Share our trials and tribulations as we build our new home - a custom Dominico by Fairmont Homes NSW

Sunday, July 31, 2011

You live, you learn

We were unable to make it to Kellyville last weekend (Saturday was spent with poor Mick recovering from the horror that was getting carpet laid with a bad back) but we did meet with Fairmont.
The meeting went well and they are going to draft up some design ideas based on their Dominico 37 (with a 40 MKII upstairs) according to what will fit on our block. We should hear from them by Wednesday and I will keep you posted. Let me tell you that if we had the space (and money), we would build their display home (Dominico 40 with MKII upstairs configuration) almost exactly as displayed…but 40 squares is a little big and $397,000 (to build as displayed) is a bit much. Oh well, Mick and I are tentatively excited to see what they come back with (we knocked on wood several times today at lunch discussing it). Once we have a basic design we like, they will price it, then when we settle on the price, we will look at paying money for full plans to be drafted.
Good news too is that they are willing to allow us to have our own qualified tradesmen lay flooring and do data cabling. Another positive is that it was very evident that Tom (Fairmont CEO and Builder) knows the Estate Guidelines very well!
On an anecdotal note, its funny the strange place we are in with regards to our thinking. Because we were so far along the timeline with Rawson we’re in “finishes mode” thinking about brick colour, kitchen cabinetry, windows, internal colours etc …but we no longer have a house design. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!
Below are the plans we like and that Fairmont are re-configuring to fit on our block:

The upstairs design is a new one they came up with due to the increased demand for upstairs living. Mick and I just love it! ...Though we will be sound-proofing the common wall of Beds 1 & 4, adding some more wardrobe space in Bed 1 (probably by adding a wall for the bed to go against and wardrobe space behind) and a double-vanity to the ensuite (I refuse to share a powerpoint and vanity in the morning any more!).

Lastly, some words of wisdom, we felt important to share, for those undertaking a build for the first time: Don’t be fooled by the finish of a Builder’s Display Home (like we were). The price given for the house includes almost nothing of what you see. For instance, (not to pick on Fairmont,as they all do it, but Fairmont's plans and prices are the first to spring to mind) the Dominico 40 on display at Gregory Hills’ starts at $334,970…to build it exactly as displayed (though still not including landscaping or driveway) costs $397,420. That’s $62,450 worth of upgrades like sky-lights, wooden bi-fold doors, really nice tiles/cabinets/carpet/paint/tap ware, higher ceilings, corner windows, floor-to-ceiling tiling in wet areas, cupboards in laundry, air-con, alarm system, ceiling fans/lights/tiling in alfresco areas, render on façade, balconies etc etc. Depressing, isn’t it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another week in paradise

So Rawson answered our ‘hurry-up’ email with a new Variation asking for, you guessed it, more money! It now turns out that we need a very specific hot water service (gas-boosted solar…or something along those lines) and, of course, Rawson missed it and want to charge us $4.6k extra for it! They also want more money for the changes we’ve asked. Surprise, surprise.
Again, we find ourselves bitterly disappointed with Rawson Homes. As far as I am concerned, they are at fault for not realising the hot water issue. They either purposefully withheld this (and the roof issue) to get more money from us, or they are incompetent and I have little faith that they can deliver a product that will be approved by the Developer. Either alternative is not a good one.

As for the rest of the charges, it seems that builder’s mark-up is a one-way cost. Anything we cut-back on to save money is so inexpensive to do and yet, if we were to add it, it costs a fortune! I especially like the part where removing an internal window from downstairs doesn’t save us any money but adding one (exactly the same specs) upstairs costs money! The price of the house now is ridiculous and it would take a very long time to recoup the value in re-sale and that doesn’t include electrical changes or any unforseen upgrades (we haven’t even had the colour-selection appointment!).
Mick wants to wire the house up for data (and can do so really inexpensively with the help of one of his friends who is a licenced electrician) but Rawson won’t let him (apparently due to OH&S reasons, though our friend is a licenced tradesman) but when we asked earlier if they could then instead offer the service themselves, they said no. Now, all of a sudden they do offer the service (so, was our CSO lying earlier or just incompetent?) and you do not even want to know how much they want to charge us.
 They even added a change to this variation that wasn’t asked for (extending the feature rake to the entire house), but that’s ok cos they’re not going to charge us for that…probably another thing they left out of the original tender!
Lastly, they sent us another email about changing the façade because the one we’ve chosen doesn’t have a roof that conforms to guidelines. They say that changing the roof to conform actually costs money but that we can save money by choosing the cheaper façade and we’ll save $10k…too bad it cost us $16k to upgrade! Now, if the roof and finish don’t equate to the extra cost in changing the façade, it must be the balconies (and we would like to retain at least one because of the view) but Rawson said themselves, neither are substantial in size and basically implied that neither are worth it! What a lovely company that belittles its own design and, therefore, our choice of it.
So where does this all leave us? With either a house that we can’t afford or don’t want.
In short, we would be better off switching to a company with realistic designs and costs, better understanding of the guidelines and who are nicer/easier to deal with. Rawson have been nothing but difficult since we signed on the bottom line and have not apologised nor offered any assurance of change. We gave them a chance, but we’re out. Good luck to them in this economic climate.
So, this Saturday we’re heading to Kellyville to meet with Cosmopolitan (to keep our options open) and on Sunday we’re meeting with Fairmont.
Cosmo are the cheapest option, but their reviews are terrible and I suspect that they will be just as painful to deal with as Rawson. However, if they can give us a home we like for less money (and we can get it all in the tender up-front), they are already ahead.
Our hopes though lie with Fairmont. The meeting with them is actually booked in with their CEO and Builder and they seem keen for the business. They’re relatively new to the project home scene (prior to that they built mostly commercial and luxury custom homes and renovations) and seem to be working hard to make a name for themselves. They’ve won several MBA Awards this year and last, are building a home for charity, built the Sales and Information Office at Gregory Hills and have lots of ‘house and land’ packages about the place, including the other unbuilt block in our estate (ingenious design they’ve come up with for it too). They seem to have a good rep amongst the few that have built project homes with them so far, and the developer that owns the Sales and Info office at Gregory Hills gave them a great reference (you can see all of these details on their website). I also hope that the fact that they’re building in our estate separately to our block, means that they have a good handle on the guidelines. At the end of the day, as Mick has said, even if Fairmont are comparable in cost to Rawson, if they are nicer to deal with, we’ll be happy. But I also think that the biggest issue we’ve had with Rawson is that they were great until we signed on the dotted line. I plan on not giving any money or signatures to the next builder until I have a Tender that includes everything we can think of.
And on the home-front, Mick and I have to finish cleaning up tonight in prep for the carpet getting laid tomorrow. We’ve thrown a lot out and put most stuff away in the laundry and kitchen (not being carpeted) and tonight, one of Mick’s mates, Dave, is helping him move furniture we’re not keeping to the garage (to get tipped) and the BBQ (cos as Dave wisely suggested, we should move it before the new carpet is laid). After the carpet is down, I will box up what we’re keeping and organise a storage bin so we can slowly start the moving process. Re-tiling the kitchen, laundry, W/C and bathroom will be next and then we’ll put the place on the market….
Hmmm, we should probably also look at tiles this weekend…
I’ll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The slow-march forward

We’re now fighting a war on three-fronts. Fairmont Homes have been lovely and very fast to deal with, but we’re not enthused by their design or inclusions. We’re currently debating whether or not to pursue changing the plans and tender. I know they are up for it, but the propect of starting at square one is a bit too much to bear right now. I’ve included their design below:

Cosmopolitan got back to us (a little slowly) and their prices are competitive (all-in we’re looking at $30k less than Rawson), their inclusions are good and we like their design (with some modifications). Here’s what we propose to change their Ecco 35 to:

Now to Rawson: We were less than impressed with our last meeting with them, and we haven’t heard back from them yet. Below are the changes we want to make to the design. There are some compromises and some upgrades:

 (If you think the amount of red is bad, you should see the electrical plan changes!!!)
The dilemma: The Illoura (with our modifications) is a wonderful house and we love it…but we’re not sure we can afford it (comfortably). The Cosmo home is also a great design (with changes) and we like it very much. Not as much as the Rawson home but it’s cheaper and probably a more suitable design for a young couple. Do we really need a formal dining room (Illoura)? Can we live without a study (Ecco)? What about having a separate W/C? We don’t need a walk-in pantry, but it’d be nice and beats having a really small corner pantry…Hmmmm. I think it will come down to how much Rawson will do our design for. If it’s reasonable, it’d be next to impossible for us to say no to…but I’m not holding my breath and the bottom-line can be very persuasive. 
And on the home-front, new carpet is getting laid next Friday and I have asked for a quote for epoxy-resin flooring for the wet-areas (not all the tiles have to get ripped up then) and Mick is organising a second quote on tiling. This Sunday will be packing day to try and make it easier for the carpet guys.
So where to now..? I think we need to wait and see what Rawson say then have a visit with Cosmopolitan and weigh it all up for good.

EDIT: I'm having trouble posting a comment back to you drewrenee so here it is:

Thanks so much. Not long after this post Fairmont got in touch with us and seem really keen to build us what we want. Their builder went past our block and apparently has some good ideas. It's nice to hear that they are good to deal with before and during the build. We are meeting wth them next Sunday to discuss exactly what we want and, as Mick put it just a few moments ago, "We like the Rawson plans but I don't know how much longer we can deal with them" (language slightly cleaned up). Rawson got back to us at about 4:30 Friday arvo after a 'hurry up' email from us, and it was a half-baked email that told us nothing new and would have taken 5mins to do. I also contacted Cosmopolitan (who seem to have a worse rep on the forums than Rawson) about arranging a meeting and have, so far, heard nothing. So, we're heartened by your words and hope Fairmont can be the go!

We'll have to continue sharing our progress :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Negotiations Continue

We met with Rawson’s GM on Saturday and it was…underwhelming. No apology made (unfortunately they were that slick that I didn’t realise this til after the meeting) and when given details on where their issues lie and what I and others have found to be areas for improvement in their process, I was basically told “Well, that’s your opinion.” And finally the truth came out & they (finally) confirmed that our roof doesn’t meet guidelines and won’t be approved. SO, where does this leave us…we asked that they re-draw the façade with a roof that meets guidelines and to give us a reduced costing.  If we are satisfied with what they get back to us with, we will then meet with their draftsman to go through our plans room-by-room and tell them exactly what we want and the price we want it done for. IF they can meet this, and guarantee our tender price, then we will continue with them (which would mean paying the $7k for council submission).
Later that day we also met with Fairmont Homes. They have great reviews and their sales staff, as with all builders, were helpful and I have no doubt that they could provide us with a quality home. We’ve left them with our site plan and a spec for what we want from a home based on their existing design called Dominico 37. We also did the same with Cosmopolitan and their Ecco 35. We are definitely leaving our options open! Though at this stage, it is unlikely that we will build with GJ Gardner. They have been lovely to deal with but their homes are not really designed for our estate and their quote they gave us for a design based loosely on the Cosmo home we like is much too expensive.
I’ll be drafting up changes to Rawson’s Check Plans and Tender to include everything we can think of that we want for our home, so we can be prepared for the sit-down with the draftsman if/when we come to that.
On the home-front, we have been too busy with work to have packed up much of Mick’s unit and whilst we have had one quote for re-doing the bathroom, we need a second. Then we need to pick a tile and vanity and arrange for the work to actually get done. Then we need to have the kitchen re-tiled, some spot-paintwork done and the carpets replaced. Then we need to put the unit on the market, hire a storage bin and removalists etc etc…*sigh* still a long way to go yet. All of this is a blessing in a way because the money spent on re-doing the bathroom and re-tiling the kitchen will be well worth the increase in value to the unit and speed of sale, especially with insurance and strata pitching-in.
Block-update: we drove past yesterday and the rubbish from the building site next door is slowly growing on our land (if anyone wants some discarded bricks we have a small pile for you), so I can already see me donning the gloves and throwing it over our neighbours’ fence if they don’t clean it up soon. On a positive note, the red-hot pokers on our block are flowering, and let me tell you, if they can survive the conditions they’re in now, I want to keep them. They look great and are obviously very hardy! This reminds me, we have found a landscaper on the web that looks promising. We like their designs and they offer a full service at a reasonable price. When we are sure about our house design, we will arrange a meeting with them. I have a pretty good idea already on what we want; I just need some finer design ideas and professional muscle to do the more laborious tasks. Click here for a link to their webpage, and we will keep you posted on how we get on.
You know, I’ve never heard of anyone having a smooth time of building but this ordeal has been much more “epic” than we expected.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Small steps

So, we sent Rawson a comprehensive email detailing our issues and suggested resolutions then met with the salesman we had initial dealings with, yesterday. The upshot is that Rawson are looking to correct some issues they have in their process and the CEO and GM will be meeting today to discuss the email. Then they will settup a meeting with Mick and I to try and fix things. Mick and I appreciate their efforts and hope that we can come to an agreement, as we know Rawson can deliver us our dream home. It's a shame that it had to come to this, but I hope we can help them correct their errors to help us and others have a smoother time of what should be an exciting experience.

If they can work with us to bring costs down and lift their customer service, then we will arrange another meeting to discuss final changes we have, and (hopefully) sort the plans out once and for all.

I have attached a copy of the email below, removing references to names within Rawson. As much as we want to share our experience with others, we need to be careful that what we say isn't seen as slanderous or a personal attack. It is certainly not our intention to be mean-spirited and we hope that we can make this work and are glad to see that both parties appear to have the same wish....I might have to put a disclaimer on our blog like I have seen with others...Hopefully it is clear that the opinions expressed in this blog are soley Mick's and mine and blah blah, you know what we mean :)