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Taking the leap into homebuilding

New Homes writer Erick Lopez is in the process of building a home with his girlfriend Shauni Levy. Over the next couple of months we’ll follow his journey from land purchase to lock up and move in, along the way garnering some sage advice for other prospective homebuilders. In part 1, Erick outlines the couple’s decision to build.

The beginning of May 2020 feels like an absolute lifetime ago, the rumblings of COVID-19 was on the way with about three cases in Western Australia at the time. Shauni and I remember it so well because it was when we made the decision to take a leap and build our first home.

Fast forward to now, we’ve managed to secure our land before the grants were announced and set to gain from about $80,000 in subsidies, estate bonuses and savings.

Our decision to build our own home came very suddenly. Shauni had just finished her honours degree and gained a full-time job. At first we were just looking to move out of our parents’ homes and have our own space.

We started looking for places to rent and we had three main criteria – no house sharing, in the northern corridor and cheap. A shortage of rental properties meant homes which fell within this criteria were pretty grim.

For $300 per week we were pretty much looking at an attic with a bed and stove – great. We kept looking for rental properties hoping something suitable would pop up, but they never did. As a casual employee at the time, and in my last semester of my journalism degree, our budget was limited.

Around March, we started to hear of low interest rates and house prices, making it a good time to build or buy. After doing our own research and looking at house and land packages, we discovered that the mortgage repayments were not much more than renting costs.

We thought, why not take advantage of the low house and property prices and pay towards our own mortgage rather than someone else’s? So we looked into land at Alkimos.

Our borrowing limits meant we had to build on the outskirts of Perth. Alkimos was an easy choice for us – despite its distance from the CBD, we were attracted by the coastal lifestyle and it is only 15 minutes from where we live now, so we know the area.

Deciding on land and house options

At first, our options of house and land was limited. We looked at several cottages and rear garage-style housing. It became hard to judge what the block sizes were when looking at hectares of sand.

We came close to securing land in Trinity – a 6m front block across the road from an amazing park area. But we later noticed an electricity box across the road and read the affects this could have on resale value. We decided to keep looking and we’re glad we did.

A few weeks later we were contacted about new estates becoming available. We were told of a number of 10.5m front openings five minutes further north in Amberton Beach, and they were within our budget.

What initially seemed out of reach was now within our borrowing budget. We knew this was exactly what we were looking for and we couldn’t let it pass us.

Within a few days we put a deposit on the land and were on our way to building our first home. Little did we know what was on the horizon, both positive and negative – COVID-19 lockdowns, the sudden possibility of our loan approval folding and also the announcement of state and federal building grants.

Next week… COVID and the grants announcement.

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