This is an often asked question, with an elusive answer, and this is a guide that will take you as close as possible to a comprehensive answer. But why is it elusive?
There is no way that anyone — even those with as much experience as we have — can provide 100% accuracy on the estimated cost of a build at the time of initial enquiry — there is always a margin of error but we can narrow this range to be as accurate as possible, and to forewarn on potential surprises.
Thorough knowledge of what is and is not included in the quote is one area, practicalities in building is another, but even when all human factors are taken into account, nature can provide yet more possible surprises above and below ground that can only be discovered after breaking ground.
So we hope to give you as full a list of factors as possible, to narrow the range of estimate accuracy, to reduce the potential for surprises in the paperwork, and under your feet.
Section A: Pre-construction costs
The plot you have chosen as the site of your future home may look humble, but once you break ground, all manner of surprises may be revealed.
A soil test is available (usual cost $300-$600) that would determine the quality of your soil, often in six categories depending on the stability of the soil or ‘reactivity’. Sand and clay are more stable, whereas silt and moist soil would present problems that could be costly to account for,
A survey of the fall across your site is also available and can greatly enhance the accuracy of your estimate. As mentioned in our comprehensive article on building on a slope, [here], building on a slope can make a great home, but adds cost to the build. You will need more customised design, excavation and retaining work, alternate or varied foundations, stronger materials against wind, and drainage against water which all add to time and cost.
This part is important, unavoidable and difficult to estimate. You will not know exactly how much cost this will entail until you start digging.
The trees must be cleared, obstacles demolished and boulders removed. The cost to do this will obviously depend on how clear the site is to begin with, but will also include the hidden boulders as well as the volume of material to be removed against the accessibility of the site for skips and rubbish removal.
Estimated cost: Up to and in excess of $20,000
There is still the possibility for surprises that may be found underground that can’t be unveiled with a soil test. If you find that your site has the right soil conditions and is evenly spread in all areas of the footing so that digging and laying your foundation is straightforward, then consider yourself lucky.
Most of the time, however, the soil can be too shallow and require rock cutting, or too deep and require extra digging, or contain boulders as mentioned above which must be removed as part of site preparation.
There is no effective way of knowing for sure what lies beneath – many sites have soil too deep in one corner, not deep enough in another. An experienced site assessor can give you a professional guesstimate, but until that ground is opened, nobody knows for sure.
Location and accessibility
Builders need to be able to get to your site with their digging equipment and materials, and slope is one factor that will hamper their efforts at getting this done in a timely fashion. Also a factor is how remote your site is, and how accessible the road that leads to it. Can the builders get large trucks and deliveries to site, thus saving time, or have to rely on less efficient smaller equipment and hand carting?
Local regulations and covenants
Each local council may have a set of rules that each house must abide by. Some forested areas insist that all houses display a natural exterior – wood and brick – or to not use certain materials or design that would be harmful to the local ecology.
Fire and Flood
In Australia, fire safety is a serious concern. Houses in certain areas, rated with high Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL), require certain fire-safe standards which, according to some reports can add tens of thousands of dollars to your build.
Similarly, other areas might be subject to flooding, and the risk factor is expressed as ‘Flood 1:100’ is an assessment of the effect of a flood at the highest that can be expected once in 100 years. It is worth checking with local council to find out if your site is flood prone, and to factor that into both your costs to build and insurance to cover it.
Power, gas and water
The amenities will need to be hooked up. It could be that these are already available to your site, and to the degree you need, but it would be unwise to assume so. Some old sites might appear to be connected, but with substandard power requirements, and no gas. In the modern era, checking that you can connect the internet is also a consideration.
Delays cost money. This could be in the form of interest rates as your money is tied up in the build, rent that you could be gathering from either property, or the cost of your temporary accommodation. This extends to those things you could be doing at home, from cooking instead of eating out, to the delayed use of your home office.
Section B: The house you want
Now we get to the factor of your own needs. What kind of house do you want? How big is it? What quality of finish will you be happy with?
Here is a table of our basic costs:
|Basic 3 bedroom||Basic 4 bedroom||Second story|
These are, of course, rough base estimates, and the size of the desired house will be a big factor.
Section C: Features you thought were included (but might not be)
Here is an important point: if obtaining comparative quotes from multiple builders, keep in mind that not all quotes include the same features. Since some customers like to budget for the bare minimum and either go without, finish the rest themselves, or at a later date, not everything you thought was included actually is.
Add to the prices above to include:
- An outdoor eating area /Alfresco
- A driveway
- Insulation (internal or additional)
- Air conditioning
- Sliding doors / Stacker Doors
- Stone benchtops
- Swimming pool
Flooring is another area subject to your choice that may greatly affect cost.
You can expect costs between:
Polished Concrete $100-$150/sq.m
Tiles: $30/sq.m (ceramic) to $150/sq.m (stone)
Carpet $30 – $150/sq.m
Timber Flooring $150-$200
Sustainability measures such as insulation, and roof sarking are often a state or local requirement, but may still not appear on the quote from some builders, which can be a bit of a surprise when it comes to the final bill. Water tanks, double-glazing and water-saving taps may also be a requirement, or sometimes come with government incentives.
So before comparing one quote to another, first refer to this list and ask which are included. Some builders quote with none of them, others with all of them.
Section D: Regulations and paperwork
Government fees to register the ownership of the property – generally around 5% of the value of the property, but here is the Victorian government’s calculator to help you.
Showing that all reasonable measures have been taken to make your home safe will affect the premium on your insurance policy. This will include Fire Risk BAL and Flood 1:100 surveys, design compliance and inspection certificates.
Site safety certificates
A standard build will come with standard Health and Safety regulations. Anything unusual such as putting workers at risk of falling more than two metres or demolishing asbestos (see for a full list) will require more safety certificates at a cost which may be passed on to you, so demolishing an old house to replace it with a two-story home may incur extra costs for safety.
Section E: A calculator
- How big and to what quality do you want your house? (Sect B) ______________________
- Do you want a second story? Add $80-100,000: ______________________
- Add for items in Section C (patio, aircon): ______________________
- Add for Sustainability items (water tanks, water-saving taps) ______________________
- What is the size in square metres of your:
Carpets: _______________x cost/sq.m=______________________
Tiles: _________________ x cost/sq.m=______________________
Other: ________________ x cost/sq.m=______________________
- Add for stamp duty and other certificates: ______________________
- Add for site surveys (Section A) ______________________
- Add for difficulty of site ______________________
- Add for local regulations, and fire and flood ______________________
- Add unknown variables. Read below ______________________
And finally, in 10, add for site preparation which, as mentioned, is an unknown quantity up to and in excess of $20,000, perhaps more. Victorian weather may also cause delays, so include an allowance for that, and any other unknown variables that may affect the smooth efficiency of the build.
This may not give you as accurate a figure as you may wish — we strongly recommend contacting us as experienced building assessors for a more accurate estimate — but it should serve for you to know the factors that go into a build so you know what costs to expect.
Do give us a call and drop in to Gilpip for a chat about your house goals, and we will help you take the next step towards your newly-built home.