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Thomas and Caitlin Weston are turning a bare piece of dirt into a family home with help from Sentinel Homes. Follow their journey as they turn their quest for a dream home into reality.
Thomas and Caitlin Weston are the epitome of a young Kiwi couple. After getting married, they saved as best they could for a house deposit while Caitlin finished her university degree. When Caitlin entered the workforce, bringing a second income into the equation, the duo began the hunt for their dream home.
“We went to over 100 open homes and got pretty close with a few,” says Thomas. “In the end, we bought a house that was in a great cul-de-sac location, but to get it up to scratch it needed a lot of TLC (and all the other three-letter acronyms: DIY, OMG and more than a few WTFs).”
To build or not to build
Thomas and Caitlin spent the next two years completely gutting and renovating the house inside and out. But they were then faced with a conundrum.
“The house was completely refurbished from top-to-bottom and was probably going to reach its highest price if we sold it while that was all fresh. But for the money we could sell our existing home for, we could only buy another do-up, or move ‘sideways’ to a similar or worse property,” Thomas says.
Thomas admits he couldn’t face another doer-upper straight away, so Caitlin started looking at alternatives, which included buying a section and building.
“I always thought there would be no way we could afford to build new,” says Thomas. “But we found out pretty quickly that building new makes sense on a lot of levels.
“For us, the biggest thing when buying an existing home is that the layout rarely suited our lifestyle. And changing layouts is a major. It seems you can choose to live in a house that doesn’t quite suit your needs, or fork out the money to move walls which I didn’t really want to do.”
Furthermore, Thomas noted additional benefits to building new including fully insulated homes, with double-glazing that are significantly more energy efficient. “If you were going to bring an existing home up to this standard, we found you could easily end up spending more time, money and energy than building new and getting exactly what you want.”
Plans with purpose
The Auckland couple found a section in the exact location they had always wanted to live and, together with Sentinel Homes, put together plans that means their home will be tailor-made to suit their lifestyle.
“I wanted to be able to make all the decisions regarding layout and design, but I didn’t want to have to manage tradies, deal with the council and be on-site too often,” admits Thomas. “Sentinel does all that for you and that was a major draw-card for us.”
What’s more, the couple didn’t have to over-extend themselves to do it.
“One of the conditions of getting the construction loan from the bank was to get an independent valuation of the final home (the land + the house as it was proposed on the architect’s plans). The valuation came in over $100,000 more than the actual cost of buying the land and paying for the build. We had gained instant equity,” says Thomas.
Thomas and Caitlin have also been impressed with the support they have received from Sentinel throughout the process so far.
“At each stage, Sentinel have a specialist team member to liaise with you who takes care of that part of the process. They report back to you every week (or more frequently) with progress and let you know well in advance if they can foresee any hiccups.
“They also priced-in really well. Once we found our section, we really shopped around to find the best building company and found that the base-line specification for Sentinel was a lot higher than a lot of other building companies. This meant it was all pretty WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) with them. We put together plans and everything was included in our fixed-price contract: right down to the clothesline and letterbox.”
Thomas and Caitlin are documenting each stage of their Sentinel Homes build with a blog. Join their journey as they turn a bare piece of dirt into a family home.
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