holding pattern

It’s the middle of summer. Nothing much is happening, because nothing much can happen – everything (including us) is just trying to make it through the heat. Waiting for rain, waiting for cooler weather, waiting for the sea breeze in the afternoons.

We’ve been heading up to Gallifrey every second weekend with barrels of water to top up the water tubes. So far, most of the baby fruit trees are still alive. Even the apple tree that the bloody kangaroos / wallabies tried to kill is still going, having shrugged off losing its entire top and being ringbarked during a week of 40 degree + temperatures. Clearly that one is a winner. Two of the four fig trees don’t seem to have made it, after severe damage from heat and grasshoppers and wallabies, but the other two are thriving. The dates look good, and the olives clearly know that they belong in a climate like this.

Currently our main focus is on starting the process of building the house. We’ve got our planning approval from the council for the entire distributed house plan, with no conditions. That was easy, where I expected it to be one of the hardest parts. Now we need to (a) get engineering and energy efficiency drawings and specifications done, and then (b) get building approval, (c) convince the bank to extend our mortgage to cover the cost of building, and (d) get a builder who won’t charge so much that we can’t afford to build at all. Not necessarily in that order.

The plan was to owner-build, but it turns out that the amount the banks are willing to lend to owner-builders is “up to 60%” of the total end value of the house and land. None of my calculations can make that one work out, unfortunately. With a building contract and a builder, the maximum loan becomes 95% of the total end value, so even though we don’t need a builder (we can project manage the build ourselves, and deal with tradies and contractors) and it’ll increase the cost of building by 30 – 100%, we pretty much have to have a builder.

We have a valuer looking at the property tomorrow, who will then tell us how much it’s currently worth in the eyes of the bank. That, in turn, will tell us how much we can possibly borrow. And that will tell us what our budget is for the per sq m cost, since builders all quote per sq m. Current calculations indicate that we need the builder to charge $1000 or less per sqm m, which may be difficult. We’ve had one quote so far, of $2000 per sq m. If that’s normal, I don’t know how anyone can ever afford to build. And our house is non-standard in design and materials, and not within the normal suburban radius of town. It’s a little depressing.

In parallel, we’ve been talking to a few drafties and structural engineers about the building approval. Current best quote is about $5000 to do all the drawings and specs we need, from a lady who is very professional and seems to know all the things. I’m inclined to go with her, but I have another quote coming this week, and I’m waiting for the valuation to be done as well.

So much waiting, interspersed with flurries of contacting people and politely asking them to just tell me how much it’ll cost to do the things rather than waffling around the numbers. I hate waiting.