When we first purchased our home in 2014 I had the idea that the land was big enough to accommodate a granny flat that we could rent out to pay the mortgage and hence retire sooner rather than later. We are now in the process of getting ready to build our 60m2 2 bedroom (or 1 bedroom and study) granny flat. Essentially we only want to rent this out to a professional couple or older single. Kids and pets don’t really suit us as we are living in the house at the front with our own 2 dogs and cat and don’t want too much disturbance in terms of noise. I have designed the bedrooms as one very big bedroom and one very small bedroom that could just fit a single bed in it if required but is much better suited as a home office or separate living area as it opens onto the entertaining area and rear yard. The house faces North and has lots of trees behind it in the South providing it with additional support.
After having so much downtime in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid I have realized I don’t really want to retire too soon as I love what I do and I pretty much only have 2 speeds – flat out or lying on the couch watching TV. My husband on the other hand, being a tad older than me is keener to retire sooner rather later.
I started looking around at various granny flat companies and discovered a lot of them did not build outside of Sydney. We are in the mid Blue mountains about half an hour West of Penrith. All had similar prices and I knew we were looking at around $120k to build a granny flat. The two main players were Cuthbert Granny Flats and A1 Granny flats both with showrooms in Penrith. The salespeople I dealt with were John and Josh respectively. I could not fault either of them. They were very happy to help and answer the millions of questions I had. I particularly liked that they had a building background so really understood the nuances of the prospective build.
We decided to go with A1 Granny flats for 3 reasons.
- I felt the finishes were slightly better in the show room
- they were approx. $20k cheaper which meant we could afford to put a much needed driveway in as well once the granny flat was built
- the most important aspect being a Feng Shui Master, I could completely design every aspect of the build myself which was awesome. It meant I could ensure there was prosperous energy at the entry and in the Master bedroom, the stove could be in an optimum spot, supporting wealth, prosperity and status for the occupants and that key activators in the house like air conditioning motors, toilets, showers, washing machine, dryer, sinks, fridge, meter box and dishwasher were in the correct position working for the occupants rather than against them.
We thought the process would be quicker than it was and at times we got quite frustrated with the lack of timely responses to our questions. We officially signed up on 1st September, 2020 and in our minds we thought the drawings and council approval would occur prior to Xmas and the build would occur in January and be completed ready to rent out by March. It is now 1 year exactly and things are finally looking like they are progressing with the excavation team looking likely to start this month.
It seems that the delays were because of a few things and I don’t think this is the norm (hopefully) for others thinking of starting this journey.
I was VERY fussy when it came to the plans. The original version was quite good as it was based on the practicalities of how I wanted the layout but until I had an actual accurate floorplan I could not work my magic in terms of the Feng Shui assessment. Version 2 and 3 had some changes that were required in terms of the positioning of the stove and fridge and some of the windows and by the time we got to Version 5 it was just the bathroom towel rail that had to be moved. The issue was these minor changes seemed to take weeks to be finalized and sent back to me for approval which is where it became frustrating.
The other delay occurred with the submission of the council plans. Even though our block is on over 1000m2 the long driveway apparently does not count in the overall square metreage. Council have a rule that you have to have at least 40% greenspace and therefore no more than 60% of building footprint and hard surfaces. Our plans came in at 65% footprint so we had to work out how we could greenify an additional 5%. We have lots of paving around our home and this is classed as a hard surface. The stupidity of this rule is if we put down fake grass or cover our brick pavers with loose gravel it then qualifies as soft landscaping so this is what we are going to have to do to meet this requirement. This is not really practical as the brick pavers are in the South of the home which does not get much light so no grass would survive here. Artificial grass looks quite tacky and gravel will become a slip hazard as we also have an outdoor spa located here. Anyway, you do what you do to tick a box and get things approved I suppose. This cost us a lot of time getting sorted out – like 2 months.
The other issue was council needed a 25m2 open area off a living space for the occupants to enjoy. We had to change the plans a little to incorporate this aspect.
I am sure Covid did not help with the progress especially the 2 week shutdown for building that occurred in July. Some of the building team are located in the hotspots so cannot work unless they have 1 vaccination and testing every 3 days so of course this would have a delayed flow on effect to current granny flats being built. Thankfully the excavation team lives out of the hot spot areas and mid Blue Mountains is not in a hotspot so this should ensure no further delays to preparing the site for the build (fingers crossed).
One of the most exciting times was when we got to meet with Stefan to choose all the colour palettes of the tiles and flooring and paint and fittings. It took us a good 3 hours to go through everything and hopefully it will all come together beautifully. I chose more grey finishes than earthy finishes as metal is a great element to use to harmonise any challenging energy whereas earthy tones can make the challenging energy stronger.
Another aspect I love with A1Grannny flats is they have a 12 week schedule and if the property is delayed then they pay you $400/week for each week after the 12 weeks it is delayed by. So I’m hoping the granny flat will be completed by December and we can get council to provide an occupation certificate prior to the Xmas shut down so we can then have it available to rent.
There were additional minor costs associated with this build due to some optional value add ons which you should also have in your contingency budget. We opted for increased ceiling height, inclusion of a skylight and additional high window to allow in more light and a larger front door to welcome the Chi. There were some additional excavation costs which we were made aware of at the beginning which was good due to the slope of our land. As we are in a bushfire prone area we had to get a bush fire report completed to work out our BAL rating which then indicates additional costings that are required to incorporate more fire proof materials. We got a BAL of 12.5 which increased our costs by around $6200. So what we thought was going to be $118k ended up being $128k which for what we are getting we are still happy with. We were also happy to pay A1 Granny flats $10k to manage the development of plans and liaison with council as that sounded like one big headache we didn’t want to drain our energy on. I feel even though it was a drawn out process and took longer than we wanted, it was still worth the investment. A big thanks to Mathew for sorting this out for us.
Additional to this was some new fencing and attractive retaining wall we wanted to fence off our backyard so it was quite separate from the granny flat and some dead trees that we needed to remove around the house that could potentially fall on the granny flat. Whilst these were getting done we got rid of a few that were dangerously swaying over our home as well. We have already had 2 large trees fall on the house since we purchased it – one a major insurance claim and the other a roof repair job so we don’t want to take any chances. By the time we put the driveway in we will no doubt have spent around 20% on top of the value of the granny flat all up so be mindful if you are going through this process to have some $ up your sleeve to really finish everything off properly.
I will be posting regular photos as soon as excavation and building starts so stay tuned!
PS. Our builder conducted a site visit last week and the peg out of the site commences on Tuesday with excavation occurring later in the week. IT IS HAPPENING!!