Building A Quality Dream Home | Undercover Architect Member Review

Naomi wanted to embark on the process of building a quality dream home.

However, she knew that when it came to building her dream home, there had to be a better way than what was being presented to her.

Initially, she was referred to the “Get it Right with Undercover Architect” podcast by a friend. And from there, she knew that investing in Undercover Architect’s courses was the best next step.

This gave her the tools as well as the confidence to embark on the construction of her new dream home.

Naomi is a member of HOME method and Home Design Masterclass.

I’m Naomi. We’re living in Goulburn, New South Wales. So not quite .. a lovely rural town, quite a large town. We have children, but they’ve all flown the nest. 

So looking at I suppose what, what will be the empty nesters dream, I now get a house that has everything that I want without having to worry about all the requirements of children and what have you. In the current COVID environment, my family’s joking that I’m building a luxury bunker in Goulburn with all the mod-cons that I can lock myself down and, and not have to socialise with everybody else. But it’ll just be the two of us.

Yeah, nice, nice veggie garden at the back. Nice… So we’re looking at a Passive House possibly. So after suffering the smoke of the fires over last summer, and the lockdown of COVID, and working from home, the luxury bunker sounds pretty good to me.

What concerns did you have before you started?

Um, so taking on a well… I never thought I’d build, I always thought I’d renovate. I was always looking at older houses to renovate. And because of a change in circumstances, my partner doesn’t like older houses, so the compromise was that we would look at building something. And if I was going to build I was going to get exactly what I wanted. 

But first of all, the question is, what do I want? What’s possible? And how do you get what you want? 

I didn’t like any of the … I don’t like the style of the kit homes, the proportions and the quality. So I was looking at how do you get a quality house that will survive, be the design I like, so it has to be, you know, still attractive. But is a quality build and isn’t going to break the bank. So this was not something that I can do on an endless budget.

So I had to be very mindful of getting the right people because the quality, work with, with quality designers and quality builders. But how do you identify those? This is not something I’d ever done before. Never thought I’d do it. And didn’t feel comfortable just handing over that sort of responsibility and, and trust to somebody else. Wanted to, to drive the process myself. 

So I wanted to be highly involved and get, well, if I was going to spend all that money, I wanted to have my dream home. I wanted to make sure that it actually still … I knew there were all those building codes and all that sort of side of it. So I needed to find out, to arm myself with the information I needed, to tackle that and identify the gaps where I needed to bring in experts to help me.

Yeah, and the thought of choosing everything. The thought and, and I’ve had friends who have even built with kit, with bulk providers. And the stories are told of not only having to choose everything in the house in a short period of time, but also the blow out budgets and the stress that’s caused. 

And I suppose you know, in my work, my professional life, I know that you can manage these, these big projects effectively. I couldn’t understand why you couldn’t do it with a home. That it had to be, it’s not like people have never built houses before. It had to be possible. So there had to be a better way of doing it, than just putting your trust in somebody and then yes, not having that … I don’t like handing over control, I like to have the, if it’s going to be my house. I want to make sure that it’s done my way. But yeah, it wasn’t as if we could just sort of … haven’t got endless time and endless money. 

How did you first discover Undercover Architect?

I discovered Undercover Architect because I have about an hour and a half commute to work each morning and each evening. And so I have been devouring podcasts like you wouldn’t believe. And so when I decided to even potentially dip my toe in the water of building a house, I then went looking for information and was so lucky to stumble across Undercover Architect. 

And I think I managed to devour a few years worth of podcasts within a few months, because, you know, it was a great way to, to, you know, make the drive more enjoyable. But I absolutely, it was so easy to listen to and so informative, and it just sort of immersed me in, in sort of that world, and certainly gave me a lot more confidence that was possible. 

And so once I discovered what was possible through the podcast, I then just started dipping into some of the courses and really starting to get into some of the more detailed work, which is really good.

Did you explore any other options before joining Undercover Architect?

I did find a few other podcasts. They weren’t as easy to listen to on the drive. And they, they didn’t seem to, to cover as many, as much detail. I must admit,

I really, really loved the way Amelia approaches, how she explains. There’s, there’s no mucking around. There’s no sugarcoating it. She’s very frank, but she’s very practical. 

I really like I suppose I related to the way she thought. It was always a combination of, you know, the block determines the way how the build goes. The block determines that, the orientation. You just, you design with the block. You’re not just plunking a house on top of it. 

Even though design was the, the aesthetics was really important. It was the practicalities, it was the materials, it was the … And so all of that seemed to really resonate with me. 

And I have sort of tried, also dipped into other podcasts, on to some of their other websites, and they’ve, they’ve never been as easy to understand. Or never been as practical or comprehensive as UA. 

So it’s, I must admit, even though I’ve sort of still tried to compare, because I, you know, put all your eggs into one basket. Never, never been as good. So I’ve always had to come back to what Amelia’s put forward.

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

Um, I suppose I really liked, and I actually know someone else who’s done the courses too, so there was certainly a recommendation from a friend. And, and certainly, what I experienced with the podcasts, I wanted to arm myself even more. I wanted to start .. before I … and I probably will still work with an architect, but I wanted to do sort of some first designs first. 

So I’d gone through the thought process, but I didn’t think I could just do that on my own. I wanted the way Amelia sort of stepped you through with some of the podcasts, I thought that the courses would be good value.

And I do genuinely believe that by doing that myself, I will actually save money because I’ll be more focused. So I’m taking this time before I talk to an architect and a builder to really get my own thoughts straight. 

I think the courses really helped me do that. So it’s really honing in on, what do I need to know? What questions do I need to ask? What do I really want? 

So that I don’t then waste money and time and someone else’s effort on a treadmill, trying to work that out on paid time. So that was sort of the … and after the first sort, of course, so I’m sort of, did some of the small ones, I really enjoyed it. So I’ve sort of dipped into other ones as well.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

Absolutely. The stress I suppose just having the time to, there’s a methodology to it, which as an engineer I really like. 

So there is a clear process, there is a method. And it’s about uncovering the risks in the project first. It’s uncovering and being very clear on what you want. 

Because the clearer you are, you’re not going to waste money going down rabbit holes and making changes. I know in any project, the worst thing you can do for both time, a cost and a satisfaction point of view, is to change your mind halfway through. 

So in some ways all I’m doing is applying, you know what, you know, I’m applying the same methodology we’d on a, on a, on an aircraft design as you do to a house. I don’t see any reason why it should be any different. You don’t want to change the design on a plane halfway through or the wings will fall off. So it’s really important … and budget blows out. 

So, you know, I can see that this sort of methodology and approach works in, in other technical areas, why wouldn’t you do it on a house? So I just think it’s, just, it’s applying good methodology. 

And, and it also then very clearly shows you what are the technical trades or technical skills that the designers, whoever that you, it’s worth paying to bring on to your project. 

So I want to make sure that if I’m going to pay for experts, I pay for the right ones. And I can, I can actually evaluate what makes them the right ones. 

I think a lot of the work that Amelia goes through is actually helping you to identify the right people and not going down that worst case scenario of ending up working with somebody who’s either unethical, or just not the right person for you. 

So looking at not only the technical expertise, but the right fit. And I like the fact that she appreciates, and points out just how important that is building that right team. It’s about having the right way of, the same way of working in the same, the same approach. So how do you pick that person. 

Um, so certainly a lot of the things I’ve got that she’s gone through in the course and the podcast, helps you identify those people, because I was determined that I was going to enjoy the process. And so far, so good.

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

Yes, so certainly, I’ve now educated my …, like, going through everything from, I’m learning SketchUp, to different, you know, the apps you download to work out, you know, where the sun orientation is, and all of that. I sort of knew you needed to do that, but didn’t have the skills to do it. So I’ve been merrily working through all those sort of tools. 

The I shall possibly right down to, I probably wouldn’t have built, I think without, without sort of, without this process and without what Amelia has gone through, I think I probably would have still stuck with renovating. I don’t know that I would have actually gone … all the stories I’d heard were pretty negative. So I don’t know that I would have had the confidence to go for a full build. 

So I think that’s been a shift. I think it’s been a good one. And I think the other thing, too, is feeling really relaxed, just to take my time. Not be pushed into anything. Not let anybody else dictate the time frame or how it should be done. 

To be able to push back and say, “well, no, that’s… that’s… thank you for your opinion. That, that might be the design you like, but I don’t like that, and I don’t have to have that”. 

So I think giving, giving me that confidence to know, to, to spend the time to identify what I want, and then not accept anything else. And if anything, if it’s, if it’s not the right fit with the designer, to find another one.

Has the Undercover Architect course helped your budget?

Um, so I can’t say that I’ve necessarily compare that I’ve saved the money, because we’re still quite early in the process. 

But I absolutely can see that it will save me money. And it will save me stress, because I know I feel a lot more confident to find the right people, ask the right questions, do all the checks upfront. 

And make sure that we will get the outcome. Everything from the personal fit, to the right size business, to the way they design and even making sure that their business is secure. So they’re not going to go under halfway through. 

All of that sort of due diligence, it’s one thing knowing it needs to be done, it’s another thing knowing how to go about it. And certainly, I feel a lot more confident to do that. 

Certainly, I feel a lot more empowered to take charge of the process. And know when to, when to, to do it myself and when to hand over. So identifying what I can do and what I can’t do, and find the right team that can complement what I can’t do. So I think that, and doing all that work up front, I know from my professional life, that that will save me money and time and stress. 

So I’m very confident that I’ll have a better outcome. And I’m also very confident that that quality build will save me time, or save me money, more than anything, in the upkeep of the house too. 

So I think all, all around, it’s going to be a more efficient use of my time and money, and a much more enjoyable outcome. And I hope the process and the house at the end.

Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?

So I think knowing how to ask the right questions is the big thing, and certainly Amelia, and it’s her experience. So first of all, when you have the benefit of somebody who’s gone, who’s lived this. This is her career, her life. She knows  what challenges you guys come up against. 

I hopefully will only ever do this once. I can’t say that I’m signing up for a second one right now. So I really value learning from that experience and having those tools and techniques and to be able to apply myself. So I do think that’s going to avoid a lot of the pitfalls. But even knowing that no project is without pitfalls, but I definitely know the benefit of having a good team. So when things go wrong, you’ve actually got the right people who are working together to solve those problems. 

And you know, I really value, I always the, the people I knew, the experience had always been, you get a builder and you make all the decisions on the fly, and that never quite felt right to me. But I didn’t realise there was another way.

This absolutely, the process through UA absolutely shows that you can make all those decisions up front. Have it all agreed on. Do all of the integration, all of the, the aligning and the, find all the efficiencies and make sure that everything works together. And then build. That had never been presented before. And it makes perfect sense to me. 

As I said, we do that in my professional career. Always. So I didn’t understand why you couldn’t do that with a house build. I’ve just worked out that that’s just not the normal, what’s done with the bulk builders. But it’s nice to know that you can take charge of it yourself and do it a different way.

What is the best thing about the Undercover Architect course?

I think it’s confidence. I do think there’s, when you don’t feel confident about something, you’re more likely to hand over control to somebody else. And so I just think the process of working with UA, it gives you the confidence to do it yourself. 

And so you’re more likely to get the outcome that you want because you’re not gifting the process to somebody else. This is my house and I should be taking responsibility for it. But I’m not a designer, so I don’t know it all. 

But I know I can, I can guide that process and I can be an active participant in it without … and having the confidence to do that.

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

I would absolutely recommend UA! It was one of the best things that I could… even contemplating doing a renovation or build, I could not imagine doing it without going through this process and understanding what’s possible and these tools. 

So I’d have no hesitation. I know it’s going to save me money. It’s absolutely saving me stress. And it will save time, both in the process and in the upkeep of my house afterwards. So, and if nothing else, even just listening to the podcast. 

There … It’s wonderful listening to all these experts who are passionate about their professions, whether it’s landscape gardeners or Passive House designers. It’s always nice listening to people who are highly skilled and passionate about what they do. 

So even as a personal sort of pursuit, it’s interesting, but the fact that I can apply it to my own build is really valuable.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience working with UA?

I suppose the only thing I’d say is, I really value the fact that Amelia stays current. 

She’s, she’s such an advocate within the industry. And the fact that she listens to the community and then goes looking for people who will answer the questions that, that, that people bring to her. 

So I know the recent series around building after bushfires is very current and very relevant. So thankfully we’re not building a bushfire zone, but the fact that she, that’s an emerging issue and she went looking for experts who are working on that, is really valuable to people who are now faced with that challenge.

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