in combination with a range of other factors. The increase in insulation, our huge use of air conditioning, lack of dehumidification, and not utilising natural ventilation: We’re living in big eskies, and not giving our homes the chance to dry out.

The wording of the National Construction Code provides some loop holes, and a lot of people just simply don’t understand the impact of their decisions or detailing (including industry professionals).

There are, however, many designers, architects and builders out there, who are very serious about this. And there’s products available that can seriously improve your home’s ability to minimise condensation risks as well.

Where can you get more information about Condensation?

Well, condensation is a big topic, but the 2019 “Condensation in Buildings Handbook” by the Australian Building Codes Board is an awesome place to start if you’re super keen to learn more.

A word of warning: it is a big read, but a worthwhile resource to get some nitty gritty info.

At the very least, check out the Design, Construction and Occupant Checklist information at the end of it.

You can then use it as a framework for discussions with your architect or designer and builder.

And you can work with your designer / architect and builder to check that all specifications are fit for purpose, and meet manufacturers’ requirements in how you intend to use them. And, then detail those selections (with product names / brands etc) in your specifications so that substitutions don’t occur during your build.

I will say this: it’s clear from the research I’ve been doing how important it is to choose your team well, to work with them very closely, and to be informed so you get the best outcome for your future home.

And, even before COVID, we were spending 80-90% of our time indoors. Now, that time is mostly in our homes (as opposed to our workplaces).

Condensation can seriously impact the health of our homes, and our health and well-being too.

Creating a healthy home that has a great quality indoor air environment, can dry out when it gets damp and minimises the impact of condensation, will support your health and well-being long-term.

And it will help with the durability of your home long-term too.

If you want some other resources for creating a healthy home, here’s some podcast episodes that may help …

Episode #100 | Healthy Interiors: Creating your low tox home | Interview with Melissa Wittig, Interior DesignerEpisode #206 | How to Choose Greener Building Materials, with Druce DaveyEpisode #96 | An Introduction to Building Biology | Interview with Narelle McDonald, Healthy Living SpacesEpisode #129 | How to create a healthy home | Interview with Kate Hamblet, Balanced ArchitectureEpisode #129 | Designing a sustainable new home or renovation | Interview with Kyle Macht, Macht ArchitectureEpisode #130 | A room by room guide to a healthy home | Interview with Kate Hamblet, Balanced ArchitectureEpisode #105 | What is Passive House (or Passivhaus)? | Interview with Daniel Kress of Smart Plus Homes

That was a long read, but I hope you found that helpful

If you’d like to learn how to choose the right builder, and learn how the specific checks to do, and questions to ask, when interviewing builders for your project >>> CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER

A renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Abbey, together with her husband, is doing a renovation of a 1940s Melbourne home.

Listen as Abbey shares more about her renovation journey, her initial fear of stuffing up their renovation that led her to Undercover Architect, and how she now feels she has more control over her renovation project.

My name is Abbey. I live in Melbourne, Victoria and we bought a house almost about five years ago. It’s a very old house, a 1940’s house. It needs a lot, a lot of work, hence, why I did the Undercover Architect course.

Definitely doing the course has helped accelerate the process and the things that I’ve learnt along the way, but to begin with, it needed a lot of work. We’ve changed a lot of things and we’re putting a lot of the original features back into the house. Because it was kind of in the 80s, 90s, someone stripped a lot of the original features out, and put pink walls in and concrete cladding on and various things that do not suit the year of the house at all.

What inspired you to take on this project?

Well, I fell in love with the house, as soon as I saw it. I think I saw the potential and I just completely fell in love with it. I was very naive going into it by buying this house that needed a lot of work and being someone that’s not in the industry. My husband, if he had his way, I think he would have torn the house down. But I’m a real, yeah, I just love keeping the character of old homes.

And when we bought the house I think when everyone saw it, they thought, “Oh my god, they’ve lost their minds!.” But slowly by slowly, you can see it, I feel like we’re reinvigorating the house, I guess. There’s been a lot of challenges along the way. And there’s still a lot of challenges along the way.

What concerns did you have before you started?

I think just the whole process and I had a big worry about stuffing it up and being someone that doesn’t work in the construction industry whatsoever, and also being a stereotype, but it’s very true being a woman as well, having tradesmen over for various things and just being spoken down to or my husband wasn’t around, they’d expect to speak to him and just various things.

And I would always be curious if I got a quote, given to me, because they think they can charge me whatever they can charge me.

So I think the real challenge is, just came from knowing, getting the process right, really, and knowing what to ask for and what is what’s reasonable to ask for, I guess, and demanding better and having the confidence to ask for it too. Not shying away and kind of apologising for asking questions.

Did you have any concerns about time or money?

Yeah definitely. I didn’t think it would take us five years. I thought within a year or two we would have started renovating.

I definitely didn’t think it would take five years but a term that Amelia uses called procrasti-planning. I think I’ve definitely done a lot of that. A lot of you know, Pinterest and a lot of like looking at all the interiors, I guess. And just all that fluffy stuff. Yeah, I definitely didn’t think it would take as long as it has.

But now, I finally feel like we’re actually moving in the right direction on the path to have this house renovated and finished.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

It was actually an ad that kept popping up on social media and I just kept, to be honest, kept ignoring and it just kept popping up. And then I don’t know what compelled me to, but I just finally clicked on it and, and then I came across her podcast, and the podcast has been absolutely invaluable. Absolutely invaluable.

I discovered the podcast and slowly, slowly I’ve been working through, I’ve gone through every season, episode by episode. I’ve gone back and listened to some of the episodes. And even things. like when I was painting our house, you know, listening to the episodes as I go, and I guess it gives me motivation.

At times, I’ve also felt very overwhelmed listening to some of the episodes, to realise just how much I didn’t know. But, yeah, all the information is really invaluable.

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

Well, I think because we were just going to builders to ask them what they thought it would cost to build, or you know, showing them plans or what, you know, of what we thought we wanted, or what it was.

It wasn’t until I came across this course, I realised that, just how much is actually involved in renovating a house and how, like, what the actual process is to it.

And things such as orientation. It never occurred to me that that’s such a big thing when you’re renovating your house. I just, I had looked at it as, I guess, it’s a bit of a tick box like this is the type of house that we want and this is how many rooms and … but I hadn’t actually given thought to the land and the location and and all those things and what every, every tradesperson and every expert that needs to be involved and what their roles were.

I think I was quite blind, in just going along with what either builders told me or what our building designer told me, and not actually really informing myself.

So now that I feel like I’m informed, I’ve really, I’ve taken much more control over the process and actually getting things done.

Did you consider joining any other course out there?

No, there weren’t any other courses.

And I think what was so unique about the Undercover Architect, I’ll go back to the podcast, was the fact that the information was just so readily available. I think I’d felt there was a bit of secrecy in the industry that they wouldn’t give you the information unless you signed on with them.

Whether it was like a bathroom company, or whoever it might be, everyone felt like everyone was just, you know, fair enough. They held the information quite close to their chest, unless you put money forward, which was the thing about not knowing, like if we put this money forward is it going to be money we’re just going to lose.

Whereas I felt like with a podcast that actually got me on the right track to thinking about the process and thinking about what I really want for a house.

What made you decide to join the Undercover Architect online courses?

I decided to do the paid courses after I listened to the podcast. With all the information on the podcasts, I had decided it was kind of like a no brainer, I guess, to then to do the course. And all the information that’s there for you.

And because like, you can go back in your own time or go over it again, or there’s checklists and various things, but it was after listening to the podcast, that I decided to sign up for the course.

Which courses did you decide to take and how did they benefit you?

Yes, I’ve done the How to Get It Right course (now HOME Method) and the Interior Design 101 course. Yeah, and then on top of that, I also opted to pay to have like a one on one consult with Amelia, which has been, yeah, incredible, which was incredible.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

Everything. Everything! 

The way that I interact with my building designer and the questions that I ask him now, and I guess the standard that I hold him to and the builders that we interview. And when they explain things to me, I don’t just take their word for it.

I feel like I’ve now, I’m not pretending I’m an expert, or, you know, I’m not a builder, but I just feel like the collaboration there between the builders, or whoever the professionals might be, is much more prominent, because I feel informed. I don’t just feel like they’re, they’re kind of shuttling me through the process. I feel like I’ve got more control over our renovation and how it’s going to end up.

How have you benefited from doing Undercover Architect’s courses?

Confidence and it’s just so silly, but I think I’ve said it a few times, but it’s just really giving me the confidence and the knowledge.

And even talking to my husband the other day, about the next steps and, and he actually seemed quite impressed. He’s like, ‘oh, whoa’, just be able to articulate it to people now and to explain what I’ve learned has been really invaluable.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

Yes, yes. It definitely has. It definitely has. Even with quoting I, yeah, learning that, you know, ideally, I’d like a fixed price contract. I’m not just kind of going blindly into being told that this is what this is going to cost, that’s what that’s probably going to cost and then having variations along the way.

Or not understanding the orientation of my house properly and then when it’s at the point of construction, walking around and realising “Oh god, this layout is actually not going to work.”

And also realising the key steps involved getting to construction, and if they’re done correctly, and they’re not rushed, then hopefully, that will be a whole lot less stressful process. And construction is such a small part of it, it’s all the pre planning, that’s the thing that I’ve definitely learned to be patient and not just rush to the construction side of things.

What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course?

I would say just do it. Just do it. We all procrastinate on things, I think for various reasons, and I did for a while and it kept popping up on my social media.

But it has been one of the best things I’ve done. It has, the course has paid for itself. The knowledge I have learnt has paid for itself. And Amelia is very kind and generous in the giving of her knowledge and on her website, there’s various blogs and things but I would say just to do it, it’s not something you’ll regret.

Just her kindness, as I said I did a one on one Zoom or Skype, I think it was an interview with her and yeah, I mean, I was overwhelmed at the end. But I think in a good way.

She’d given me so many things to think about, she’s pretty honest in her advice, but she was, also, you could tell she genuinely cares. It’s not just courses that she’s put online and that’s the end of it.

She genuinely, I got the impression, she genuinely wants people that have done her courses to succeed, and empower as many people as possible with the things with you know, the insider knowledge I guess from the industry.

Comparing building quotes: How to Understand Pricing

Comparing building quotes and trying to understand the differences between prices can be difficult. 

Many homeowners dive into the nitty gritty detail to nut out the quotes they’re receiving.

However, this can be problematic, and not necessarily get you the results you’re seeking: budget and cost transparency, and a home you can afford to build.

I find that often, members of the UA Community can be ninjas at data analysis and breaking down all the info and research.

And as a data ninja myself – I see you fellow data ninjas

However, where I see this ninja data analysis can come unstuck is in the interrogation of building quotes, and in discussions about what your project will cost – and what’s making it cost what it costs.

Let me say upfront: building and renovating can be big money.

Australia is one of the more expensive places to build and renovate in the world. New Zealand isn’t far behind.

(Like me, you’ve probably balked at the $100K – 200K complete home renovation and extension budgets on some of those USA reno / building TV programs.)

However, in this blog post, I want to share some info on how to approach the costing of your project, so you don’t tie yourself in knots with calculations and data analysis … and get lost in the weeds of unhelpful information. 

Or lose loads of time in exercises that will spin your wheels.

Here we go …

#1 You don’t need to see line item costing

Being data driven, I see many homeowners expect (and demand) that their builder provide them with a quote that lists all the various trades, materials and items in their planned home, with a cost against each one.

The reasoning for this is so they can identify where the money is going in their project, and potentially achieve savings by targeting changes or reductions in specific areas.

However, I believe that this line-item costing approach really doesn’t serve you, your builder or your project.

I’m going to try some analogies here …

Your future home is not a cart of groceries that you can identify the premium items in, and switch your cheese this week for a cheaper brand, or decide you’ll wait till that big container of cold-pressed olive oil goes on special to get it. Or go to Aldi for some items instead.

Instead, it’s more like a fashioned piece of clothing, where the design, the cut, the assembly, where it was manufactured, the thread, the colour, the dye used on the fabric … all lead to what it costs. 

And substitution or elimination can fundamentally impact the style, the durability, the look, the functionality and the experience of owning it.

Your builder may also not be interested in changes or reductions.

Yes, you may be able to find a cheaper electrician or light fitting. 

However, your builder has to work with that person, coordinate their work, know they’ll be on site on time, be able to do their work within certain conditions and timeframes, and deliver a specific quality. And then, the builder has to warrant the work they do, and the items used.

So, your quote may not include the cheapest option – but the one that the builder knows they can stand behind and have confidence in delivering.

Yes, it can be helpful to know what is chewing your budget in your project.

Chances are it won’t be the finishes and fixtures alone. 

It’s more likely to be the size of the home, the structural design, the site conditions and the big ticket items in your selections (think the large square metre coverage items, like roofing, glazing, wall cladding, flooring etc).

Instead of asking for a line item costing, ensure your builder is delivering a detailed line item SCOPE.

You want to know exactly what has been costed (described in a detailed, specific way), and what has been excluded from your quote. Plus, you also want to know what has been assumed or allowed for (because you haven’t selected or specified it).

I find that, when trying to compare apples with apples between builder quotes, the difference in pricing usually comes down to the omissions, assumptions and allowances.

And if you don’t have a detailed scope in your quotes, it’s hard to get to the bottom of these differences.

#2 Project prices move over the timeframe it takes to make your project happen

Your project may take two or more years to complete from start (deciding on a designer, etc) to completion (you moving into your finished home).

I’ve seen people do it inside 12 months, and I’ve also seen people take 3 to 5 years as well. It can vary based on you, your project plans, the area you’re in (and how onerous your council conditions are), team availability, and other factors.

Your construction costs will move over that timeframe – and so the budget you start with may be sufficient at the beginning, and not be sufficient at the end.

THAT IS INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING.

This happens in the best of times – and right now, we’re seeing much larger increases than normal as various products and supplies move in price considerably. It’s not across the board, but it’s definitely on some critical items.

Finding out the cost of your future project is an iterative process that requires constant monitoring, and adapting. 

It is also helpful to build in buffers and contingencies to give yourself the room for these increases. 

Whether you do this by keeping $$ aside, or through your borrowing capacity (due to increases in equity or property valuations) will be up to you.

Creating a team that can help you do this is critical, so you can keep your finger on the pulse of changes as they happen.

For example, one of the members in HOME Method has been working with her building designer and builder through the PAC Process. 

They’re getting close to contract preparation, but have decided to change the roof design from a truss to rafters due to the supply issues at the moment. This can be adopted fairly quickly and responsively due to her team structure and process.

Structure your team and project processes to build in this adaptability and responsiveness.

#3 Focus on what you can control

Even after doing this for 25+ years, I still struggle with the fact I can’t say to you “yes, you have exactly the right amount of money you need to do this reno or new build”.

Or tell you at the outset of your project exactly what your budget needs to be. There are so many factors that are outside of our control.

You may have seen these images doing the rounds lately.

As a homeowner building or renovating, you’re unfortunately at the end of a long line of people, processes and products that all need to get to your site to create your future home … and everyone has to get their cut along the way.

And whilst your build or reno cost is subjected to a long line of global players, large scale economic drivers, and other factors you can’t control – you’re spending the personal dollars you’ve saved or earned or borrowed to make this home a reality.

It can be hugely stressful and feel VERY personal that prices keep moving, supplies are delayed, and stuff is getting in the way of your desire to create a comfortable, safe place for your family to live and enjoy.

So what can you control? In reality, it’s not a lot.

I learned a very hard and valuable lesson a couple of years ago that my loci of control was about as big as an A4 piece of paper I could stand on.

It was a harsh learning for the control freak in me. 

But it’s actually been really empowering. Because I can and do have full control over my thoughts, my reactions, and what I choose to do. You can do the same.

When it comes to your future home design, you might not be able to control these external factors that impact the cost and deliverability of your project. 

You can though, control the decisions you make about the type and size of home you create, and who you create it with.

As I said earlier, if you want to save money, target the size of the home first. Then consider its structural design and how it integrates with the site.

(You may have heard both Aaron Wailes, building designer, and Duayne Pearce, builder, talk on the podcast about the $10s of thousands they saved their client through rejigging the structural design of a project). 

You’ll go much further with those efforts than scrimping $10 or $20/m on your tiling, or choosing a $100 tap instead of a $300 one.

There are, of course, loads of resources available on Undercover Architect to help you when it comes to cost. It’s a topic we discuss A LOT!!

Here are some free and paid options for you:

Season 3 of the podcastLine item vs lump sum costsThe real life cost and time of renovating and building12 tips to help avoid blowing your budget when working with an architect or designerBudget blowing mistakes when building or renovatingWhat will you do with your suitcase of cash?There are bonus videos for Cost and Time inside the mini-course, the Get Started GuideSet and Stick to Your Budget is a great mini-course to help with cost and budget management in any project

Enjoy those resources – I hope you find them super helpful as you navigate your project, and work towards achieving your future home on budget.

If you’d like to learn how to choose the right builder, and learn how the specific checks to do, and questions to ask, when interviewing builders for your project >>> CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER

Building a new forever family home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Belinda is building a new forever family home, known as the Glenview Farmhouse.

Listen as Belinda shares more about her new home journey, how she found her growing confidence changed her experience, and the help she’s been able to access through her membership in Undercover Architect’s online courses.

Belinda is a member of the HOME Method.

My name is Belinda. I am a mom of four children. I’m an emergency nurse. My husband is an emergency doctor. And we’re building our forever home on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, in a little hinterland town, called Glenview. So it’s just on the other side of the highway from the beaches. 

So, it’s a little bit rural, but I’m still close to everything. And, you know, I guess the project has been called Glenview Farmhouse. And so yeah, we’re building a home for four children, so it’s a, you know, big kind of property. It’s four acres. We’ve got lots of room to move, and we’ve got a beautiful, big dam, you know, that takes up about one acre of property.

So we’ve got some amazing views to look out on. And, yeah, it’s a really exciting time for us. And, yeah, we have a massive big tree, established gum trees that are beautiful, and loads of birdlife, and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, we can’t wait to be in.

What were you concerned about before starting your new build journey?

I think we were very aware that we didn’t know anything, really. My brother’s in construction, and my sister-in-law, or, my ex-sister-in-law is an Architect. But we felt very much like we were sitting ducks, and that we, you know, there will be a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of us. 

My husband’s a doctor, but he works mostly in the public system. So it’s not like he’s got, you know, huge, private practice or anything like that. So, you know, we still, we felt concerned I guess, that people would look at us, see us coming and just see dollar signs on our foreheads, and be like, you know, what can we get out of this for ourselves. 

And that we were quite vulnerable because we didn’t know very much about building. And we wouldn’t know what we didn’t know. 

So I think at the start, I just felt really anxious about the whole process. And even though we had gone to my ex-sister in law, so my brother separated quite amicably from his wife of 10 years, and five years have passed, and she was an architect. So we went to her because we trusted her. 

But even still, it was just like that, how to pick a builder. And all of that stuff was really daunting, I guess. And I was finding that really stressful. I just really wanted to find a way to not feel so stressed about the whole process. Yeah. And that’s what led us to Amelia. 

When we were trying to work out how much of a budget we needed, and you know, we would talk to people and you say, well, how much could we expect to spend? And people would talk about where you should set your expectations atthis a certain amount per square metre? And I’ll be like, but what does that buy me? Like, what am I getting for spending, you know, this much per square metre? What? Like, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t really see what it is I’m getting. 

You guys are talking about expecting this and then, you know, I’d speak to other people and they would go, that’s so much money, you’re being led right up the wrong garden path, and that’s insane and people don’t spend that kind of money. 

And so it was, you know, it was difficult, you know. and I really do trust my Architect, but you know, we were worried that she was wanting to build us something amazing. But perhaps we couldn’t afford it, and that didn’t maybe give us enough space. 

You know that she wanted to go so high end with the products that she thought we would love because she loved us. And she was like, oh, you love this stuff! But we were like, we’ve got to actually still have enough space for four kids and, and how do we know? What does all of this mean? And how do we sort of marry up the desire to have because this is our forever home? 

And she was like, this is your forever home. You want it to be beautiful and gorgeous. And we’re like, yeah, but we need to still have enough space to be able to send the children away and not have to have them right up in our faces all the time. That’s like the joy of a rumpus room. 

So yeah, because we’re getting so many conflicting opinions, I think as well, from a lot, about a lot of people. You know, it meant that we were just like, what? Who? Everybody that we talked to loved us and cared about us and meant well, but it was all different opinions. So we were just very much like, oh, you know, now what?

Yeah. And if everybody’s telling us what they think is right, then which one is actually right? And what do we need? So, what are our needs? And what are our expectations? And what is appropriate to expect? And you know, what’s fanciful, you know? 

So I think that’s where having a bit of a guide to be able to go, right! These are people who are in the industry who have not associated, they’re not gaining from us. They’re not even emotionally invested in us, I guess. So they’re just giving us expectations that we can have that will help us to make good decisions, I guess, for want of a better word.

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

I think it was on a building Facebook group. So, you know, I guess a part of my research, I started to like, join online forums and sort of want to talk to other people who are in the same position and learn as much as I could, and educate myself as much as I could. And I think it’s possible that actually, my Architect herself mentioned Amelia. 

So at some point in the process, I think, I started listening to a few of her podcasts. And then decided at some point that, you know, I’d invest the money. 

We were spending so much money on so many things. It felt like, as if it was worth the investment to educate myself, apart from anything else, just so that, you know, I could. Because one of the things that I found came out of investing in it and learning, was it just drastically reduced my anxiety. It stopped. I felt like, as if I had a bit of control back and enough knowledge to make some good decisions. 

So yeah, that was a massive part of feeling good about what happened. Yeah. And the choices that we made, just I felt confident.

Did you consider joining any other course out there?

I hadn’t come across any other build courses. And I didn’t, you know, I guess, our Architect was educating us along the way and certain things. And I was certainly doing my own research, but no, I didn’t. I hadn’t seen anything else like what Amelia has been doing. And to have it all wrapped up in one place was really handy.

What were the benefits of joining a course vs free resources or your own contacts?

One of the things I was really aware of being a professional is that, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And unless you know to ask a certain question, you won’t get the answers to that question. But if you don’t even know that, you don’t know it. 

And that’s the beauty of something like an online course. Like, Amelia is somebody says, here are a bunch of things you need to know about, and I’m going to teach you about them. 

And so things that have never occurred to you to ask questions about, you start to think about, and you start to get educated around, and then you can ask more questions. And it leads to its own next set of questions. 

But if you don’t even know where to start with the first question to ask, then you’re quite vulnerable, I felt really vulnerable. I felt really like, as if I just was a sitting duck waiting for somebody unscrupulous. 

And I think we’ve had a lot of scandals in Queensland in recent years with insolvent builders, and you know, people doing the wrong thing. So yeah, I just, I felt really concerned. I just didn’t want to pick a bad builder. And we wanted to know enough about picking a builder to make the right choice.

What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?

I guess it was just that general knowledge. So we would ask educated questions to our builder, and then that would lead to follow on things that maybe got changed or didn’t get changed, rather than it being you know, big. Well, actually, yeah, we did. I think one of the big things that we did, because of the build, was probably just making lots of our choices beforehand. And so we had minimal variations and our Architect encouraged us to do that too. 

What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?

I told our builder right at the start, you know, I’m doing this course so that I can be educated. So, you know, we want to know, we want to understand, and you know, I think that helped him to just talk to us at a deeper level about things that were happening. And we, you know, we told our Architect, and they were like, yeah, that’s great, go ahead, do it. It’ll be great. It’ll make you feel more confident about your decisions. And that’s something that everybody was really encouraging us to do. 

So, yeah, it’s been good. In fact, my builder this evening, I don’t know, he texted me and he was like, ‘hey Bel, what was that course that you said you were doing?’ And I was like, ‘why? It’s the Undercover Architect’s course, Manage your Build (which is inside HOME Method).’ He’s like, ‘Oh, it just came up and I thought of you.’ 

So, yeah. Yeah, we’ve ended up with a really good relationship with our builder. And I think partially, maybe in many ways that’s because we trusted him. And I think the trust in many ways actually came because we felt confident in our choices. Because I wasn’t second guessing him on a lot of things, because I knew that what he was doing was right, and we had enough knowledge to be able to go, oh, yep, he’s on. He’s checking that stuff. We were told to check that stuff. But I can see he’s already done this and done that. 

And, you know, it made me more relaxed, which makes you then easier to work with and less, you know, they don’t want to be micromanaged, I don’t think, too much. And while there’s a certain element of, you want to make sure everything is done right. That I think if you’re standing over their shoulder can really drive them nuts. I think it helped us strike a good balance. Yeah.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama and stress?

Even just having the resource of Manage your Build (inside HOME Method), when there’s been questions that I’ve had, or things that were like, oh, is this an issue or not? You know, having the resource of other people and Amelia to go back to and talk to you.That’s made it a lot easier to cope with, you know. 

It is stressful, even when you’ve got a good relationship with the builder, and you’ve got rapport and goodwill, which I think goes a long way, having the goodwill between you. So, and being able to keep that goodwill, because you’ve got somebody there coaching you through, just have the conversation like this, just discuss it with them, you know, like this, that’s really handy. 

It’s like just having a coach there to coach you through what is, you know, can be a, you know, a difficult time. That has been really reassuring. And I think that, for me, was great. 

I’m not, you know, I’m an emergency nurse. So I’m good at dealing with car crash situations. And I’m really good at dealing with conflict. But I don’t, still don’t like having conflict in those working relationships, I’m more dealing with conflict with drunken people. And small children. 

And it left me kind of, I didn’t want to have conflict with our builder. And I really wanted to keep that relationship really good. And so having Amelia there, in the, in the background, holding my hand at times, has been really helpful. Yeah, she’s full of great advice.

Did you have a favourite part of the Undercover Architect course?

It just gave me so much more confidence in doing what we were doing. Yeah, I stopped you know, any, it’s funny because I was talking to a new next-door neighbour, they haven’t built yet. And she said to me, she spoke about how she felt. And I was like, that’s exactly how I felt. 

She said, I just feel like I’m walking around with this sign on my forehead just to say, come and take advantage of me. And as soon as I started doing the course, I just felt that sensation go. I was like, I’m not a sucker anymore. I’ve got, I’m educated now. I may not know everything but I know I have resources at my fingertips, and I know how to make sure that we’re not being taken advantage of. 

And I said to her, you should do the course. That’s really been helpful in letting me know what to look for in a good builder. 

That sense of confidence meant that sometimes I didn’t actually do every single part of the course, don’t tell Amelia. But, the confidence to pick a really good builder helped us to be able to just go step by step back, and know that we have somebody that we can trust. 

And you know, we’ve gone back and certainly double-checked lots of other things and learnt lots of things. You know, we sort of between the fixing and completion stage at the moment. So I’ve just gone back and reread and listened to the extracts, and the videos that she’s done on that. And then it’s kind of like, like reminding me of a few things. And I’m like, okay, I’ll go back and check. Make sure I have those conversations and managing my own expectations. Which has been really handy. 

Just, you know, I think you can get disappointed if you set yourself up thinking that it’s gonna look like this and it actually doesn’t. And you have to make allowances for the time. Yeah. So that’s been really handy. That’s what, yeah, it’s confidence, honestly. And when you’re feeling confident, I think you’re just so much more relaxed. And I think everything then flows on from that. Yeah. 

And you don’t have to necessarily use everything because it’s not going to apply to every single build. But she’s got heaps of information, then, depending on what you’re doing. And there’s, yeah, I’ll certainly be going back with the checklists for the practical completion stage where we’re getting there and doing. Looking at those defects and thinking about what’s acceptable, what’s not. And yeah, getting ready for the next phase, which will be moving in.

What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course? 

I would say not managing your build well can cost you a lot of money. It really can. All those variations are really expensive. So if you can minimise that, I think just consider it an investment in you know, like a necessary investment in your, your overall build. Just knowing what you’re doing. 

I think a lot of people say that it’s handy to have built two or three homes before you build your final one. But if you’re on your final one for your first one, then you know, learning all of that stuff through a course like this, is really going to save you making costly mistakes, and things that you can’t change later on. 

So it’s worth it. Absolutely worth it to have that education.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the course?

I just think that Amelia is gorgeous. She’s just so lovely. She’s just approachable, and a really beautiful mix of, of easy to talk to, but no-nonsense, and you know, really practical. And you know, a woman who is soft, but wears her big girl pants. She’s strong and she, you know, encourages you, you know, to be firm. And I think that’s really fantastic. 

She’s, you know, she’s nobody’s fool. But she’s a gentle woman  as well. And that’s really lovely. Really approachable. Really easy to talk to and really encouraging too. And she gets excited for you. Whenever she sees my update, she’s like, oh, I’m so excited. She’s really nice. It’s really lovely. She’s so easy to work with.

Depending on how you like to learn, there’s multiple forms of doing it. So, you know, for me, a busy mum, just being able to put my EarPods in and listen to a little bit here and there on the way to work, or, or reading it late at night. Either is completely available. 

And so it’s very easy to navigate through, it’s not difficult at all. It’s all really set up quite nicely. Yeah, it’s great.

To check out Belinda’s Glenview Farmhouse, see what she’s shared on Instagram here.

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