Building a home is probably one of the biggest investments you make and getting it right is the only thing that comes to your mind.
Rather than just finding a house plan you like and handing over your hard earned cash for the next 30 or so years, why not consider the following 10 ways that you can save money on a house build!
Even though spending a lot in construction may seem fruitful, it is not always required. A builder or contractor may add up things that you actually don’t want and here is where you can save a lot of money. You just have to know exactly what you are spending on, even if you have no idea on how to build a house or aren’t handy.
1. Get chummy with your local council
If you have chosen a block you like, before even thinking about putting in an offer, grab the details of the block (lot and plan number) and head to your local Council. Even though when purchasing a block or a house, there will be a Council check. It is best to check on the big items now to make sure you aren’t wasting your money (or time) on a property that isn’t right for you.
Questions to ask your local government include:
- Is there a water or sewerage available on the block?
- Are there any sewer or water lines running through the block (you aren’t allowed to build over the top – this could affect where you place your house).
- Are there any easements over the property?
- Are there mine shafts on the property (you might need to check with the Department of Primary Industries for this one).
- Does the area flood?
- Are there any limitations on building on this property?
- If there are trees on the block that could get in the way of building, what permissions or obligations are required to remove them.
- Are there any local farms or factories that could affect the quality of life nearby?
- Does the block have any contamination or noxious weed notices that are current?
Another consideration is that the boundaries of the property are correct and match the Council plan. It always pays to check this information with the Real Estate Agent before signing on the dotted line!
2. Things to consider before buying a block
Will you need massive excavation and drainage works to make your house sit on the block? Site preparation costs are expensive. Whenever you need to remove dirt to make a house pad, it is inevitable that you will have ongoing draining issues far into the future.
If you have a block that is slightly elevated, consider putting a house on stumps to avoid issues like drainage.
Also, have a look at houses in the neighbouring area. What type of construction are they? What way does the block face? Are there major overhead power lines around or do they have underground power? Are you on a busy road? Sometimes, if you pick up a bargain for a block – there is a very good reason why it is cheap!
3. Draw the plans up yourself before taking them to a draftsman or architect
When building, you need to consider all your needs, before all your wants. Resale value is also a consideration. Visit loads of display homes and take photos (or note down if they frown upon that) of what you like, and what you don’t. Consider all the space, as every single square centimetre of house will cost you money – so you want to make sure all space in your home is utilised.
Other things to consider when planning a house are:
- The more complicated the layout of the house is, the more it will cost. Keep it simple to save big dollars.
- Will the house still suit your lifestyle in five or ten years time if you decide to stay there?
- Remember the bigger the house, the more curtains, heating, cooling and floor coverings you need!
- Where is it in your home that you spend the most time? Spend the most amount of money making these areas more spacious and livable.
- Do you really need a spare room? Spare rooms are a lot of extra money to just sit there ‘just in case’ someone comes to visit.
- Will your car be stored under the roof in a garage – or will you have a shed to store your vehicles?
Once you have a good idea about what you want, list all the ‘must haves’ and start drawing an outline on a whiteboard or similar (where you can change your plans easily). Once you are happy, try grabbing some graph paper and drawing it to scale to see if it all works.
It is good to know exactly what you want before taking the basic outlines to a draftsman, and will save hours of time in planning!
4. Consider becoming an owner-builder
If you have a bit of time on your hands, and you are super-organised, why not save up to 35% of the house building cost and owner-building yourself! To go owner-builder, you will first need to get an Owner-Builder Licence (which is an easy test if you study the materials). Once you are certified, you can lodge all the details with Council. An owner-builder permit allows you to do works with costs exceeding $11,000. You will be responsible for engaging contractors, organising materials and lodging any works required for a Council approval. You cannot however actually carry out any work yourself that requires an occupational licence such as plumbing or electrical (unless of course, you have an occupational licence).
The only downside of becoming an owner-builder is that you are limited to one build every 6-7 years and you have no access to warranty insurance for the build once completed. So any faults found will need to be resolved yourself.
Some websites* that will take you through the owner builder licence include:
- Owner Builder Centre
- Absolute Education
- Australian Owner Builders
- Owner Builder Centre (NSW and Qld only)
*NOTE: These are just from a Google search, please ensure you do thorough research before paying money to these firms.
5. Shop around and source materials yourself
When hiring a builder, they will source all the materials themselves, with an appropriate mark-up on each. If you have the time and a place to store everything, consider doing some of the sourcing yourself. If you are totally out of depth with timber and bricks, even considering the fittings such as light fittings, carpets, flooring, fans, oven and rangehood can save you a bundle.
If you tell your builder before you start (before you sign on the dotted line), you can remove these from the overall cost of the build – and can spend that money yourself.
Look for package deals at local retailers, seconds sales or even places like Grays Online. But if you have contacts with family and friends – see if you can obtain other building materials to have on-site ready to go and save up to 40%!