How to go from a building newbie to a pro

The dream of building your own home is close to many people’s hearts. But where do you even start? Here’s our guide to take you from square one of your home-building journey to becoming a pro with expert advice from Homebuyers Centre Victoria.


We’ve all seen The Block and perhaps harbour secret dreams to blitz through our own building project or renovation, setting our own time and budget goals and taking out the winner’s glory of the best. home. ever. But what is the reality of building your own home? What are some of the things to prepare for and red flags to avoid? With the help of some expert advice, you can live your own Block dreams, though you’ll end up with something even better and bonus – you get to live in it at the end.

What are some of the best things about building a home from scratch?

The dream of a home is close to many people’s hearts, and reaching this dream is one of those big life moments. Add in the fact that you’re able to guide the vision for your home and add the features you’ve always wanted and you’re involved in something pretty special. “Building a home is exciting as it’s your very own creation,” says Simon Mongan, General Manager of Homebuyers Centre Victoria. “You decide on what it looks like to suit your lifestyle and your family.” But there’s more to it than simple good looks: “From a financial perspective you can save thousands on stamp duty and you can gain access to some home buyer’s grants not available to people buying established homes,” he adds. “You also end up with a brand new home with warranties and guarantees rather than buying a second-hand home without any warranty that comes with an unknown history.” 

Where do I start?

You’ve just bought your block of land and you’re ready to go. From here, you’ll want to think about your home design, but mainly gear your thinking towards your outgoing costs – a very important element of your project. “Consider home designs that suit your lifestyle and budget,” says Simon. “A reputable builder will consider the solar orientation of your block and guide your design choice to maximise this meaning the sunshine will feature in your day, they will also provide ‘all-inclusive pricing’ upfront to enable you to manage your budget effectively.” Make sure you use this time wisely and set your vision in concrete (so to speak) so your plans are well formed once you start building.  

How do I choose my builder?

This part of the process is very important. You need to foster a strong relationship with your builder from the outset. You’ll want to consider experience and recommendations, but also go by instinct. You’ll be buckling down for the long haul, so if you don’t get a good feeling, you might not be making a good choice. When you’re building a new home, there are a lot of things to take into consideration and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the process,” says Simon. “So whether you’re a first-time home builder or have been through it all before, it’s important to find a company you can trust for the entire home ownership journey.” You also need to think about whether you’ll engage a custom builder or a project builder. A custom builder lets you be a little more flexible with your design and make changes along the way, but this can make the project a lot more expensive. 

How can I make sure my home doesn’t date?

When you’re designing your home, try to look beyond the trends of the moment and think long-term. You’ll be enjoying your home for many years to come, so opting for classic fixtures, fittings and features will serve you well in the long run. You can always have fun switching out less-permanent features, such as cushions, soft furnishings and even pendant lights if you want a bit of a change up – but the elements that sit in the ‘more-permanent’ category should be chosen with longevity in mind.
Choosing the colour palette is also an opportunity to add your personality, but again, you may want to consider how your home will look in the coming years. “
Before beginning construction, you will have a colour selection appointment with a pre-start consultant,” says Simon. “Often your builder will put together colour schemes for you to choose from. When choosing colours be sure to select neutral colours as bright colours often date. If you select a design based on classic features you ensure your home appears timeless no matter what the trend.”
Upon completing construction, that’s when you’ll be able to have fun and add the decorative details that you love and make your home truly your own – indoor plants (fiddle-leaf figs are pretty popular right now), cushions, rugs and more. Keeping the basics basic and having fun switching up the ‘dressings’ will keep your look fresh. 

Building Newbie

 

What is my role in the build process?

Great news: “Once your initial design stage is complete, your builder should take care of everything else for you,” says Simon. So that takes care of that. (Perhaps you can indulge in a bit of shopping to have all your decorative details ready for move-in day?). But don’t get too comfortable, as you’ll need to manage your budget and track your finances throughout this stage as you’ll most likely be using a construction loan. “Utilising a finance specialist who works with your builder is a great way to keep the required leg work down and simplify the process from a documentation point of view,” says Simon. “You will need to authorise payment of each progress payment with your bank as the build progresses, otherwise the construction phase should be a smooth and exciting time for you.” Maybe not too much shopping, then.  

What if I want to make changes along the way?

While it is possible, it’s best that you plan, plan, and plan again in the early stages to keep your timeline on track, your builder happy and your project running smoothly. Don’t rush into your decisions and if you’re in two minds about a detail or feature, sleep on it. Take time in the planning stage to save yourself drama and stress during the build. Sometimes, it helps to have a spreadsheet running with all your wants and needs so you can sign off on each item. Simon also warns that changes can be expensive: “Depending on the home you build, it can be difficult to make changes unless you choose to build with a custom builder, which can be an expensive option. You are best to be 100% sure with your plans before you commence building to save on hassles later.”

What are some things I should look out for?

Simon warns of two big mistakes that are often made:

1. "Making a buying decision based on price – You get what you pay for in life – the same is true for building a home. If a price seems cheap there is a reason for it. Do your homework and check your builder’s reputation regarding quality and customer service – these are 2 things you don’t want to compromise on.

2. Make sure you do your homework and engage a builder who’ll provide you an inclusive, fixed price upfront. At Homebuyers Centre we make sure your price is 100% fixed and understood before you pay a deposit. There’s also no tender process and no price escalation – this way you can manage your budget effectively and aren’t bitten by hidden costs.”


You’re all set! It’s time to don the hard hat and take the plunge.


THREE KEY FOUNDATIONS

1. Choose your builder wisely: Consider rapport, builder type (custom or project) and references.

2. Prior preparation is paramount! From sorting your budget and timeline, to thinking long term when it comes to design choices.

3. Consider all options: Building from scratch means you can save big: from stamp duty to possible grants. And selecting a builder who will give you an inclusive fixed price upfront will mean there aren’t any scary financial shocks down the track.

Backed by Australia’s leading home building group, the ABN Group, Homebuyers Centre Victoria has been around for 25 years helping more than 30,000 people make their home ownership dream come true.