The Pitfalls of Using a Home Developer

House and land packages are being marketed all across Perth as the way for everyone to attain their dream home at a price that seems too good to be true. As architects we have a different perspective on these housing developments. We work on projects of all sizes and are well versed in building costs and what you can get for your money, and as the saying goes ‘if it seems too good to be true it usually is’. Unfortunately people can be caught out by what is promised by home developers and what they actually receive.


One of the biggest disadvantages to an off-the-plan home package is that you are getting a “cookie cutter” house design. Every single person lives a unique lifestyle, so if developers only offer a few designs they are making people fit their lives around their house, rather than their house reflecting their lifestyle. Perhaps you love the outdoors and want to be able to open the house up seamlessly to a large garden, or perhaps you have a specific hobby that needs a room custom built to cater to it, or maybe you love entertaining and want a scullery and a kitchen that opens up to a large alfresco area. It also means that the house has not been designed to suit the particular site conditions. It is not designed to capture the best sun in winter, and shade in summer; it is not designed to capture cooling cross-breezes in summer, or the best views. Therefore these houses do not integrate sustainable passive house principles, making it virtually impossible for these houses to be highly sustainable. Essentially, to be able to offer houses cheaper, developers use ‘economies of scale’ – that is, if they can design just a few houses and use the design multiple times, then it is cheaper for them.


Something that also stings a lot of people is that there are often many hidden costs in these projects. While you are promised that you can customise some things and change the plans to suit you – the changes you can make are actually very limited and it is not advertised very loudly that these incur costs. Additionally you cannot assume that everything is included in the package price or the exact materials that will be used, additional costs may be required for certain features such as fittings, and some items may be swapped out for others during construction. So what initially seems cheap, as soon as you customise it can add up to a more significant figure.


Off the plan houses are also often designed around what is trending currently. This makes them very appealing in the present, but means that they do not age well. Rather than being based on an individual’s personal preferences that tend to endure, the style and materials are chosen for what is in the current home décor limelight. While this makes the projects seem very modern and trendy when being built, it means that they date very easily and risk not holding their value as well.


Last but not least, we see a lot of these projects being built using cheap construction – the materials are often not very durable, and they do not last. Solid materials are often swapped out for cheap substitutes with an imitation surface finish, which are easily damaged. Fixing chipped plasterboard, stained surfaces, peeling veneer or bubbling laminate can all add extra unexpected costs to your house.


While these cheaper houses mean that the housing market is more affordable to those with lower incomes, you may actually be surprised how affordable an architect designed home can be. With the right architect, they can save you money by identifying alternative design solutions and in the long run you will have a home that suits you and lasts.