Making sure you are prepared for your house build will ensure peace of mind throughout the construction process, and allow you to enjoy this wonderful milestone in your life. There are 7 steps to planning a house build, including budget, design, finding a location, buying the land, choosing a builder, blueprints, regulations and timelines.
1. Create a Budget for Building your House
It’s important to examine and draft your budget when planning a house build, in the earliest stage possible. Understand exactly how much it is you have to invest in a home build, and how much your realistic borrowing capacity is.
The cost of building a house depends on a number of factors, from the size of the home, to the location and condition of the land, architectural and specification levels. In saying that, it is possible to estimate the average cost to build a house in Australia with industry estimates suggesting a three-bedroom house in Melbourne will cost between $1300 and $2000 per square meter to build. While a four-bedroom house increases to between $2000 and $3000 per square meter. A double storey house will cost 5-10% above these estimates. Do note that these estimates are based on industry averages. Custom home builds, or any build with non-standard conditions, will typically sit outside of the average range estimates.
Once you have a general gauge of what you’re thinking, it is wise to get pre-approval for a construction loan with a bank or mortgage specialist and calculate how much in savings you are putting towards the project. Additionally, enquire about borrowing on top of that which you have already secured. It’s usually wise to have a contingency budget on top of the highest build estimate for a custom build, when working with most builders.
Different building companies have different payment methods, rules, and expectations. In most cases however, your building contract should detail a progress payment schedule, which usually aligns with the completion of each stage. This gives you the perfect way to keep updated with outgoing expenses as each stage will clearly state the percentage cost of the overall project. Generally speaking, a breakdown of the amount you will pay at each stage of construction is deposit – 5%, frame – 20%, lockup – 20%, fitout/fixing – 30%, and practical completion – 10%. Track your spending and be realistic about the cost of each stage, allowing for slightly more in the budget than predicted. If unavoidable expenses arise, at least you can account for every dollar spent.
While there may be some unforeseen circumstances that impact your build, there are definitely contingency plans you can implement to help stick to a budget. To start with, have a clear plan, including blueprints, a schedule and all materials to avoid having to make adjustments on the spur of the moment that could easily blow out the budget. An example might be: You have established a total price with your home builder prior to construction, then mid project you decide you want premium door knobs and handles, light switches, tap fittings, premium kitchen benchtops or premium balustrades. As minor as they may seem in the grand scheme of a complete home build, these pretty common upgrades can have a significant burden on the budget. Instead, be clear on non-negotiables, the categories you can and cannot afford to splurge on. Sometimes not every detail will be impeccable and have to be sacrificed in the short term to stay within an affordable range. You can always change certain elements down the track.
Whatever you do, remember communication is the key. Talk to your builder and other professionals at regular intervals throughout the process to make sure everything is on track and there are no unexpected issues brewing.
2. Choosing a Design
Bringing your dream home vision to life begins with a design on paper. Considering factors like taste, lifestyle, who will be living in the house, budget and land size will make sure you get the perfect layout for your new home. You might begin by choosing your preferred house style. You can get ideas from magazines, house and garden shows, or visiting display home villages to get an idea what style of home you like.
It is also essential that your home works with your lifestyle. To verify this, imagine living inside the house to work out what you need. If you like entertaining, a house design with alfresco entertainment areas or a pool room might be required. If you have children you may want a playroom. For teenagers, the idea of a separate teenager’s retreat might be just the thing.
Of course, family members are a big consideration when deciding on a house design. Bedroom and living areas are often decided by the amount of people living in the home. Large families will, most likely, require more rooms. A young couple may have extra rooms in preparation for a growing family, while older homeowners often require less space.
Once again, being realistic about your budget is imperative when choosing a design for your new home. Unless you have a high budget, keep your floor plan simple as this will be less costly. When designing your home, be clear on what is in scope for your budget and what features or materials may need to be put on hold for a later time.
3. Choosing a Location
Once you have your budget and design locked down, choosing a location is the next step toward your dream home becoming a reality. For those with young families, you may want a family friendly neighborhood. Parents with teenagers may decide to be close to schools. Young couples and families may be drawn to outer suburban areas for financial reasons. Taking into consideration the commute to work, how children will get to school, and nearby amenities is also a factor.
To ensure you are building in the right area, think about your lifestyle and long-term needs, connectivity, safety, and proximity to family and friends. Budget and affordability are important as you don’t want to overcommit and become financially strained.
With the help of professionals like builders and architects, investigating factors such as soil condition, drainage, zoning and building codes for the area is imperative. The cost to build your home can be higher if the house needs to be customised excessively for the location. A real estate agent can also be helpful when choosing a block as they have knowledge of which areas hold value, possible topical concerns, and the market value of each lot to help you avoid overpaying.
Block size is also a factor. Make sure the size of the block aligns with your needs, whether you want to build a large or small home, or the amount of outdoor area you prefer.
Another consideration is the value of the property, as you want to make sure you are getting the best deal. Research the area and block size for previous sale prices, particularly in a market where land values are constantly fluctuating.
For those who have found a block they love but it happens to have a home on it already, a knockdown-rebuild can be a great alternative, but still do your research to make sure all these factors align with your needs.
4. Buying land in Melbourne
Now that you have found the right block for you, let’s take a look at the purchasing process. Buying land, like any other real estate purchase, is very involved.
Once you have finance sorted, it is time to make an offer or contract of sale, which is the legal agreement with the terms and conditions of the property purchase. Most offers are either unconditional, when the money is available immediately, or conditional, dependent on either finance, or the sale of an existing home. You need to also check if the land is titled or untitled, as this is needed to transfer land from one owner to another.
The exchange of contract is the next step, which means both parties sign the contract of sale. Immediately after that, the deposit is paid and the land is transferred to your name. Prior to settlement, you should ensure that any conditions in the contract are met by their due dates, home loans are approved and new home designs completed.
When all conditions are met, and titles are issued, settlement takes place and the balance of the purchase price is transferred to the seller. At this point, you are officially the proud owner of a block of land.
5. Choosing the right builder
Choosing the right builder is imperative to ensure the quality of your future home. You can find a builder through word-of-mouth, advertising, online research, and more. Researching and identifying potential builders who have experience in your desired style of home, expertise in the specific features you want, and a proven track record of delivering high-quality results is essential. Compare quotes, contracts, licensing and communication styles to ensure that your builder is the perfect match for you. Finding out about their portfolios, workmanship, reputation, fees and financial stability is particularly important in today’s climate, as is getting references from past jobs.
By focusing on a particular location, you can ask real estate agents for any tips on good builders in the area as well.
Once you have narrowed down to a selection of your preferred builder(s), make sure you have a clear understanding of fees so that the build is within budget. It is also important to get the most accurate time frame possible from your shortlisted builder(s) as that could be a key factor in determining next steps.
Building a house is a collaborative project between the builder and client so effective communication is essential. Make sure you are on the same page regarding expectations about communication, how often, what information will be shared, and the method of communication.
6. Creating a House Plan
When creating a house plan, there are several options for obtaining workable blueprints for the new home. The level of complexity, your budget and building codes can be factors in determining how your house plans are created. For those buying a project home, building plans are already prepared. If you are custom designing your home, it is a good idea to hire a residential design firm, or a draftsman to draw up your plans. For those who have extremely intricate designs in mind, an architect can transform your ideas into a workable set of plans. Your builder should be able to point you in the right direction for house plan designs and offer some recommendations on professional services in the area.
Alternatively, if you think you’d like to try your hand at creating your own DIY house plans sketches, all you need is access to the internet, a computer and a free architectural software program. Architectural software online will help you generate the floor plans of your house, which you can use later when working with a professional drafter, engineer or architect to create the final plan drawings required for the building department.
7. Building Codes and Permits
It is always a good idea to understand the local laws and restrictions before you start building your dream home. Your builder will be able to advise you on what permits are required. Before construction, a building permit is needed to certify that plans have been checked and comply with building codes and regulations. It indicates the main stages of the building work that will be inspected to ensure compliance with the approved drawings, and provides a final inspection to determine that the building is suitable for occupation.
Building permits are applied for through your building surveyor, or you may appoint an agent to apply for a building permit for you. The cost will be determined by the size, scale and complexity of the proposed project, and can also vary between each council or surveyor.
Checking credentials is also imperative, as you would expect a professional builder to be accredited by the appropriate industry bodies. Victorian builders must be registered with the Victorian Building Authority to perform domestic building work that costs more than $10,000. To check if your preferred builder is registered, simply use the VBA’s practitioner search.
Building your own home is a rewarding experience but, with so many decisions to make, it could feel a little overwhelming. With these seven simple steps, you can plan every aspect of your building journey carefully to ensure the end result of your efforts is the home you have always dreamed of.