What is your experience/thought on owner building ?

I would like to know what your thoughts/experiences are with owner building ?

It will be for a knockdown/rebuild double storey home in Melbourne south east. We will not be needing the bank for a loan.


  • +3

    I went grey after mine. But the reward is great. It's a great feeling enjoying something you orchestrated yourself. It's also great getting on with good tradies. (I had a couple of bad ones too - they sour things). I plan to do one more in my life, much smaller and completely different, when the kids are gone.

    I do not work full-time for an employer. TBH I don't know how those that do can do it - it's very consuming. That said I and my partner laboured over so many decisions, often spending many weeks torturing ourselves over what tap or what handles or what light fitting. I once did a day trip from Syd to Melb just to check out a particular flooring shop because they had something in a colour that I thought looked better than anything local. If you're less fussy it will probably be easier.

    Be ready to spend more than you planned.

    • Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate it. Did you find you were able to save money being owner builder as supposed to going with independent builder ?

      • Didn't save money. But got what I wanted and a better outcome. Again, I am a fuss-pot (mostly about dwellings, not other things like cars, gadgets, etc.) and hard to satisfy. We spent endless days looking at project homes and always left dejected. We have some things that many would consider silly - like a painted timber kitchen rather than poly, a library instead of an AV room, a high pitched roof, etc..

        If you want a "standard" style house in-line with current trends IMO you're going to get a better deal with a builder than doing it yourself unless you have friends in the game. (I had some friends - they don't do miracles but they may prevent you getting ripped off hard.)

        • Out of curiosity… How much more did you spend than initially anticipated? Eg. Was it 10% more, or more like 30/40/50 % more than quote?

          Keen to know what buffer you need before you embark on one of these projects

          • @SmiTTy: TBH I was a bit mindless and naive going into the whole thing, working with a budget that I sorta pulled out of my ar5e, based on heresay (from builder friends) rather than actual quotes. It ended up costing about 25% more.

            • @afoveht: Sounds like my budgeting methodology is a bit like yours!! Thank u for the guidance!

            • @afoveht: What was the rough price per sqm?

              • +1

                @whitelie: All up around $2k. That was almost 10 years ago with no surprising site costs, and I'm a wog. I think if you really know what you're doing and are price sensitive you could do much better.

    • +4

      Be ready to spend more than you planned.

      I think that goes with building in general. Especially if you are particular about what you want.

  • +1

    2nd hand experience (close work colleague): Big well known builder, sales and admin well managed but build totally done by subbies. Though a site manager is assigned, you may (actually, you will) have to micro manage them if you need it done to the standard you paid for.

    Expect many fixes at final inspection, preferably pointed out by an independent inspector, not the builder assigned inspector.

    Quality of materials used, well pot luck mostly.

    Should you decide to renovate, 1st hand experience on renovating 70s property: despite detailed building inspection, after a year or so few issues (drainage, plumbing) popped up, which I wondered why previous owner(s) just patched up and kicked down the road for the next owner. Needed about 10-15K to properly address, but once done, nothing recurring. I go by the analogy if it stood for 50 years, what's another 50…

    Check on wiring too, and if stumps and foundation are structurally sound, if ok you should be good.

    Note, I'm in the SE too, lived in 3 properties, predominantly clay rich soil in all 3. Google pros and cons…

  • +1

    The building market is in mess. Raw material prices are going up and builders are not starting projects because there is no certainty of material availability. if you are knocking down and building, consider where will you live in the interim. Because you may need to consider living there longer than usually is needed. First hand experience. We are currently building in the SE Melbourne. Started in June 2020, and finished lock-up on yesterday. At this stage we are delayed by five months. Because we started earlier than the building boom, we are running ahead of the major shortages. Still things are taking more time. New contracts will have escalation clauses built in. Source, builder is also a good friend. Which means that I get away with changes at cost. But, it means that I have to be understanding of their situation too. Thankfully, we live in another property we own, and don't have to worry about rental arrangements.

    Have you considered selling the existing house and buying another newer house. It gives you the flexibility of looking in any place you want. Surprisingly, this is a good time to sell older houses in Melbourne. They are fetching higher prices. Only drawback is stamp duty.

    Don't take my word, and maybe ask some builders.

    • On a related note. I have purchased pine from bunnings for years… I went in last a few months ago and everything was OK, but a few days ago the prices seem to have skyrocketed massively…

  • +1

    Your journey of owner building will depend on what you know about construction, dealing with subcontractors, entering and enforcing agreements, keeping good records of spending, supervision experience etc. You may consider engaging a building consultant that can hold your hand throughout the journey/ or be there for you when required.

  • +1

    Just be careful when shopping around for quotes. You most likely will be over quoted by trades (or under-quoting you and slug you with variations later on) since you are a once off and if you are not careful, it could end up costing as much as getting a builder to do it. Get a good lawyer to review all contracts before signing with anyone and negotiate the terms. If unfavorable terms, walk away. Can't stress this enough. Don't sign with someone just because you think they are nice people and you think they will do a good job. Full of bullshit merchants in this industry that change the moment you signed with them. Trust no one. Review their past work, speak to their previous customers, look at their current jobs.

    Good if you know people in the industry that could possibly point you towards some good and honest trades. We do developments and have a couple of sites running in Melbourne. If you need a bit of advise, PM me but i can't recommend any trades as i am still looking for good ones after so long. Way too many cowboys in the industry. But if you need product advise, might be able to help you a bit.

  • +1

    I did it last year while working fully time and it's not easy, you need very determined. If you're not involved or have experience in the construction industry, it's going to be a very steep learning curve. You also need to be very prepared with a good set of drawings to suit the complexity of your project. The amount of small and large decisions you need to make prior to even starting is potentially in the 1000s.

    If you're doing it to save money only, then you need to be skilled at least one trade to save some serious money, otherwise it's best case only 5-10% cheaper, and what you save in money you gain in stress and loss of personal time.

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