Owner Builder V Building Company

Saving money is the obvious catalyst for becoming an Owner builder, but there are a few things to consider before you head down that path.

Building a Home

Renovating, extending or building a home is a huge commitment in all aspects, that’s a given. But the most important decision is whether to undertake the works as an Owner Builder or to use a professional Building contractor when planning your building project.

Saving money is the obvious catalyst for becoming an Owner builder, but there are a few things to consider before you head down that path. Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of a do-it-yourself extension or renovation compared to hiring an expert.

Happy Business Owner

As an owner builder you can save money but that saving will depend on your level of expertise and your ability to commit time to the project. By saving money you can add value to your project like building a larger extension or using the money saved on purchasing better quality materials, fixtures and fittings.  Ultimately as the owner builder you are in control and every dollar spent by not paying a builder which can mean more money in your pocket.
The popularity of ‘reality’ home improvement shows has also fuelled a growing trend for the DIY home improvement enthusiast. These ‘reality’ shows are carefully constructed narratives which condense the design and build process over a short time period and are scripted to maximise the entertainment value.
As a viewer we are only privy to what the producers want us to see, the swan gliding calmly and effortlessly across the lake; complete chaos beneath.

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They don’t show all the work that has to go on in the background – the myriad of professionals and government departments that you have to engage or consult with in order to get a project up and running before the permit is even issued. The ‘reality’ is that renovations and extensions aren’t as simple as they seem and ensuring building requirements are met requires knowledge only a professional building contractor will have.

In Victoria, as an owner builder it is important to become familiar with your obligations, and there are procedures in place which you have to adhere to. You must obtain a Certificate of Consent from the Building Practitioners Board in order to obtain a building permit to carry out domestic building work valued over $16,000.  Failure to do so can result in significant penalties.

In order to obtain a Certificate of Consent, an owner builder must read an information and education kit and sign the statutory declaration, complete an application, pay a fee and send supporting documentation to the Building Practitioners Board (soon to be dismantled and replaced by the Victorian Building Authority).

For DIY renovation and extension work, you are fully responsible for the work that is done and you must also be aware of all the legal requirements including approvals, inspections and that the work complies with the National Construction Code, Building Regulations and Australian Standards. You also become responsible for the Occupational Health and Safety aspects of the construction.

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With regards to your finance, you may encounter difficulty funding your project through a bank as an owner builder. Some banks won’t finance a project unless it’s by a licensed builder, or will reduce the amount that they are willing to lend if it is for works conducted by an owner builder in order to reduce their risk.

A major area of consideration is the lack of access to properly qualified building trades, and the need to fully document the works required so the correct scope is identified. This will minimise arguments during and after the works. If you don’t have ongoing work for a trade it can be difficult once they start getting them back onsite and this can cause major disruption to any building schedule. Agreeing payment terms with trades can be challenging as many will insist on up-front deposits which will be at risk if the trade goes into administration or disappears.

As an owner builder, the best of relationships will be tested and a lack of cohesive planning and experience often ends in mistakes, budget blowouts, overruns and emotional meltdowns.

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Truth be told, undertaking extension and renovation work with little or no understanding of the building process can end up costing you more money than what you can savie. For small scale projects it may make sense but the more complex a project becomes, the more compelling the argument to engage a licenced building practitioner becomes.
Using an experienced and licensed Design and Build Company and getting the job done properly first time around will save you money in the long run and deliver your new and improved home on time.  Their job is to ensure that everything has been thought about before the project starts, and once it gets out of the ground that it finishes on time and on budget.

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