Architecture & Building

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant, Custom Builder, Interior Design

Integrating smart home technology in your new home

If you’re building your own home in 2020, you have a unique opportunity to achieve true home automation by implementing smart home technology into your design from the early planning stages. 

Imagine waking to your favourite song; your blinds letting in the light while you’re still snug under the covers. Imagine your coffee pouring into your favourite mug while you’re singing in the shower. Your mower tidying up the lawn and then putting itself back on charge in the shed.

Imagine being notified that it’s raining and you’ve left a window open, or walking through your front door after a hectic day to find your dinner in a hot oven, almost ready to serve….

‘Who is this mystery man?!’ you ask. No, this is no man, live-in butler or maid and this isn’t the set of ‘Back to the Future’. This is all now possible with the latest smart home technology. 

We’re now living in the ‘ask and you shall receive’ age and there’s bound to be a smart gadget or system to deliver every smart idea you’ve ever had.

What do you NEED?

As a starting point, ask yourself what you need. Integrated smart home technology won’t necessarily increase your home’s value, so the integrations must benefit you and your family. 

A smart coffee machine won’t be of any use if no one in the house drinks coffee. Perhaps you want to make energy savings or a state-of-the-art entertainment suite. 

Is home security is at the top of your list? If you have various people coming and going, perhaps a system that allows temporary access without giving outsiders a key would put your mind at ease.

Whatever it is, know your smart home needs from the outset and don’t get distracted by the latest gadgets if they won’t serve your lifestyle.

Get busy planning and researching products now.

When your smart-tech planning starts before building commences, you can focus on implementing the right infrastructure to support it, that will accommodate the latest technology and withstand future advances and innovations. 

The number one smart home essential is Smart Wiring and this happens at the framing stage before the walls are up. Smart wiring is a system that combines multiple wires into a single platform, allowing the integration of various smart home systems and sensors, with the capacity to add more later.

USB points are also essential in today’s connected lifestyle – where everyone in the family seems to have at least 10 or more gadgets to charge up by USB. Trust us, these won’t be a wasted commodity in any household!

It goes without saying, the foundation of any good smart-home is a strong internet connection, additional data points and a high-quality router to handle all the new smart devices that use your network to make your life easier. Without that, a smart home is not very smart at all!

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant

How to have a good relationship with your builder

Building a high-end home may occupy up to a few years of your life. Spending that much time with someone is what some might consider a ‘long-term relationship’, and just like any relationship, both parties must work at building, nurturing and maintaining it. 

Rest assured, many real, life-long friendships have formed between builder and client and your new home will be better for having a harmonious foundation! Read on for a few tips for building a great relationship with your builder.

Respect.

All good relationships are built on mutual respect. Respect that your builder is a professional with years of knowledge and experience – that’s why you have chosen them for the job. Likewise, the builder needs to respect that it’s your dream home and your money funding the project. 
As long as there are mutual respect and consideration, things should remain positive and the relationship will strengthen over time.

Communication.

Equally important as respect is to a relationship, clear and open communication is also key. Most builders aren’t mind-readers and would prefer to cut to the chase to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and confusion, which will make the process more stressful than it needs to be.

Open clear lines of communication from the beginning. Share phone numbers and emails. Decide who will be the point of contact for both sides to reduce the chances of conflicting conversations to derail the project.

Set clear expectations.

Make your expectations clear from the very beginning. A good builder will listen and give you options to what they think is reasonably possible based on their experience, professional opinion, and your budget.

It’s also important to discuss expectations about communication and quality. Do you expect a daily or weekly update? Should your builder expect you to stop by the site regularly or would they prefer to call you first? What quality level do you expect?

Finally, make sure it’s spelled out in the contract so there are no disputes later on. 

Understand that changes will happen.

No matter how well a build is planned, understand that unforeseen factors can and will come into play. If you’re the type to break out in hives if your lunch plans change, you may need to practice some meditation.

Accept that changes, delays and problems are a part of nearly every build. The only thing you can’t count on is when to expect them!

It’s best if you can have a conversation about how to handle changes at the onset so everything’s clear before you begin building. If you’re making design changes after the build is underway it can throw things off and create a lot of extra work.

Life happens and can get in the way, but don’t let it unravel your relationship.

Architecture & Building, Construction Consultant

Steps to building a custom home

While the steps of building a high-end custom home with a boutique builder like Merit Homes are generally similar to that of building a cookie-cutter home with a commercialised home builder, there are several parts of the custom build process that are unique and require a lot more thought, input and hands-on involvement. 

That’s the best part, though. You become an integral part of bringing your dream to life.

You choose your team;

make the decisions;

determine the style and design;

select all the elements; 

and you can hand over as much or as little of the process as you like.

We’ve put together a general representation of the custom home-build process. Every experience will be unique, but the basic road map and final destination are the same. 

Read on for a brief overview and return back soon to delve into each step in more detail.

Dare to Dream

Homes are built from a single dream. You find inspiration in the strangest places. You gather a collection of wonderful, sometimes wacky ideas. You obsessively research products and new technology, building materials, design and locations. The dream grows over months and even years, until one day… you’re finally ready.

Budget and feasibility 

Speak with your accountant, financial planner and bank about the financial feasibility of your project and put together a budget. Allow 10-20% of your total budget for a contingency or emergency fund. Unbudgeted surprise expenses are guaranteed, and not allowing for them could mean not being able to complete the build.

Build your dream team

Your core team will be made up of your architect, builder and interior designer. It’s most important to build an open, honest and comfortable working relationship so that everyone is on the same page. 

Remember to draw on your team’s knowledge and expertise for guidance. You don’t do this every day – they do. Be open to change and different ideas and have trust in their input.

Finance

Finalise your finance and budget. It’s important to be upfront about your budget with your team from the beginning so they can design a home to suit. 

Find your build site

Location is the most important part so don’t rush it. Consider the view but also the site costs, accessibility, excavation, council zoning and restrictions. Can you build what you want? As well as your real estate agent, work with your solicitor and architect to identify suitable sites. 

Architectural design

You’ve purchased the block, now you can move into the design phase.  

There are 4 steps to the architectural design process: 

Programming; 

Schematic design; 

Design development; and 

Construction drawings. 

Feel the earth move!

Once the design is complete and your permits are in place, it’s time to prepare the site for the construction phase. This means excavation, ensuring utility connections are going to the site and ready to connect, and everything is ready for construction to commence.

Construction

Remember, an expansive custom home like yours will take much longer to complete than a mass-produced standard-built home – and so it should! You can help by making timely decisions to help prevent unnecessary delays.

Finishing touches

As your home is near ready to occupy, you can start planning the finishing touches. But beware: our insurance doesn’t allow external contractors to complete works while we’re still on site. 

Get everything ordered and ready to go by all means, but don’t book in any on-site appointments or installations until we’ve signed off and moved out.

Move in!

 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder, Interior Design

Outdoor inspiration for a happier, healthier you.

Outdoor inspiration for a happier, healthier you.

#FACT: Spending time outdoors, and indeed living close to nature – ie. parks, sporting fields, bushland and beaches – actually makes you happier and healthier. 

Being outdoors, even for short periods, can improve your short and long-term memory, brain function, immune system and lower cortisol – the stress hormone. Other health benefits include reduced blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, inflammation and anxiety. 

Most of us would agree, there’s nothing quite like clean, fresh air and a glimpse of sunshine to brighten one’s mood. Oh, we’re absolutely dreaming of summer! Nights out on the patio, Aperol Spritz in hand, squeals of laughter as the kids run amok in the backyard.

In Australia in the 21st century, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor inspiration. Gone are the days when a rickety old picnic table and umbrella out on the lawn would suffice – although that still has its place for hosting a good time, too!

At Merit, we get to see and create some spectacular outdoor spaces. Some of our favourites include indoor-to-outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition outside through wide openings of floor-to-ceiling glass.

Covered alfresco dining elegantly clad in earth-tone natural cut stone and natural timber accents against lush foliage – a real celebration of nature’s rich goodies!

Then there’s the two-sided fireplace…. And the bench seating circled around the firepit in the far back corner of the backyard. 

But perhaps the one on everyone’s wish list right now is the state-of-the-art, fully-equipped outdoor kitchen – that can often rival most people’s indoor kitchens! 6-burner BBQ, a smoker, pizza oven, meat fridge, wine fridge, granite benches – and a view!

Or far less extravagantly – sometimes, a simple hammock under the shade of an old oak tree, a great book and a string of twinkling fairy lights springing to life come night time can be just the ticket to shift the mood out of brood.

But definitely sign us up for that outdoor kitchen, though! The thought of sizzling up a tender, charcoal-grilled steak on the barbie has us feeling warmer already…

 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder

Reasons to build an all-inclusive turn-key home

Why you should consider an all-inclusive turn-key home.

Packaging everything together into a ‘turnkey’ building contract is making life easier for many Merit Homes’ clients. While our clients may be building a luxury home, often what they lack is the luxury of time to spend researching, organising and carrying out the finishing touches themselves.

It’s one of the main reasons clients ask to include elements like landscaping, window treatments, home security, smart home systems, an outdoor kitchen or a swimming pool in the final product. If you don’t have the time – the energy or inclination – to organise these items yourself, an ‘all-in-one’ building agreement is a great option.

When building a luxury home, you usually have a specific vision in mind. Part of that vision is premium craftsmanship and attention to detail.

A Merit Homes turnkey project can also include items like air-conditioning, solar systems, pools and pool fencing, landscaping, paving, letterboxes, security gates. decorative lighting and built-in cabinetry such as wardrobe fit-outs, bookcases, window seats and media units.

Read on for some great reasons to consider a turnkey home.

There’s less for you to organise.

Outsourcing everything to your builder is great when you’re time-poor and don’t need the added stress of rounding up contractors to add the finishing touches. You’ll love the convenience of knowing all the heavy lifting is being looked after so you can focus on family, work and lifestyle.

It’s quicker.

For insurance reasons, we can’t allow you to organise ‘owner works’ while we’re still on-site, but if the project is turnkey then additional items can be scheduled and carried out as part of the build – thus, you get into your new home sooner. 

While you’ll pay a margin for us to take on the purchasing risks and coordinate the works, you can save yourself substantial time, stress and money – especially if you’re renting while building. 

We get the best in the business.

As well as engaging the best contractors to get the job done, Merit Homes has an excellent working relationship with its suppliers, so we get priority when it comes to ordering, processing and delivery, ensuring things happen as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.

A better idea of the budget.

Including all the finishing items in your building contract means everything is accounted for right from the start. 

Consistency of quality and style.

Entrusting us to take care of the entire project ensures you get a home that flows cohesively and is exceptionally stylish – as though it’s all ‘meant to be’. 

Let the experts handle it.

When you’re investing in a big complex home build, you want a certain architectural style. You need experts who appreciate the attention to detail and can bring specialist skills and insights to the party.

You still choose what you want.

If you build with us as a turn-key option, you still be able to choose exactly what you want. You can work with our interior designer, or we’ll happily work with yours. Regardless, every last detail is still your choice. 

Architecture & Building, Custom Builder

Things to consider when buying a block of land

So you’ve painstakingly researched and selected your builder and have struck up the beginning of a great working relationship. No doubt you’re keen to get started as soon as possible. 

You’ve probably started drafting a floor plan and ‘mood-boarding’ with magazine clippings of great interior styles, selecting the appliances, the fittings, colour palette, and all the luxury extras you’ll cram inside….

But hold on a minute – pump the brakes! Before going any further,  where will you build this magnificent new home? It’s rarely as simple as it sounds.

Here are just a few of the things to factor in when selecting the perfect piece of land for your dream home. 

Location, location, location

When it comes to owning any piece of real estate, nothing is more crucial or important than where it is. Is the area already established with the essentials close-by? 

If it’s a newer area, what new developments are planned? For example; supermarkets, shopping centres, doctors, schools, sporting facilities? Where’s the nearest hospital? How accessible is it to main roads or the nearest city? Aim to buy the best block you can afford in your chosen area.

School Zoning

An increasingly important factor is a property’s school catchment zone. A premium price is put on homes that fall within the catchment of schools considered prestigious. 

The more parents wanting to enrol their kids there, the higher the premium placed on properties in its catchment area. Even if you don’t have school-aged children, you should still consider school zoning relevant to you. 

Why? If homes in a highly-sought school zone fetch premium prices, you, as an owner will also benefit from a premium sale price, rent or bank valuation if you ever want or need to sell, borrow against or draw on some capital.

Search properties by School Zone on Domain.com.au 

Council zoning & building restrictions

Council zones and restrictions exist to protect everyone’s interests. When you buy land in a quiet residential street, council restrictions ensure you won’t wake up next to a high-rise building, abattoir or a speedway race track. 

The council also determines how high you can build, how much of the block you can build on, and even how far back your home must sit. 

This maintains street appeal and protects every home’s value. Similarly, if you buy land in a new estate, the developer may have their own restrictions and requirements in addition to the councils, protecting the look, quality and livability – thus, inspiring people to live there and maintaining the land value. 

Easements & building envelope

Most blocks will have some sort of easement on it (an area you cannot build over), so you shouldn’t automatically run away if you find one on a block you’re looking at buying. What’s important is where the easement is and how much it will affect your plans. 

If it’s along the rear or side boundaries, it probably won’t bear too much impact on your plans. However, if it’s running diagonally through a standard residential block, it may render the land totally useless.

Block terrain

Having a spectacular view is a wonderful bonus. But spectacular views usually come with the sort of block terrain that requires high additional site and earthworks fees to prepare and flatten areas of it for the house to sit on. 

Choose a block that’s as flat and level as possible. If it’s not an option, just ensure to factor in additional earthworks expenses into the budget.

Good luck!