Choosing the Right Block for Your Melbourne Dream Home
For most people, the detail of their dream home is all in the structure itself. They have a clear view of the size and shape of the internal spaces and the features they want to see included. Many will also have picked out their favourite materials and finishes and have several ideas about their statement styling choices.
However, when you are building a home, the land it sits on is just as important as the structure itself. Pick the right block, and your dream design will fit perfectly into the landscape. Pick the wrong one, and you may need to adjust – or completely abandon – your long-held plans.
Thankfully, there are a couple of key features you can use to assess the suitability of any block. To work out whether a block is right for your dream build, carefully consider the following characteristics.
The location of the land
The first thing to consider when selecting your block is where you want it to be. Almost every other characteristic of a block can be changed or worked around, but the location is set. As such, it is critical you find land somewhere you can – and want to – live.
In many ways, the perfect location is all about proximity. When you finally move in, you want the services and amenities that matter most to you to be readily available. This will make daily life much easier and will ultimately dictate the liveability of the property.
However, having ready access to everything you could want is usually not possible. As such, some compromise will be required, and you should carefully consider what your top priorities are. Some of the key things to think about are:
The commute time: If you need to travel to where you work, look at how long this trip will take. Public transport connections and local peak-hour traffic congestion can have a major impact on commute times, so considered these carefully.
The access to local services: What amenities do you access on a daily or weekly basis? Choosing a block close to these will save you substantial time and effort in the long run.
The school zone: If you have, or are planning to have, children, easy access to quality education will be a must. It is best to think long term and consider both the primary and secondary schooling options in the area.
The views you want: Do you want to be able to see the city or the water from your bedroom? If so, you will need to find a block that can provide these views.
A block of land has various qualities and characteristics to consider when designing your home. It’s important to know what they are and to be aware of the potential impact and design restrictions they incur.
Vacant land v Tear down and rebuild
While most people would prefer to build on a vacant block, this is not always possible. This is particularly true in urban areas, where most available space has already been developed. As such, if you want to build near the city, you may need to consider a block with an existing structure.
More often than not, this will be a more expensive option. Almost any building, no matter how dated or dilapidated, will add value to a site. However, replacing an existing structure does have its advantages.
Most significantly, if an inhabitable structure exists on the land, it means that there is planning permission for a residence. This provides a precedent that can make the application process much easier. It also means that services (like water, electricity, and sewerage) are probably already connected to the site.
Importantly, knock-down rebuild sites usually exist within established communities. This is a major difference to new build developments, where infrastructure is built over several years. In these locations, it can take time for the community to develop as construction is finished and people move in.
When considering a knock-down rebuild, it is important to bear in mind the future value of the property. It is easy to overcapitalise on such a project as you are paying for a structure you do not want. And, while construction costs may initially be more than the home’s value, you still want it to be a good long-term investment.
Like many things in life, the property market moves in cycles. Strong market growth may increase the value of properties, however at certain points of the cycle, the value may remain steady or even decline.
Knowing what point the cycle is at when you are considering your purchase will allow you to make an educated decision on the price you are willing to pay for your property.
The size, shape, and slope
Once you have chosen your broader location, the dimensions of the available land should help you choose the exact block. The right one will have the space you require and a shape that suits your design. It will also allow easy access for your builders and, preferably, on-site storage for materials during the build.
The fall of the block is also an important consideration. Unless you are planning a split-level design, a flat base will be required for your build. This can be created via extra earthworks or by elevating the house. Either way, it could add significant cost to your build.
The planning requirements
Depending on where you build, there will be a range of restrictions you need to adhere to. These rules vary between areas and dictate everything from how your property looks to where it sits on the block. Common planning requirements include:
Building height: Most suburban areas will have a limit on how tall a building can be. These rules are designed to help protect the privacy of the neighbourhood and prevent overdevelopment of the area.
Heritage overlays: In areas with a significant or important history, new builds may not be allowed. Or, if they are, the façade will need to match the look of the surrounding properties.
Distance from the boundary: Some councils require new homes to be a minimum distance from the edge of the block. These rules are designed to help maintain space between properties and provide visual relief within the streetscape.
Green space: Some councils also require new houses to have a minimum amount of open or undeveloped space. These rules are designed to help protect against overdevelopment and preserve the amenity of the area.
Bushfire protections: In areas that are prone to bushfires, all new houses need to adhere to certain design standards. These rules are designed to help protect the home (and its residents) from damage due to bushfires.
The local environment
Soil quality is a major consideration for any building site as it dictates how deep the footings need to be. In fact, many areas require a soil test as part of the planning application process. With this in mind, you should consider getting a geotechnical survey done when assessing the suitability of a block.
You should also check whether the area is prone to flooding. This should be disclosed to you as part of the purchase process and will form part of the sales contract. You can also do your own research by looking at the local topography and identifying any obvious drainage routes.
What are you willing to compromise on?
Not every block will be for everyone. In fact, most people will be put off by relatively minor issues, like a bit of a slope or a busy road nearby.
As such, if you are willing to compromise a little, you could make big savings on your land purchase price. You may also be able to secure a larger block or a better location by accepting a few ‘imperfections’. This is a particular true in highly developed areas where there is limited land available.
That being said, it is important to consider any less-than-ideal characteristics of a block carefully. Some problems, like a severe slope or limited access, could significantly increase your build costs. While you might save on the land, you could end up spending a lot more in the long run.
Some blocks will also require a little creative thinking to get the most out of them. While this may be an exciting challenge and could mean a much more bespoke home, it will likely cost more. As such, such a block would not be suitable for anyone with a fixed design or limited build budget.
Getting expert advice
If you are uncertain about which is the best block to buy, you should speak to a professional.
If you know what you want to build, consider engaging an experienced land sales consultant. They will know what is available and be able to advise which blocks suit your plans. They should also be able to provide advice on local planning requirements.
It could also be worth talking to your builder before buying a block. While a good custom builder will be able to work with almost anything, the right block will make their job much easier. They should also be able to advise on likely issues with the build and explain the impact on your budget.
As one of Melbourne’s leading bespoke and custom builders, Carmel Homes are experts in helping people find the perfect block. Our experienced team knows what to look for and are always happy to offer advice. Contact us to discuss your design plans and how we can help bring your dream build to life.
The Carmel Homes Difference
Carmel Homes is a price-competitive and service-focused family business, operating primarily in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. We pride ourselves on working closely with our clients to achieve a common goal: building beautiful craftsman homes that breathe quality - your dream home. Every project we undertake has a company director present, and we are always contactable.
To discuss your new home, duplex, or townhouse build, we invite you to contact us today.