We learned many lessons through the experience of building a home, and over the past three years I've been more than happy to give others advice on how to avoid some similar dramas, inconvenience or cost. I wish someone had done me the same favour....
One thing that we wish we'd known before signing our contract is just how cheap and nasty the appliances are that builders include in their packages. We knew we were getting basic models, but we thought they were a decent quality brand. Ha!
Back in 2001, we renovated our old place and installed a new kitchen. We were on a strict budget so there was no chance of prestige brands. But we ended up with appliances that had plenty of useful functions, looked good and performed really well.
At around the same time, our neighbours installed a new kitchen too. They had a bigger budget than us and I was envious of their stone benchtops and their Blanco appliances. The dishwasher and oven were so fancy and as far as I'm aware, they've not had a single problem with them.
So when we found that we were getting Blanco appliances as part of our building deal, we thought it was Christmas. Not so.
The dishwasher was so basic that we couldn't fit wine glasses and dinner plates in it at the same time. It didn't really have any functions other than um... wash the dishes. No delay start, no half load, nothing. And it was noisy. Watching TV in the family room while the dishwasher was running meant turning the volume WAY up. Worst of all, the design of the front panel was so bad that it couldn't withstand normal use - after three months of opening and closing, the handle broke off. Impressive.... We had that fixed under warranty, but it soon broke again. *sigh*
We thought the 900mm dual fuel upright cooker was pretty good to begin with. But we soon found that the oven didn't heat evenly. You should not have to turn food in a fan-forced oven to ensure it doesn't burn on one side. And the control knobs are cheap and nasty - the silver finish wore off one within weeks of installation.
The appliances were installed on the 10th December 2008. On Christmas Eve just gone, the dishwasher died. It just gave up the ghost in the middle of a cycle. Great... We took advantage of the Boxing Day sales to replace it with a much better one - and this one is so quiet that for the first few days, I kept checking that it was actually running.
Then the other night while cooking a roast, the oven lost power. All other power and lights were still working, and a quick check at the meter box revealed that its circuit breaker had been tripped. Uh-oh. We reset the switch and power was restored. Only...the oven temperature was dropping rapidly and we realised that the bottom element had blown.
Needless to say, we're unimpressed. We could have the oven fixed, but frankly, it's not that good and we have no confidence that something else won't go wrong in the near future. So it looks like I'm going appliance shopping again.
So my advice to anyone building? Do some online research on appliances before you accept whatever the builder is offering. Go out to a retailer and actually look at the ones in your package deal - open and close them, see what the quality is like. And if they're not up to scratch, DON'T accept them.
A lot of builders won't swap their appliances, but you can buy your own, get the builder to install them for you and leave theirs in the boxes. Then sell them and get some cash towards your (undoubtedly more expensive) purchases.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.