The tenders are in ... and it's a shock

I was in Invercargill last Friday when the emails from the builders came through, each containing a quote for the price to build our house. Gemma had chickened off to Germany for a few weeks, so I had to open them alone. Three emails, three documents. As I sat looking at the computer screen in the offices of Cue TV in Don Street I mentally crossed my fingers.

But before we get to the bit where I click "open" on those documents, have a look at this email I got from China yesterday.


Straight away I love this email. The tradition is to say "have a nice day" at the end of a conversation or a letter, but this writer is so excited to wish me a nice day that she blurts it out straight away. I was ready to buy whatever she was selling.

But my favourite thing about this email is that I have been given the title "Purchase Man". For reasons that I will explain later in this blogging post, that is starting to seem like a more and more apt title for me. In fact it sounds like a good title for a Super Hero: "More of a sucker than an octopus with a lollypop; Suppliers can see him coming from a mile away; Able to make internet payments with a single click.  Is it a human bank account? Is it a massive mortgage? Yes, actually, well done, it's both of those... It's Purchase Man!" And Gemma can be my beautiful sidekick Expense Girl.

So while I don't think I'm in the market for "ingot for remelting" I do thank Elsa for the email. And who knows, we might get halfway through the build and someone will ask me where the ingot for remelting is and I'll be able to say that I'm not sure, but I've got a good friend called Purchase Man who should be able to buy some with superhuman speed.

A recap for those who might be joining this blog late in the piece: Gemma and I bought a section in Three Kings about a year ago. Since then we have been designing and refining our plans for a house. We had a Quantity Surveyor price the house at about $930,000 to build which really threw us. We went back through our plans and changed things, ending up with a new estimate from the Quantity Surveyor of around $850,000. This still seems really high but the section is very difficult to build on and the house isn't small at about 270 of your metric squares.

Then we had the house valued by a registered valuer. (We certainly were not interested in any valuer who hadn't taken the time to get registered!).

The valuer came back to us with an estimated value of our imaginary house of $1,150,000. It seems an astronomical amount, doesn't it? I agree. It is taking me a long time to get my head around the fact that we are doing anything that is going have anything to do with a million anything. But you take a breath and you just pretend it's only numbers. Since we had paid $300,000 for the section the maths seemed to add up about right - if we could find a builder to build the house for the $850,000. And if those costs didn't grow too much during the build. And if we get a reasonable price for our current house which is an old Villa in sunny Balmoral, Auckland. But that's an "if" for another blogging post.

The "ifs" were starting to build up, but we sent the building out to tender, while the Almighty Council (blessed be thy holy officers) evaluated our 30-odd pages of detailed drawings.

Today our heroic draughtsman, whose plans are apparently things of beauty (I'm no plans expert, but I know what I like and these look really nice), tells me the council (protect me and keep me from leaks and subsidence) are in the final stages of approving the house. Our consent is, according to Karl, in the "final invoice stage". While I like the idea of things moving forward, "final invoice" sounds very ominous. Sounds like another case for Purchase Man!

Last Friday, at the end of the five week period we'd allowed for the builders to price the house, we received three prices from three separate builders. Once we choose one of these contractors finally I will let you in on the figures we have been quoted, but let me just say for now they are all high. As far as I can tell so far they are all at or considerably above the amount originally estimated by the quantity surveyor.

I opened them one at at time. The first one was quite reasonable and at first I thought "OK, we're going to be OK". But then I noticed it excluded GST. Normally you don't think too much about GST, but when it adds over a hundred grand to a price, you start to look at it differently. You start to resent your own government - and that's not a nice feeling.

It was only made worse by this headline I saw last week:

The article reads:

"The Government is poised to announce changes to development laws that will make it easier and cheaper to build houses, stretch Auckland's city boundaries, upgrade existing state houses and transfer state houses to non-government and local government providers."

I applaud this. Housing affordability is a real problem in New Zealand and it's great the Government is looking at ways to tackle it. But if they are going to do it I wish they would do it five years ago! If affordability and hence supply goes up in Auckland that will mean my house (built under the expensive regime) will potentially go down in price as supply increases, so it will be a double-whammy.

At the same time it isn't all bad news. If the Government sells state houses, our suburb of Three Kings (which is mostly state housing) will probably become "gentrified" - an awful word but, just speaking selfishly, possibly good for the value of our (as-yet imaginary) house. These are all topics for much further discussion, but right now all these thoughts are running quickly through our minds as we try and roughly figure out if we can afford to build this house.

Then I opened the next two tenders - and they went up and up in price. The total spread between the tenders was very large. It was a bad moment and I was temporarily disheartened. When I say temporarily, I am assuming that feeling is going to go away at some stage - it hasn't yet.

I phoned Gemma and I confess I was feeling quite low. She was upbeat, and thank goodness for that. The thing she said that really made me keen on her was just simply "it will be all right".

I have been very busy since last Friday, so I haven't fully explored the quotes. We need to see what they've included, and excluded, what prices they have found that we might be able to find more cheaply, adjust their quotes to make sure the playing field is level between them, consider other things like the proposed schedules they suggest and come to a decision. I've got a horrible feeling the solid gold garage door is going to have to go.

Thankfully we are not alone in that. Gemma's father, our architect, is helping us with the evaluation and we will no doubt bring in our quantity surveyor and others to help as well in the next couple of weeks.

I'm hoping we don't have to go back to the drawing board. As much as I love the council, (and I do love you), I don't really want to have to change the plans so much as to need a new building consent. We also don't want to waste any more time.


Meanwhile much hilarity was had at my expense at the recording of 7 Days last night. Without my knowing, my co-producers included this photograph of me in the pictures for the comedians to come up with captions for.

It's a photo from an article in last weekend's newspaper encouraging people to spend their hard-earned cash buying my new book as a Christmas present with which to disappoint their friends and family. The guys had a gay-old time making hilarious remarks at my expense. They even took time at the end of the record to pose, like American soldiers with their Guantanamo victim.

As we go about editing the show today I have a feeling that picture might not make the cut. We'll see.

Thank you for joining me again this week. As always please "Like" this blog's page on Facebook to find out when new posts appear, and email me whenever you like to let me know if you have ingots to sell me. I am, after all, your Purchase Man.

 Apologies for the no-words Beebo last week. Here is the next page of that magnificent and beautiful book. That Beebo - he's the Hairy MacLary of France!