Ultimate guide to buying a house and land package
With Australia looking to build its way out of the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19, home hunters have some big incentives to buy at new estates on cities' fringes.
These include developer offers and the government's $25,000 HomeBuilder grant.
But it's not always easy navigating a market where the streets are yet to be built. We asked the experts why and how you should consider a new estate.
THE BENEFITS OF NEW
Housing estates shrugged off their reputation for "boring" some years ago, Intrapac Property chief operating officer Max Shifman said, meaning today's new estates offered features hard to find in established 'burbs.
Sustainability standards require all new homes to achieve a 6.5-star energy rating, and some estates insist on solar-panel systems to cut down on residents' energy bills. In addition, almost every estate now has a sophisticated water-management scheme to maintain drought-resistant greenery in streets and parks.
"That means the area looks more presentable, even in the hottest points of the year," Mr Shifman said.
"You will also get things like underground power."
In an added bonus for the post-coronavirus era, new-home designs were factoring in work and study from home arrangements and typically had living areas designed for flexibility, Mr Shifman added.
Furthermore, it is much cheaper to add double-glazing and other bill-saving features to a new home than to retrofit them.
Burbank's national general manager of residential housing, Louis Sultan, said buying new was also a chance to get a home that perfectly suited your needs.
"Think, do you really need a back lawn, or would you rather have more time spent away from the mower on weekends?" he said.
Many developers and builders had also adjusted to minimise face-to-face contact as a response to COVID-19. In Burbank's case, the MyPlace 3D website allowed people to plan a new home from their living rooms.
"This will also help to get an understanding of how far your budget goes," Mr Sultan said.
If a new home appealed to you, Mr Shifman said location should be top priority for a house and land package.
He advised pinning down your daily needs and then thinking forward at least 10 years, to assess which estate would suit you.
"Know what schools are being planned for the estate, and what social opportunities there might be if you're retiring in a few years time," he said.
Advantage Property Consulting buyer's advocate Frank Valentic said getting a new home that was also a good investment was more complex.
He said buyers should consider closeness to future and existing amenities, as well as a block's orientation. Land on the north side of the street that allowed for a north-facing living area, and had good view lines, should be a priority.
If your budget allowed, he advised going for a larger than average block (in most estates average is about 400sq m) and a wider frontage. In addition to more space for your future home, such blocks offered scarcity and were more likely to hold their value.
"Ideally go for a no-through road - which is great for the kids to play cricket in the street," Mr Valentic said.
GETTING WHAT YOU WANT
Mr Sultan said honest and clear communication were integral to getting your dream home.
If your developer's agent asked what your budget was, "that's not a question being asked to stitch you up", he said. "It's because they know what block of land you need to buy to put the house you want on."
They should also be able to warn you about potential unexpected site costs, such as removing large rocks - adding up to $15,000 to your build.
It was equally important to expect some long hours consulting with your builder on everything from layout to colour schemes, he said.
"To do it properly, for colour selection, we allow a full day. That will also include the electrical plan review," Mr Sultan said.
Most people who built a new home spent a year shopping around and working out what they wanted, he added.
Mr Shifman said buyers might also need to be flexible, especially when it came to delays that could be caused by everything from COVID-19 to the local council, and even the weather.
AVOIDING BILL SHOCK
As with any home purchase, knowing the value of the property is vital.
Mr Valentic warned against being complacent if a developer was offering rebates or special promotions.
"Instead, look for comparable sales," he said.
"If all the completed houses in the area are selling for $300,000, and you pay $450,000 off the plan, you may find yourself in trouble."
He said in a falling market, it was possible that when the home was completed, the bank would value it at less than what you paid. This would leave you to pay the difference.
It was also worth factoring in new estates could take up to 10 years to start seeing real price growth, he said.
This is caused by nearby land being developed, often with new house and land packages being sold at a similar level to what you might have paid a few years ago.
Once an area has become more established and there are fewer new homes being built, prices are more likely to rise.
Finally, Mr Valentic advised pushing for a fixed contract with your builder, to avoid having them come back to you seeking more money if problems arose. Also remember if you change your plans after construction starts, this will likely increase the price.
For Michael Colling and Will Semmens, the motivation to build a new home was simple - they wanted the perfect place to raise their daughter Maya, 4, and son Roman, 18 months.
"To know we are getting exactly what we want for our family is just terrific," Mr Colling said.
They spent months looking at new estates before buying land at Intrapac's Kinley estate in Lilydale (below). It was near family and friends, but also won them over with its "country feel". "It's much more slow paced in our area. It feels a little more sleepy and it's just so much more community focused," he said.
The couple advised prospective buyers to pay close attention to what is and isn't included with different builders as they noticed significant variation before selecting a Henley Emperor build.
"Shop around and get the design right first. Don't worry about the builder, just look at display homes until you find one that has the right design. "
They also advised looking at the feedback on the builder's Facebook page for honest reviews and tips.