'Sell the section and build somewhere else'

Building a house has so far (and I have to clarify there has been no actual "building" so far, nor is there any sign of a building on our section yet) been like a rollercoaster ride. But only if you were never sure while on the rollercoaster if it would derail in mid-air, hit an oncoming rollercoaster, or just drop you off somewhere really crappy (like Rainbow's End for example).

Getting the tenders from the builder hasn't been so much like doing a loop screaming with joy with our arms in the air, but more like feeling slightly queasy while plummeting to earth. But it's important to remember that, like a rollercoaster ride, we paid to do this, we're doing it for fun, and we wouldn't have been allowed to get aboard if we weren't big enough to handle it. Also getting hit in the face with other people's vom is all part of the ride and is in no way grounds for a refund.

One of the three builders who have submitted a tender to build our house came around last week to explain the ins and outs of the pricing he had given us. I really like this man and I loved that he wanted to explain the pricing in detail. Pretty impressive service.

Halfway through our meeting I asked him if he had any advice as to how we could save money. Was there anything we were doing, any part of the building that was silly, extravagant, ill-planned, were there other materials, methods or designs we should be considering? "With your experience, what would your advice be?"

"Sell the section and build somewhere else," he said - and he wasn't joking. Or if he was he missed the bit where he laughs and says "but seriously..."

My heart fell into the ground and I believe I physically slumped down. Because I am a fairly weak and simpering character of little backbone, I took it as a blow. He might as well have hit me across the head with a cricket bat and then cried out "six!"

After a breath I replied, "I don't think we can actually do that now. We've invested a lot of money, what with consents and draughtsmen and engineers, quantity surveyors and the like. I think we're pretty much committed. Any other ideas?" To his credit he did have some other ideas.

It's been over two weeks now since we received the tenders back from our chosen builders. Gemma was overseas for most of that time and now we are both working long hours at our jobs, and had a big family Thanksgiving on the weekend (being half American comes with great turkey). We've also had a launch for my book. Did I mention I have just released a book? I tell you what, it would make a fantastic stocking stuffer, or you could pop it under the leg of a wobbly table.

While on that topic, as I mentioned in my last blogging post my colleagues at 7 Days took the chance of me being away from the studio the week before last to have a bit of fun at my expense. Have a look at this outtake clip of the captions part of the show from that week. These captions didn't make the final cut of the show, though one of them at least is quite good and I was sad to lose it. In the last of the captions in this clip they unleash hilarious captions on a photograph of me that had been put in the show without my knowing. It was a real shame it didn't make it to air.

So with all this hilarity going on, Gemma and I haven't had much time to sit down and evaluate the tenders to see how much trouble we have got ourselves in. As I explained in my last blogging post, the three tenders were all very high. I estimate the lowest of them is $100,000 above our quantity surveyor's price and the highest is almost $200,000 higher. Every day we delay now is another day the builder doesn't start digging a huge hole in Three Kings for us to live in, and puts off the time we finally "Plug in the toaster and sing Kumbaya" in our new house.

I made a phone call to each of the builders to ask them some questions, the primary one being "how can we reduce the cost of this build?" They all mentioned a couple of things. There is a detail outside the big west-facing windows on the top floor. It is a narrow deck-like ledge that you can't really go out on to, for fear of plunging 5 metres to your concretey death. The word for it, I think, is "soffit" or something like that. It is, anyhow, a pretty detail in cedar decking that isn't necessary. We are going to change it to some sort of flashing that will be not as flash.

Another popular mention among the builders was that we are using precast concrete to build the garage level. These are going to be a costly pain to crane in over/under the powerlines that go up our street. I don't think we can do much about that though, because the engineer has specified the precast concrete because it goes in very quickly and saves the possibility of the hill caving in while the walls are built. I'm not a big fan of caving in any direction including "in" so I will most likely follow our engineer's plans there.

But the builders were unanimous on pointing out that our feature stairway leading from the entranceway on the midfloor up to the top floor is going to be expensive. One builder told me he thought it was about $55,000 more than the cheapest sort of stairway we could have - which are called "carpet-grade stairs".

Here's what our stairs are supposed to look like:

Here's carpet-grade stairs.

And here's what I reckon might be affordable.


But the biggest news lately apart from Tongariro erupting is that we have been granted consent to build our house as planned! It's a truly frabjous day.

How much did the invoice come to? A handy $4955.04 but Swedish rounding will bring it to $4955.05. Glorious Council I kneel before thee and truly give thanks. Yea though I come across all sarcastic and everything, verily do I actually think you pulled that off quite smartly, and humbly will I shell out 5 Gs.

My favourite part of the consent announcement is the repeated use of the word "uplift". We don't have to "pick up" or simply "get" the form. We "uplift" it.  In no other part of life do you "uplift" something. It's like how at weddings is the only time that you ever have to "be upstanding" rather than just standing up. Why is that? At weddings they don't ask you to "be downsitting" instead of sitting down. They don't ask you to tuck in to dinner by saying "be upeating". The best man's speech would be interesting: "Okay, be upstanding and be bloody downquieting and we'll ask the bride to be upspeaking and we can all be uplistening and we'll probably be able to hear,  but only if the bride's brother will be upf***ing!"

(Incidentally that is not a pube up near the Council logo in the above scan. There wouldn't be a pube on my scanner, I would never scan my private bits, and if I did, I'd never animate them to make hilarious German cartoon porn. No way, don't be stupid. I don't know what that is on the scan or how it got there.)

Gemma and I are now in the process of reconciling the three quotes. We've made a spreading sheet on the Excel and we're adding in everything each quote does not allow for. That way we will end up with realistic totals for exactly how much the whole building will cost for each builder who has tendered. Then will come the tricky decision of how much to change. Will the delay and extra cost of getting an amendment to our building consent (assuming such a thing exists) outweigh any savings we will make with our changes? That's the $55,000 question.

I thought when I started this blog it was going to be all about building the house. So far it has all been about angst, whining, waiting, heartache and hairpulling. Like a bloody Labour Party convention. Not so much an episode of Grand Designs as an episode of Grey's Anatomy. I can only apologise for that and tell you that while I agree Grey's Anatomy is s**t, that Grand Designs is going to be on soon and that I am looking forward to it as much as you are. More probably.

Lastly, each tender included an estimated time to build the house. The fastest was nine months, the slowest a year.

So if there's one thing that's for sure, it's that we are going to have to choose this builder - and if we want to be in by next Christmas we'll really have to be uphurrying.


Purchase Man.


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.

Now let me present you with another fine page from The House that Beebo Built.