What started out as a simple idea to document our experience during the construction of our home has really become a great way to interact with others who are presently going through a similar experience (be it with CG or any other builder) and even those considering to build. We have enjoyed being able to share many things we simply did not know or understand at the beginning of this process; many things we wish we knew from the start because they would have saved us valuable time and money and undue stress and worry.
So after five and half months of building, our house is structurally able to be locked up, the kitchen and stairs have been installed (but none of the items that create a home like toilets, sinks, basins, taps, benchtops, handles, etc) and all the plaster, doors, skirts and cornices are in place ready for internal painting.
Take a look!
Overall CG have been very good and most responsive to our concerns. Like any interaction, there will be disagreements and misunderstandings along the way. The main issues we face are probably a result of head office promises not being relayed clearly or effectively to our SS and his building team.
The first issue is our completion date, which has already been pushed back by about 4 weeks. We are doing everything we can to limit it being pushed back any more. The problem is our SS was never told that we had negotiated different contractual terms for our build period with head office sales and management. Our SS has told us that liquidated damages are there to compensate owners in the event the builder goes over the nominated build period. We understand this and this is part of the reason we also negotiated higher liquidated damages (luckily), however, we strongly feel that builders' miss the point here. At the start of this build, we believed that CG would complete our home in January 2013 ("and do everything possible to have us in before Christmas 2012") because this is what we were told'by one of its directors. Truth is that we were probably a bit naive, because according to our SS, there was never any chance of this happening.
Lesson: don't believe it when sales tell you they'll have you in your home by a certain date. Once you have signed, the build process will follow a standard schedule and take a standard amount of time and if it goes over, the builder will simply pay liquidated damages rather than re-allocate resources to meet contractual timelines.
Our advice. Negotiate a much higher liquidated damages before signing. An amount that will make the builder not want to overshoot contractual date of completion.
The second issue is our lower garage/laundry wall height. We've posted about this in the past (at the very start of this build in fact) - CG advised us that the local council had an objection with the height of the wall and that we had to drop the height of the garage/laundry as a result. We were reluctant due to the fact it created steps we did not want as well as an unsightly cavity sliding door. We did not think to question the notations for this variation. We should have, because we will now either have to accept that the house has a beautiful stained timber stair case that lands onto 2 steps that will be tiled, or pay extra money to upgrade to 2 stained timber steps (which is our preference, since it ties in with the rest of the house).
Our advice. Never assume that just because you've talked about it with your sales person, or seen it in the display home, that that's what you'll get. In fact, you will get what has been documented in your contract and if the contract doesn't spell the item out correctly, you will get the most cost effective option, rather than the option that makes reasonable sense.
The other very live issue we will need to manage in the new year is our slab rectification works. We're strong on this because the slab is vitally important to the overall long term integrity and performance of the house. It is the foundation on which everything else is built, and we expect the slab to be constructed absolutely correctly.
We're at a bit of a stalemate over the Christmas break. The slab rectification works were identified as defects in both the Frame and Pre-Plaster inspection reports conducted by our private building inspector. We're paid our building inspector good money to protect our interests during this build, so when he makes a recommendation, we'd be stupid not to follow it.
CG have countered these reports stating that, as a builder, they are satisfied the slab is fine and the rectification works that have taken place to date have been done correctly, effectively and entirely.
This is how the slab looks presently. Feel free to let us know your thoughts, especially if you have any experience in this area.
We're still not happy. We think there is still work to be done. We know that the the work pictured does not satisfy the rectification specifications detailed by the original design engineer. We know that CG have not followed our inspectors recommendations and we know that the relevant building surveyor has not inspected these works, nor certified them. We will talk to the relevant people about all of this in the new year.
With Christmas already here, these issues will go on hold until the new year. We really hope CG will be equally responsive to our concerns next year as they have been this year. With build time, the reality is we are where we are. Nothing can change this.
With the realisation that there is still a load of work that needs to be done, we are hoping that the remaining outstanding issues, that should already have been completed (but weren't because they were either missed or required rectification), will not disrupt and/or prevent the smooth and timely completion of the rest of the home - namely, painting, tiling, fixing off all the items inside the house, fixing off the plumbing and electrical, shelves, flooring, etc.
All in all, the Hyatt38 house looks fantastic on our block. We love the metal colour bond roof and the render colours we have chosen. The inside of the home is coming along too. We have been told by CG that they will wait until 7 or 8 of January to get a specific painter to do the painting because he does a great job. Let's hope this is the case. We can't wait to see the home fully painted with all the internal items fixed in place. We are also looking forward to seeing this home with it's tiles, floorboards and carpet.
Between now and completion, we will also start to obtain quotes and design ideas about landscaping, fencing, walls, decking and driveways. If you have experience (or know anyone that does) in any of these areas, we'd love to hear from you.
Finally, we have created an email account for any private communications. Feel free to continue to post comments to this blog and/or email us directly.
For now, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
For those currently building, good luck with getting your homes to completion and handover smoothly. For those considering building, watch this space. We have learnt so much from this experience and stand to learn loads more as our house nears completion and then is handed over to us. Hopefully, we can help you avoid many of the "learning experiences" we have experienced during our build process, as well as pre-build contract stage and post completion hand-over stage. And yes, we plan to continue this blog after our house has been handed over.