a buildher building tale
with anna crawford - it's never too late to learn!
A house is more than just a building - a fact that even experienced builders can learn and build on under the mentorship of the BuildHer collective. Today’s guest is no exception: developing for profit, managing interiors, styling and of course the building - Anna Crawford does it all. She is a BuildHer, DevelopHer and a loved member of Rebeka and Kribashini’s inner circle. She represents half of a building design team Crawford Building completed by her builder-husband and she plays a critical role in managing the business side of building. They recently had success with the sale of 6 Simpson Street, Kew in Victoria - an architect-designed double-storey dwelling with four bedrooms, two living areas and two bathrooms, that was built from scratch - and Anna discusses the challenges of revealing the soul of this house when starting from the slab.
Rebeka and Anna discuss Anna’s latest project, feasibility studies, managing sale price expectations, developing for profit and the difference between developing existing houses and starting from scratch.
If you have a topic or question you’d like us to cover, contact us here.
SOME TOPICS THAT WE COVER:
The importance of your feasibility study - manage your property price expectations
Not every project is going to be a “knock it out of the park” profit
Selling allows you to move forward onto the next project
There’s no such thing as a perfect site
Breathing soul into a new house built from scratch
Pros and cons of renovating for profit and living in your houses-in-progress
How the BuildHer Collective community help build Anna
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
Crawford Building Website
Anna’s Instagram: @crawford_building
Anna’s Current Build on Instagram: @halecottage1926
BuildHer Collective on Instagram
We have several Facebook Groups at BuildHer Collective.
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BHC DevelopHers Circle and BuildHer Collective Members Only - these are closed groups for women who are doing our Build Like a BuildHer course or who have joined our DevelopHers Inner Circle.
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Anyone is more than welcome to join our Women who Design, Decorate, Renovate & Build group. You will note that it's a closed group but ask to join and if you're into building and renovating, this is such an amazing and supportive FREE community, so come on and join in the building goodness!
Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below:
Rebeka: Hello, lovely BuildHers. Today, we have Anna Crawford. She is a BuildHer, she's a DevelopHer, she's an amazing natural at styling and interiors and all things building actually. We're going to have a chat to her about what it's like to be part of that course, but also what it's like to be developing for profit and to be running a building business and well, all things building. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Rebeka: Hi, I'm Rebeka.
Kribashini: I'm Kribashini.
Rebeka: Welcome to Building with BuildHer.
Kribashini: Our Podcast, we believe that building is fun, super fun, so much fun.
Rebeka: BuildHer Collective was created to help women with building and renovating. We believe that with the right tools, everyone can build. For us, it's all about encouraging women to take back control of the building process and really achieve their dreams.
Kribashini: We are women in the building industry, and as developers, builders and project managers, it's our passion to share everything we know with other women doing the same. That's why we've created this podcast for you.
Rebeka: If you love all things building.
Kribashini: You're into design.
Rebeka: Keen on the numbers.
Kribashini: About to renovate.
Rebeka: Thinking and dreaming of that forever home of what it would look like.
Kribashini: Or even developing for profit.
Rebeka: Then you've found your family.
Kribashini: Subscribe to our podcast and follow our journey over at buildhercollective.com.au.
Rebeka: Welcome back BuildHers. We have a special treat today. We have Anna Crawford. She's a BuildHer, she's a DevelopHer, she's in our inner circle, and she is kicking goals. She's one half of a building design team. Her husband's a builder. She's actively involved in the business, and then they do speculative builds as well as building for other people. They've just had a house hit the market last year and it was incredible. I do urge you to click through the links and have a look at her house because she has some talent, I can tell you. I thought it would be really interesting to introduce Anna and see, I guess, partially why she joined BuildHer given that she's already got so much building knowledge - she's already doing it - but also just hear about her renovation story and how she ended up at this point.
Anna: Well, it's interesting when you say, "Why am I a BuildHer?" I actually had that question from a lot of people, "Why are you a BuildHer when you're building and doing all this and have done it for a long time?" I'd say, "Well, exactly because of that." Because we are building and that's not the only thing when you build a house, there's just so much more to it than just the building. Whilst we've been doing all that stuff before, it's just been what we thought was the right thing or what we felt was the right thing, but I felt with joining the BuildHer, that that's really put a bit more process in place for me. I've learned so much, plus with the network of other women, you just have bouncing ideas and really just improve your own way of thinking and doing these things. There's always so much to learn.
Rebeka: And I always find it's that wish to do things better that pushes the project further, that pushes the next build.
Anna: Yes, absolutely. You've been in this a long time as well if you look back at the first project that we did, it was actually here in Northgate on Mitchel Street, a little single-fronted place that we bought, and we lived there. It was just me and my husband at the time. We lived through the whole renovation, everything. We had a tiny budget, and by the end of it, we felt like, "Oh my God, massive mortgage." We felt like we should probably sell it, so we can start over again and have a smaller mortgage. That's what we did and we did really well out of that. Then it's just rolled on from there, and for every project, we become a little bit more professional about it. Since joining BuildHer Collective as well, that's really put a like, "Wow, there are actually lots of other women doing this and they're all doing it really well." It's just been amazing. I can't wait to get stuck into the new one.
Rebeka: We have a plan in front of us and Anna's bought this week. We've bought and sold in the same week, and it is one hell of a project. It's going to be amazing.
Anna: I'm so beyond myself excited at the moment. When we put this house in the market, we found it really hard to know what we're actually going to get for this place. There was a number of factors that had to do with that. In fact, in this case, we had a business case, a feasibility study. In this case, our conservative worst-case scenario actually played out for us, which isn't the success story you want to hear, but that really, I think, put how important it is to have a feasibility study and be prepared for that worst-case scenario to happen. We still made money out of this project, but it wasn't the--
Rebeka: It wasn't a knock-your-socks-off. I would say that only 1 in 10 projects is knock-your-socks-off, out-of-the-park, unexpected.
Rebeka: Everything else you expect because you know the market. You might have a range and it might be at the lower or the upper end of that range, but you're prepared for both. I've had projects that have sold at the lower part of our range as well. I've had projects that have sold at the upper part of our range, but I think as I've said to you, sometimes the range is $500,000. T hat could still be a good project at the lower half of the range, but it's a little bit disappointing given how much work you put into it.
Rebeka: Sometimes it's at the upper half and you like, "Yes, well, I think that was fair and reasonable." Sometimes, very occasionally, 1 in 10, you knock it out of the ballpark and that range is nowhere in sight and you're like, "Hello!"
Anna: Look, I'm very happy for the new owners of this house because they got a good deal and I'm happy for them. Since I have already bought, I feel I can live with-- because you can't go and dwell on these things, but I am happy that I have bought something new because that's my focus now.
Rebeka: Yes, because you buy and sell in the same market, and sometimes selling means that you can move on. If we get fixated on these upper ranges, and we can't move forward, sometimes the moving forward is actually more valuable than fixating on a price. I've had that situation in one of our very first houses. It was nowhere near what the real estate agents had us expecting. We bought and sold basically at the same level, but that was the best decision because we were able to move forward with our journey.
Anna: Absolutely. I didn't know that at the time that I signed the contract, is this the worst or the best decision I've ever made? Because you are giving up something, it was our family home.
Rebeka: A beautiful one.
Anna: We built it and it suited us really well. You got all those things in place already, and then to pull that all the way to go somewhere unknown, not really sure what it was going to be, for us, it was important to move forward. We love doing this. It would have prevented us from doing this. You want to make money along the way, but you don't want to lose money.
Rebeka: You didn't lose money, you still made money. You just weren't at the top end of your scale, you'd run the numbers on the conservative side and that's where it ended up. I think we always have the hope that you'll end up at the upper-- [laughs]
Anna: Yes, of course. We have been lucky in the past and we know we're hoping it to go that way again, but it didn't.
Rebeka: Do you mind talking about the reason, actually what was the reason? The house was beautiful, but the site constraints that you bought when you made that purchase are the reasons, it's the same reason why it was--
Anna: When we bought this house four years ago, I got to the site. Basically, it's one of those houses that read as one from the front of the street. It has a party wall, so basically, two houses attached.
Rebeka: The roofline pitches up towards the central peak, and that central peak is a party wall. It looks like it could have... it wasn't, it was built as two... but it looks like it could have been built as one with a wall put down the middle.
Anna: That's right. It was one of those houses and that was a risk that we took when we bought it because we knew well. At the time we bought it, we actually didn't know that we could demolish our part, we thought we probably can't. The council probably won't allow us, but they did. Anyway, the fact that it's got that house next door, and the fact that that house is in a really, really bad condition, some people might get really put off by that because it looks like no one cares about it at the moment. Anyway, I knew that when we bought it.
Rebeka: But you also would have bought with that as a factor in the sale price of purchasing it, right?
Anna: Yes, exactly. That was the key because I wouldn't have bought it if it went for more than what I paid. I happened to be the only bidder on this house. There was a crowd, I was the only one that bid. No one else bid and I'm like, "It's mine. I'm going to have it." I put my hand up and that was the only bid that happened. It was passed in, I got the opportunity to negotiate and I got it, had put in just a little bit more and then it was mine. When I bought it, I felt-
Rebeka: You bought well.
Anna: - like I had won the lottery because I felt that was a good price. That's key.
Rebeka: It is key, but sometimes, that's the thing when you're buying a site and you're selling, the new site doesn't have any constraints on it. It's beautiful, but you can buy-- Sometimes your journey, there's no such thing as, I think we've spoken about this before, there's no such thing as a perfect site. Although you may have found it and snapped it up for the next house. Basically, the perfect site has everything you could ever dream of, but then, generally speaking, it'll go for too much because everyone can picture what they're going to do with it. By overcoming constraints, you're able to buy things at a rate and then hopefully the build can overcome that but sometimes it can still present an issue and that happens for everyone's site, whether it's the main road, whether it's flats, whether it's a party wall, whether it's location to shops or a bus stop. There are always things. Overlooking neighbours. It's how you overcome.
Anna: It's a thing that, what do you do? Do you try and shield off? But is that at the same time-- If you shield off something, it might--
Rebeka: Draw more attention to it.
Anna: Yes, it's finding a balance to it. At the end of the day, I told my husband, Jason, that we have to be prepared for the scenario when we sell that this is going to put people off and if for wonderful reason the next-door house gets renovated or anything done to it in the next years that we're going to live here, then that is just an amazing bonus. We've just got to think of this is as it is and this is what we have to work with, basically.
Rebeka: I think here you actually had a really good-- Whilst it wasn't at the top of your range, you had a really good outcome. What you were able to achieve with that party walling intact. One of the beautiful things that you probably, unless you've looked at the photos, wouldn't know or been to the house is that the entrance had a beautiful corridor and it lit well. It had a beautiful sense of light and was quite emotive when it came through it. It was high, it was open and then the light.
Anna: We have lots of beautiful light through the house, which is really good. I always love the back there with our kitchen and living area, an outdoor, indoor. I feel with the constraints that we faced along the way, we had a few little planning issues as well. I'm really happy with what we had. As I said in the beginning, we didn't even know that we could actually demolish and build new when we first bought it. That was a bonus that we got along the way. We made that decision based on the cost assessment.
Rebeka: Based on the numbers and your outcome, right?
Rebeka: If you had just built with the existing house in place, the numbers would have been different but also what you could have built would have been quite different as well.
Anna: Yes, absolutely. I feel confident that we made the right choices and what we have, that was at the end, a really good outcome.
Rebeka: What's your background? Because you'll notice that she's got a beautiful sense of style and a great sense of how things come together and enviable, I would say, it all flows seamlessly. What's your background to be able to do that?
Anna: You probably can hear my accent there as well. I am from Sweden. I've lived in Melbourne for a bit over 20 years now. I'm not sure if it's because I'm Swedish that all this come about. I don't know, I've always loved houses. As soon as I put my foot in Melbourne, I just started going to auctions everywhere because I just love-- and I actually lived here in Northgate then as well and just loved property and auctions and just dreaming of how I could possibly live in one of those houses one day, what I needed to do to make that happen. That is the key thing for me. I was passionate from day dot coming here. I had nothing when I got here, two backpacks pretty much. I just worked hard and saved up for a deposit and got into it eventually, but having the interest and looking at a lot of different houses, looking what people have done--
Rebeka: And you didn't start with a big renovation and the dream home. You had to build up to that as well?
Anna: Yes, exactly.
Rebeka: You started with the single front.
Anna: Yes, and then doing a few little projects ourselves and I don't know, just being-- I guess a self-learning process.
Rebeka: You're passionate about it.
Anna: With this house that we've just sold now, that's where I felt, during that building process, I think that's the first time I felt I actually feel like I'm not enough at the moment. I feel like I need to really sharpen my learning here because this is different, it was a new house. The other houses we've done already had a story. It was an existing home. It was easy to set the tone to what was already there. This was a different ballgame. That's what really made me like, "Hang on, I'm not as good at this as I thought I was." It felt like I need to find a soul for this house. How do I breathe soul into a whole new house?
Rebeka: It's really hard.
Anna: I just found that looking back, that maybe it would have been clever if I had just taken a little bit more help, maybe being part of the BuildHer Collective at that point would have been a great thing for me because to bounce ideas.
Rebeka: I'm not sure we had started yet. [laughs]
Anna: It's never too late.
Rebeka: Never too late. That's the thing, you're constantly trying to hone your skills, like we were talking before that we've both dabbled with doing interior design courses.
Anna: I know.
Rebeka: I've started them twice. I've also done two years of an architecture degree.
Rebeka: I know, right? Way back when.
Anna: I was very motivated when I started doing the course earlier in the year. It's been a year of change for me because I've always done another-- I had a corporate career on the side of running the building business, but I stopped doing that about a year ago now. It's been the busiest year of my life.
Rebeka: That's very scary.
Anna: Yes, it was very scary-
Rebeka: The security of someone else paying you.
Anna: - but I also thought I'm going to have too much time in my hands, I'm not going to be busy and then, of course, I'm very good at finding projects and finding things to do. Immediately, I found myself I was too busy. I had to defer my start date of the studies and then eventually, now I'm going to start. Started, and then didn't take long until all this house selling/ buying business started and it again knocked me out.
Rebeka: Because it takes time. It takes focus and energy to do it properly. I think that's what I like about the way that you're addressing and assessing things. It's like, "Okay, well, I have a certain amount of time. What's the best use of my time at this point? Is it developing, honing and making sure that the next project is the best it can be?" Because this is your thing. You're a developer. Sometimes it takes a long time to do a project, but that time gets quicker as the funds grow and as the developments get-- and as you grow that entire system.
That system with the branding, the building, the business and the who your purchaser is and what type of project you buy, how you get that through Council, how you get those building plans and the whole system, it gets quicker.
Anna: Absolutely, even though I've made a decision to not continue on interior design studies right now, I still feel like I'm going to do all that anyway. I'm super excited about getting stuck into this next project and I am certainly much better equipped moving into this project than I've ever been. I don't have my corporate career to focus on, I'm part of BuildHer Collective and I can be much more focused with this one than I have ever been able to be with any other projects. So you can see expectations of myself are up here as well.
Anna: I better cool this thing off now.
Rebeka: It gets bigger with time. It would be worth for everyone else if I just give a quick explanation about the different ways that you can get involved with BuildHer and the different ways we can help. We've got the Build like a BuildHer program, which again, you said was helpful because it was that holistic sense of as a builder, we wouldn't put you straight into that program where your partners are-- because it's really about renovating and building your own home. Then we've got the Master BuildHer program and that's really about developing for profit. It's been through a little bit of a change, but it's 10 weeks and it really goes from the beginning to the end of a project, we're looking at both, not just the projects, so right this project here that we're looking at, it'll be a micro project.
This is a project, this is how the feasibility is going to work, these are the numbers, this is how the project is going to guarantee a profit. That's fine, but then that sits underneath a macro system, which is, how does your building business work? How do the two things tie each other together? How are you funding the project? What are the risks, how do you continue to get borrowing? How does the brand work? How do you build up a customer base? How do people know what you're doing and know to seek you out and have a waiting list of people that are ready to buy your house? Really, that's what we're focusing on: building the system that sits above that kind of micro building level.
Then we've got the DevelopHers Inner Circle, which is what you're sitting in, it's like an add-on program at the end to be part of that group of people that all are developing for-profit and are doing this as a career. For us, we're really passionate about obviously helping people do their dream home but also helping women like you who are so good. There are so many of us, actually, when you get out there, helping women bring those dreams to fruition. Because it can be hard and it can be lonely.
Anna: Yes, it can actually be a bit lonely because I've felt that you can't just go-- you can, but you don't always get the response that you might be after. If you talk to anyone that doesn't really have the interest, they just don't understand why on earth you would be moving home every two years to achieve what you want. They just cannot understand it and they're like, "Aren't you ever going to stop?" That's all they have in their mind.
Rebeka: Family home. [crosstalk]
Anna: You can't go in and whinge about some of your problems that you may have when they don't understand you.
Rebeka: Some of it's not that fun. [laughs]
Anna: There's a downside to everything. I don't love moving either. [crosstalk]
Rebeka: I don't love moving, do you?
Kribashini: Not really. I think at this point in time, I'm moving out of this house next Friday and you're fit to move in a couple of months too. It's a process. It's worth it, but that doesn't mean that with kids and with a family, that it's not an emotional process. Having your house on the market is an emotional-
Anna: It's very scary.
Kribashini: - process.
Anna: If it was just me and my husband, it wouldn't be that bad, but it's just everything else, the community we live in, the schools-
Kribashini: Everyone's watching.
Anna: Yes, you got their eyes on you and your kids have expectations as well. It's just all of that is scary, but you still have to believe though that things are going to work out the way it's supposed to work out. I just believe there's a reason for everything. I live by that. That's why I don't feel scared to pull up my family and go because I know things will work out in the end, even if there's a bit of a bumpy journey along the way.
Rebeka: You're looking at the big picture. The big picture is a really positive one. We're working at home, we're doing all these fun things with our day, but there are pieces along the way that are a little bit less than fun.
Anna: Absolutely. It's me in my office, it's me and me and me and nobody else. I make phone calls and things to people, of course, like in any job, but at the end of the day, I don't really have any work colleagues. That's why for me, to be part of the BuildHer Collective community, it means everything to me. I have to say, I haven't been as active as I would have liked for the last couple of months because I've had this project but it's just good to know it's there. [crosstalk]
Rebeka: You can draw in and out. I think we went and did a house tour, make sure you check that out too. We did a house tour a couple of months ago, it's a period of time where you're running up to selling your house. There's so much happening, it's so busy and then you're waiting. That's a really funny change because it is like this: everything, everything, everything, and then all of a sudden, it's like-- I know we could talk. We'll probably get off the podcast so we can talk a little bit more about your project now.
Thank you so much for joining us and sharing with us. All that you're doing now, if you go to our Instagram page, we'll link you up with Anna or there should be links on our website under podcasting to both building business and what you're doing like your last house so you can have a look. I really appreciate the time you've taken to come talk to us but also really how passionate about building and everything that you do.
Anna: Thank you. That was totally my pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
Rebeka: All right BuilderHers, we will speak to you next time.
Rebeka: Thanks for listening to Building with BuildHer. We'd love for you to spread the word. For show notes, links and downloads and other awesome resources and freebies, head to buildhercollective.com.au. Don't forget, that's BuildHer with an H-E-R.
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