Finding success against the odds
This builder went where others feared to tread to create the home of his dreams, writes
When this waterview block was listed for sale, there wasn’t a lot of interest. Sitting on a cliff, it was the site of an abandoned project which put other buyers off.
But for young builder Neil Hipwell, who dreamt of owning a home near the water, the site at Lilli Pilli in Sydney’s south was the perfect opportunity. Neil and his wife Krystal would soon have a baby on the way and planned to make a home for their future family.
To reduce costs, Neil decided to do as much work onsite as he could. A carpenter by trade and the owner of building company, Futureflip, Neil also designed the house.
The site’s former owner had DA approval for a house so Neil decided to reconfigure that design but keep the approved roofline, as changing the roof could affect the neighbours.
He drew up a design that spans three storeys and started building within six months.
“I got in there and pretty much did everything myself,” he says. “I did the excavation, I did all the bricklaying myself, all the concrete formwork and shell. It ended up being a pretty costeffective option for me because I was able to do everything myself with my apprentices.”
The previous owner had started a knockdown/ rebuild project but stopped after some excavation work. As Neil expected, once he got onsite, it was far from an easy build.
“It was a big cliff face and it’s about a 10m drop from the backyard to the front,” Neil says.
“The entire two lower levels of the house were cut into the rock.
“Because we built on a cliff face, half the home is underground on one side and then the northern side is all out of the ground.”
The excavation work and drainage needed at the sloping site were extensive, which created all
Sunlight streams into the upper level, which offers excellent views of the leafy suburb.
The home was built on a cliff and encompasses three levels.