Building a home can be a very overwhelming experience.  Picking a floor plan, selecting a builder, knocking down vs. a purchasing a new block, inclusions, turnkey vs. non-turnkey, and the list goes on and on… 

Having a magical formula where you can put in the variables you need to give you the outcome you want just doesn’t exist.  When it comes to building a home, every builder is different to the next.  Understanding and picking the right builder is the most single important factor in your building journey & experience.


So what is total cost of ownership?  It’s essentially what it’s going to cost you to own your build including all costs.  Some examples include:

  • design fixed price
  • turnkey items:  landscape, pool, fencing, driveway, clotheslines, etc…
  • facade costs
  • build time costs:  interest costs, opportunity costs, stress (how do you put a value against that?), rent costs
  • site costs
  • authority costs
  • home running costs after you move in:  electricity, maintenance, etc…

There are so many elements to consider when building a family home and these elements contribute to your total cost of ownership.  I will attempt to list some of the main ones where most people get caught and don’t account for until it’s too late…


Your land slope plays a big factor when building your home.  The ideal home design is one that utilizes the land well rather than goes against the terrain.  For example, if your block of land has a 2m slope over your building envelope, then you want to make sure it’s not just as simple as cutting 2m on one side and setting the house in.  This could well be a solution, however have you considered what a 2000mm cut will do to your landscape?  Retaining Walls?

A builder that will simply cut the land without understanding the block to keep cost down is essentially saying this:  I don’t really care what you do after I give you the build.  I am going to give you the cheapest possible build BUT you can pay for retaining and other problems later on.  Not my problem!

The final cost  can be very similar if this build was done right to start with.  But when you go around looking for the cheapest possible build price, then you will most certainly find it.

So it’s important to consider the overall cost once the build is finished and what does it mean for you once your get your keys?!  Not just the cost of the one component.

Build Times

Builders must specify the period of the build in their contract.  Before you sign a contract / agreement, make sure that you have in writing the following:

  • How long will it take to obtain approvals?  Council Approval is not possible to specify!
  • How long, once you obtain your formal loan approval, can they get to site?
  • How long will the build take?

Associated Costs

It’s important that you understand these times and have it in writing.  If you select the cheapest builder but you end up building for an extra 6 months, then the cost of paying the mortgage plus paying the rent (if you are renting while building) is a real cost of the project.  Most people do not take these costs into account however they are real costs.

No point of boasting about obtaining the best build deal if you end up paying more for it somewhere else.

Liquidated Damages

Liquidated Damages is the amount of money a builder would pay you for every day they are late in handing over your home past the completion date.  A builder will specify in the contract how many weeks it will take them to finish the home so this is the amount they must pay if they don’t finish your home in the time they have specified.

If you manage to get a good deal for your build, consider the amount of liquidated damages specified in your contract and make sure that it’s “good enough”.  I have seen some builders put in $1 per day if the build time exceed the specified build period.  This flag is so red that you should lose whatever money you have paid and just walk away.

I have had a builder once say this to me, to justify them paying $1 per day:  It’s actually in our best interest to finish the build quick (which is true for all builders).  And this works both ways, so can we charge them extra per day for everyday they delay us for whatever reason?   What a load of s***!!!

As a guide, anything less than $50 a day, depending on the size of the build, and you should just walk away.

Facade Costs

Facade is such an important part of your home design, most people focus on spending money on the design and upgrades etc…, spending money on the facade becomes an afterthought.  Consider this:  what is the FIRST thing you see when entering a home?

First impressions matter and in building your home, it’s no different.  So spend an adequate amount to make sure that you have a decent looking home appropriate to the area you are building in.


Choosing the right builder that understands and cares about your total cost of ownership is the partner you want to have in your corner building your family home.  Do not settle for any less or it will be a very costly and stressful building experience.

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