Starting your project

If you’ve decided to build a house or renovate and it’s your first experience, you may feel a bit lost and not know where to begin.

You’ll quickly discover that there are many decisions to make and a lot of paperwork to navigate through. You have to choose a builder, an architect, and find out about getting your plans approved. So what’s the first step?

Your budget 

A good starting point is looking at how much you have to spend.

You should first consider your current financial commitments. If there is cost blow-out or your circumstances suddenly change, will you be able to finish your project? It’s important that you don’t over-commit, and you should always have a back-up plan.

Our next recommendation is to do some research before you set a budget. Get advice from financial advisors, lenders, or finance websites. You could run the risk of underestimating costs if you don’t gather all the right information upfront.

Buying land

Once your budget is set, you can move on to finding land if you’re building a house. The type of land you choose will have a direct effect on the type of construction.

The factors that will have the most impact include the size and slope of the block, and the soil type. You may find that the cost of the build will increase if your home requires stronger foundations, or needs a more complex design because the land has unique features.

Other things to consider include future local development and the current facilities. Does the area have a hospital, schools, access to transport and shopping?

What you can build will be affected by any covenants associated with the land, which may reduce your options in terms of size and design. You may also be limited by tree and animal habitat preservation rules or other environmental factors.

Remember to read your contract and talk to a solicitor before signing the contract with your builder or designer.

Getting your ideas on paper

Whether you have a very clear picture or just a vague concept of how you want your home to look, an architect or designer will help you flesh out some of your ideas, and give you some choices for the style and feel of your new home.

It’s during this process that you’ll find out what can be achieved with your budget. A designer or architect will also help in finding solutions to meet any specific needs or requirements. 

You may also want to consider the benefits of sustainable housing. Discuss possibilities of including water, energy and waste efficient features in your home, at the initial design stage.

Finding your builder 

Choosing the right builder is one of the more important decisions of this process. If you’re building a house, you’ll be spending a lot of time together onsite, and it’s important to find someone who is compatible.

Before starting your search, think about the qualities you would like to see in your builder. It makes sense to choose someone who has a similar outlook to you.

When getting quotes, take note of whether the builders provided them on time. Were they able to provide you with references or previous work examples, and did they provide good customer service?

See Find a local contractor for more information. 

Getting quotes 

When it comes time to get some quotes, make sure you provide enough information to your builder so that they understand what you want done. It is also essential that you make sure that the same work is being covered in the quotes. This way, you can make an accurate comparison.

We also recommend that you get at least 3 quotes based on the plans/specifications or your requirements. Remember, the cheapest quote is not always the best.

Using a compliant written contract 

Before engaging a contractor, it is important to use a compliant written contract. Our Domestic Building Contracts booklet provides practical, plain English information on domestic building contract requirements and the building process generally to assist home owners and contractors engaged in building, renovating or repairing a home, townhouse or unit or associated building work.