Tips for saving costs on the build of a house?

I'm looking at building a house and wondering what tips are out there for saving money on a build?
I remember seeing a thread on Whirlpool about a bunch of guys who imported fancy European appliances from Europe. I don't think the exchange rate makes it as attractive anymore but it certainly saved them a bunch of money (or at least, they got much better appliances for the same price).

Using mates in trades could possibly save a fair bit (although would have to buy plenty of slabs).
How about doing the painting yourself (or will this make you go crazy)?
How about sourcing your own things such as powerpoints and fittings?
Will builders even allow you do this or do they want to supply everything so they can put their own markup on i?

Any other ideas?



    Don't ;)

  • +4 votes

    buy a tent

  • +7 votes

    I did everything you suggested and regret it. Find a good builder and go with what they recommend. As an example, I decided to lay the floor myself. The floorboards cost me $21 a lineal meter. If my builder had gone in an bought the same boards, he could have got them for under $10 a lineal meter with a trade discount. Total cost of the job would have been the same, and I wouldn't have had the break my back laying those bad boys.


      That's a big assumption, he maybe could of bought them for $10 per linear meter, but he probably would of charged you $30-40 plus labor.

  • +4 votes

    The house that you build will be 95% the same as all the other houses on the street.

    Buy a house that is already built, and avoid the stress.


    Yep. I think you have the right idea. Builders make money in their mark ups. Just go the bare minimum and DIY as much as you can.

  • +3 votes

    The block of land you get is very important. If it is difficult to build foundations because it is rocky, very sloped, difficult to get to or doesn't have ammenities currently in the area it can cost real additional money with little to physically show for it.

    Any builder you get will, probably, quote you with low end finishes. You need to do the research and work out exactly what you want to go with. In our case we went for good quality fittings and appliances, because they tend to last longer. We bought our applicances when we found specials and stored them in a spare bedroom until we were ready to get them installed. Make sure your builder knows exactly what you have so there won't be issues with getting them installed.

    Make sure you do your research before you start building and understand what you want done, you want to minimise changes to the build as much as you can.

    Stick to a fairly classical look. Don't go for any "fashion" colours for benches, bathroom tiles, etc. If you want to go "fashion" then do it with easily modified things like painting.

    Make sure you keep good communications with your builders and be prepared to listen to them. Be prepared for some give and take on issues.

    Best of luck.

    • +1 vote

      per above

      "Make sure you do your research before you start building and understand what you want done, you want to minimise changes to the build as much as you can."

      PLANNING is critical - biggest waste of money is making changes on the fly. regardless of the scale of a project.

  • +5 votes

    Consider including extras during the build. For example: Don't shortcut on the inclusion of additional PowerPoint, lights etc. these will cost much more to do afterwards.


    You can save the most money at the start of the process by choosing a cost effective house design, materials and builder. As you progress through the process the possible savings become smaller so think hard at the start and then try not to make changes. Have the discussions up front with the builder and get their input, try to get an all inclusive price at the start.

    • +1 vote

      Cost effective materials/design might end up being more expensive initially, but save money long term. Passive heating and cooling can cost more up front, but you'll significantly reduce your AC bills for evermore. Insulating effectively makes a big difference.

      Adding a solar hot water service will cost more, but pay for itself in the long run. Ensuring you have good solar access in the roof design is probably another way of cutting overall costs, but potentially at initially higher costs.


    It can be very stressful building. Not that I have but i'm a carpenter by trade so see what people go through. If you can do your own landscaping or gardening it can save you a fair bit. Same as the grass if your happy to throw some seed around and wait for it to grow this can also save a lot in turfing costs. But if it was me I agree with Burnertoasty I would just get other people to do it saves you time and also isn't very labour intensive that way you have a nice turn key home to move all your stuff into and don't have to worry about anything else once its completed

  • +2 votes
    1. With an owner builder permit? You can save money by doing work yourself.

    2. Licenced Builder? Can't save anything that is worthwhile. Bulk of the work is by the builder and you will only be able to find money saving opportunities on things like landscaping and driveway etc. which is peanuts on the whole build anyway.

    3. A licenced builder who is a mate? This would present the same opportunity as an owner builder however keep in mind your mate will be liable for warranty for 6 years and most people won't take that risk with the goodness of their hearts.

    4. Problem with the above 3 options is; banks only finance owner builders at 60% LVR of the house/land and recommend licenced builders only. Licenced builder jobs can get finance easy, but then you also have no opportunity to save money as noted above.

    I will list some cost saving opportunities as an owner builder only due to the above highlighting a licenced builder is not worth while.

    1. As an owner builder some trades you will have to pay market rate for no matter what you do as you need a licenced tradie to do it who provides a certificate at the end for lodgement to councils and authorities. For example, electrical, plumbing, waterproofing, termite proofing etc. so the only real cost saving you will do here is negotiation with the tradie and also the supply of high end fixtures that a tradie would normally add a mark up on.

    2. You can save money by carrying out some of the following and other things not listed, as an owner builder

    • Dig trenches by hand for plumber
    • Paint house yourself
    • Labour for the brickie and roof tiler
    • Labour for the wall tiler
    • No site bins, get a trailer and do a weekly tip run ($700 a bin over a 6 month job adds up)
    • Site levelling and grading
    • DIY Ikea kitchens
    • Supply all fixtures fitments and finishes (lights, FFE, tiles etc).
    1. You can save even more money by physically doing all the trade work yourself (actual timber framing, gyprocking, tiling etc).

    2. However, in summary, if you cannot figure out how to do the items listed in item 6 on your own and efficiently, don't even waste your time item 7 as you will likely make expensive mistakes. Similarly with item 6 most trades will not give you a discount as you will slow them down anyway and they will spend more time on your job, unless you can display you know what you are doing and have experience. i.e. how to mix screed in correct ratios, how to stack bricks the way the brickie wants it etc.

    3. The whole exercise is futile if you can't do an owner builder or convince a mate to use their licence as you will likely not get finance to 60% LVR of house and land.

  • +1 vote

    Trying to save a few bucks here and there on appliances, painting, light fittings, etc. will pale into insignificance if the core build goes wrong.

    My tip … get a lawyer involved from the get go in negotiating the building contract and have them manage any contractual issues for you throughout the process. This is where things can go off the rails by tens of thousands of dollars (or more) because you get screwed at the initial negotiation and then at every step along the way.

    Beyond that, stick to your original design/contract throughout. This, again, means being thorough upfront. Once you start asking for variations, this is where costs get out of control quickly.