Urban Road

Introducing first time home builders Katie and Mitch

Katie and Mitch, a young couple from Brisbane, recently completed building their first home. We sat down with them to hear their experience of building and get their top tips. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking you inside their home and sharing their advice with you.

Today we find out how the project came about and what steps they had to go through before they could build.

Related article: Katie’s top 10 tips on building your first home
Related article: Design greenery into your renovation: How to create an indoor outdoor connection

Block cleared
The challenging site of Katie and Mitch’s new home

“We purchased the block of land in early 2013 in Brisbane’s inner east, approximately 4 kilometres from the CBD,” says Katie.

“It was Mitch who found the block on realestate.com.au and although we weren’t looking to buy at the time, he (thankfully) convinced me it was a great opportunity. So we decided to check it out.

“A good friend of Mitch is a builder and we went out there together. We could immediately see why it was priced so well,” laughs Katie. “The block was a monstrous mess of trees and shrubs on a heavy slope and backed onto a railway track.

“Another obvious challenge was the split level street which would make access for trucks difficult. It was also in a zoned area so we would have to build to certain specifications.

“Although it would be difficult, our builder said it would be possible.”

Katie and Mitch block
First time home builders, Katie and Mitch, weren’t put off by the wild state of the block
Framing First time home builders

So you decided to go ahead with a challenging yet doable build?

“Yes,” laughs Katie. “We spent one year planning and saving and in May 2014 begun the build.

“Mitch designed the house himself,” says Katie. “He came up with the best plan for our block while taking into account the requirements of the Brisbane City Council’s character and small lot codes.

“Mitch considered Brisbane’s climate when he designed the house to ensure it would best capture breezes and provide solar access with northern facing windows to our living areas. He located the bedrooms at the front of the house and the active living areas such as the kitchen and dining closer to the railway.

“Once we settled on our design, we engaged a draftsman to create a final set of working drawings. And we worked with a town planner to assist with the necessary approvals.

The plans were approved but subject to a condition — the house had to meet certain acoustic requirements. This is a state government requirement for new houses being built near train lines to make it more comfortable for inhabitants — basically it means your house must be close to sound proof.

Katie and Mitch Floor Plan First time home builders
First time home builders, Katie and Mitch, designed the house themselves

How did you address the acoustic requirements in your build?

“We engaged an acoustic engineer to assess our block and find out what we would need to do to comply with the condition. Due to the topography of the land and requirements of the character and small lot codes, we were advised that it would be near impossible to comply without significantly over capitalising.

“One of the challenges was the need to use lightweight materials in the construction of the house to reflect the pre-1946 housing character of the area which in turn made it more difficult to control rail noise.

“Sticking to our original design was very important to us so we decided to fight the condition through a series of submissions,” says Katie. “We also made some adjustments to the design, including upgrading various windows and the doors leading on to our deck. After many months of negotiation, we were successful in having the condition removed and could begin building.”

Katie and Mitch home front First time home builders
Katie and Mitch home back First time home builders

Talk us through the house design.

“The house is a modern take on a classic Queenslander. It is a two-story home, with the lower story split over two levels.

“There’s an open-tread feature timber staircase as you enter through the front door. This leads upstairs to the home’s three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms, including the master, have french doors out to the front balcony.

“Heading downstairs leads you to a large open plan area which includes a generously-sized kitchen, living and dining areas. And doors leading out to our back deck nestled amongst the gum trees.

“The laundry is located off the kitchen, and includes a separate powder room. Back on the entrance level is a double garage with internal access and an over-sized study,” says Katie.

“We used Australian Beech hardwood flooring throughout the house other than the bedrooms which we carpeted. And we kept the colour palette simple using mainly white, charcoal and black.

“The bedrooms are painted in Dulux ‘Natural White’ with built-in wardrobes and mirrored doors and a walk-in robe in the master. They’re also fitted with ceiling fans.”

Open staircase
Open staircase First time home builders
Katie’s favourite feature of their new home is this open tread staircase

We’re going to wait to share details of the other rooms in your home. If you don’t mind talking money, readers often ask us how much a new build or renovation costs. Are you happy to tell us what you paid?

Many young people assume building is out of the realm they can afford.

“In our area, the current median house price is approximately $750,000. So we were lucky to get the block at the price we paid. We bought the block for $300,000 and completed the build for around $350,000. Plus we paid some additional expenses that weren’t covered in the build. For example, fees for a surveyor, draftsman, town planner and acoustic engineer.

“We were clever with the money we spent and were also always conscious not to over capitalise. Older houses of similar size in our area sell for above the money we invested so we’re confident we will see a good return when we sell.”

Thanks Katie for sharing your first time home builders story with us. We can’t wait to show readers the other rooms in your house soon!

More building stories and tips

Gina Beschorner Style Curator

Welcome to Style Curator, your destination for daily interiors inspiration, styling tips, reno advice, home tours and DIY projects!

We're on a mission to help you create a home you love. And with plenty of tips and tricks, tutorials and other home inspo, we give you all the tools to achieve it!

I’m Gina, Founder and Interior Designer, and you can read more about Style Curator here.


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    1. great article! So good to see how people are managing to build a home as many young people i speak to feel they will never get there- love those stairs!!x


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