Jon Bridges reveals his final build cost

22:21, Feb 27 2014

Abject Apology (if you're not *&%ed off with me for not posting for so long, please skip to the next paragraph)

I am back. I am very sorry I haven't posted in a long time! My silence has been poor form for all of you readsters and commensters who have followed the blog and the build, and although a punishing deadline for a book I've just written (along with my other work and a new baby) have meant I had no choice but to neglect you like redheaded stepchildren, you deserve better. The problem was I had the schedule all planned: finish the house, then a couple of months to finish the blog and my other work before Xmas came and with it time to finish the book. But the house didn't finish in Mid October, as planned did it? Or even mid November as it should have. Try mid December, so I got myself in trouble. Sadly you paid the price. Be assured you weren't the only ones to suffer. At one stage trying to meet the book deadline I didn't shower for four days and my beard took on the form of a large creature nestled on my face (see below). As I write even now it's 2.23am. I hope you can forgive me.

In this post I open up the books and reveal how much the house finally cost. This is only possible now because last night I spent about four hours going through the online banking to work out how much we'd paid to who and when. (That was another overdue task that had to wait). The results, like a poorly installed heated towel rail, will shock you.

But first how is the house? Amazing.

We have been living in Three Kings now for two months. For two years we thought this time would never come - and 2013 was the longest year of our lives. But the house is finished (almost) and we can't believe how lucky we are. My enthusiasm for it and for the building project has not dimmed. Let me start, though, by telling you all the things we have discovered so far that are wrong with the house:

- It would be nice to have my office closer to the living area.


That's it really. It's not too bad - I can hear Gemma if she calls to me from the kitchen. We knew all along it would be like this because there just isn't anywhere nearer to put it.

Over the past two months while I have been working hard to ignore my blog, I've spent more time in the office than any other room, including the bedroom. The book I've written with my bestie David is about New Zealand inventions, and it's published by Penguin. It comes out in Octoberish and will blow your socks off your feet most inconveniently.

Jon and David sit on the grass with a Thermette. Invented in New Zealand.

The house is still not quite finished. We have given our builder a list of almost 150 small details that need to be attended to. He's done quite a lot of them, but it's an ongoing thing, and will be for a while. The electrician's gone completely awol with no word of when he's returning to finish the job. Throughout my blogsing I have been careful not to criticise anyone too harshly - and mostly there has been no cause to - but Gem and I have been very disappointed with the sparkies. The only thing I can think is that they've got NZ's plum job - changing all the neon signs from "Telecom" to "Spark". 

Come to think of it, they've treated us pretty much the same way I have my blog readers. Realising that makes me feel even worse. 

There hasn't been time for us to unpack everything - the garage is packed full of boxes of stuff that seemed important in our lives when we moved out of our old house. And my office has only one box of books on the shelf and my computer in it.

Since we took up residence I've had to dash to Mitre Bunningmakers a few times, and it's really a great resource. They even run weekend workshops for DIY bunnies like me. This one was particularly useful.

Far too much emphasis these days is placed on REjuvenating things so it was refreshing to learn how to make the deck look old and shitty.

The first test for the house was Christmas. Within a week of moving in we had a massive and wonderful Christmas dinner, and the house worked really well. We didn't need to ask, people just naturally took off their shoes.

The Kitchen was a delight.

The deck and lawn were well-populated.

We brought the outside table inside to seat 29 in comfort. (There's also a kids' table you can't see around the corner).

And at 4:28pm, we were visited upon by a wondrous blessing from the Holy Council above.

Not one of the above family members have since looked at these rainbow photos. 


But enough of these niceties. Let's talk money. If this was Grand Designs, we'd be at the end of the show where Kevin sits in the kitchen of the new place with the couple. They are answering his questions, but he's not listening because he's thinking about what he's going to say as he walks out of the house while a camera on a giant crane gradually drifts up and up away from him.

He fixes them with a steely gaze, with just that twinkle of mischief that we all know so well and opens his wonderful mouth to ask the question we really want to know (my Kevin love isn't getting out of hand is it?) Did you blow your budget? And the poor fools (or rich fools) have always spent way more than they planned.

Well we did too. Poor fools.

Our contractor, Design Construction Home, built the house for the fixed price of $805k including gst. (Let me just say all prices from here on in will include GST. Let me just also say that the GST that we spent was well over $100k. Fair enough - we paid for something, we should definitely pay to be allowed to do that.)

So - fixed price $805k. That means no matter how hard the building turns out to be, or how long it takes or what turns out to be unforeseen, the builders will not charge us any more to build it. Along with that comes a big document called the schedule which describes what we get for our (the bank's) eight hundred and five thousand dollars. And what we don't get. Because that contract isn't the whole house. There's plenty more things to purchase. And this plenty more falls into three main categories:

            Client-sourced items




Client-Sourced items.

Gemma and set a whole lot of stuff outside that contract. Things we wanted to source, organise and pay for ourselves: bathroom fittings, insulation, blinds, joinery (including kitchen, wardrobes etc), carpet, timber flooring, light fittings, landscaping, home automation, data wiring and home appliances. Part of the reason for setting these things outside the contract was because if they had been included we would have had to specify exactly what we wanted way back in September 2012 when we sent the house plans to the builders to quote on - and we needed a LOT more time to decide all that stuff. Some of it we still haven't decided.

The other reason is so that we could try and negotiate and bargain hunt, wait for sales and beg for mates rates etc. That way we hoped to save money. I'm not sure how successful we were with this. Probably not very given that builders can buy cheaply.

Gemma and I estimated we would spend around $170K on all this fun stuff outside the contract. That is a massive shopping spree to do in a year, and really should have been more fun than it was.


Whenever you get a builder to change something that is in the schedule (give you an extra one of this, a nicer brand of that, a bigger set of the other) the extra cost is recorded and called a variation. It also goes the other way. If you downsize or go more povvo than the contract calls for, you get a negative variation - a savings. All along the way, as you pay the contract in instalments, you also pay these variations.

We didn't budget for variations because we thought we had the plans locked down tight. Ha ha ha ha ha.


At no time during our budgeting did we put in a sum to cover the draughtsman, the engineer, the quantity surveyor, the council costs, the legal fees. But we should have because these people refused to work for free. Only our architect worked for free. We were so grateful we gave him a grandson. (You can see that grandson in an upcoming issue of the Woman's Day!)

Our budget then? We never really set it firmly - it just evolved as we understood more and more about how much things would cost. When we first began we were hoping $600K. But shortly after the build had begun, we estimated we'd spend about $975,000. Let's call it a million, we said, because that sounds bling.

In fact I'm fairly sure now the final cost will be $1,115,454.17 (I'm glad we've come in under that important $1,115,454.18 mark).

I say 'will be' because we have not finished paying for things yet. We'll blow our budget by about $140K.

Why?  First of all there were about $40K of variations. A couple of wrought iron handrails were $7000 more than the wooden ones we'd planned. An extra window - $1000, a different hot water heater, extra tiling, nicer garage door. And adding a few extra plugs and light fittings here and there cost us an extra $9,500 from the electrician.

The trouble with variations is that each one seems to be both essential and relatively small cost compared to the big picture. It's easy to say "let's do this properly" and "we're only building once". And "come on honey don't be a cheapskate."

The biggest part of our massive summer blowout was in the client-sourced items. Not because we overspent, but because we were too optimistic about how much things would cost. Do you think landscaping might be a couple of grand? No, you're showing your naivety - it will be more like $15k. Do you think light fittings might be around $6K? Only if you're a real greenhorn (or a quantity surveyor). Try 21. Best to leave furniture right out of it, eh? Again wrong (you really suck at this). Furniture will be needed, and so we're allowing in that total to spend $15,000. But we haven't spent all of that yet. We haven't landscaped, bought that furniture or finished all the joinery.

And of course those money-hungry professionals cost us. Legal, engineers, draughtsman, Auckland Council (I beseech thee soothe my grizzled knees) and quantity surveying totalled around $36k.

When I started this blog I said it was one kind of stupid to build a house you can't afford, but another kind of stupid altogether to build a house that's not worth what you spent on it. Is the house worth it? Is it worth $1.1million plus section = $1.4m? Probably not. (Although a 1950s state house duplex three doors up with a bigger section sold for $1.5m in December so it's not out of the question).

But is it worth it to us? Yes. After the sale of our old house for nearly a million, our mortgage will still be well over 300K. Is that too much? I hope not... All I'm saying is in October, please buy my book.

Next postulathon I'll bring you a video tour of the house as we have it now. I'll leave you with a couple of photos I just ran upstairs and took now. This is where I live. This is our house!

Stairs, Trubridge, LED handrail.

Looking west

Still looking west. That's Mt Albert like a toupee on the horizon.

Looking north to Maungawhau. The house might have cost a lot, but we can bludge everyone else's fireworks displays at Guy Fawkes.

All the best from your loyal but wayward,

Purchase Man

PS: I haven't forgotten the competition I started so long ago to guess the date of our move in. Because we moved in on December 14, the prizes will be shared by Bartus and LMB_19. If you are reading this, first of all congrats on your guessing skills. You were pessimistic and that proved to be an excellent quality. Secondly please email me and I'll get your address details to post things out.