The No. 1 problem when building a new house and how to solve it

The No. 1 problem when building a new house and how to solve it

The number one problem people encounter when designing and building a new house or renovating an existing one is “controlling the budget”.

Unfortunately, a regular occurrence is for the design plans to be finished and exactly what the clients want but the building quote to come in way over their budget.  This leaves them in a very difficult and stressful position because they have a set of plans that they love but they cannot afford to build.  The good news is that this situation can easily be avoided by having an experienced builder actively involved in the design process right from the start so that the budget is managed properly throughout each stage of the design documentation process (See FAQ No. 20).

Architects are creative, design driven professionals who are great at designing amazing houses, but the reality is that they are not good at sticking to a client’s budget.  This is why I recommend a “team work” approach to designing your new home or renovation. (For more information see FAQ No. 7).

The first step to controlling the budget is to set a “realistic budget” for your project.  To do this you need to have a clear idea of what you want to build.  You and your partner must first agree on all of the main requirements of your design brief (See FAQ No. 19).  The design brief should be as concise as possible and in writing so it clearly conveys all of your requirements and expectations.

The main cost variables for building a new house or renovation are:-

  • The size of the house?
  • The structural complexity of the house? (See FAQ No. 10).
  • The architectural features of the house? (See FAQ No. 3)
  • The site conditions for the property? (i.e. soil conditions, slope of the land, drainage issues, big trees, site access etc.)
  • The amount of technology required? (i.e. home automation, audio-visual systems & motorization).
  • The amount of ESD required? (See FAQ No. 18 & 26) (i.e. environmentally sustainable design such as rainwater storage, solar power / hot water, geothermal heating.
  • The amount of joinery / cabinetry and its design details?
  • Type of heating and air conditioning (See FAQ No. 17)
  • Interior finishes, fixtures and design details (See FAQ No. 22)
  • Landscaping and external areas (See FAQ No. 23)

Other important considerations when setting a budget for your building project are:-

  • (a) The size and level of the building company you want to use (i.e. a large volume builder will be able to build at a much lower cost per square meter compared to a small custom builder).
  • (b) The amount of involvement and control you want to have in the overall design and building process. (i.e. do you want to engage an independent architect and then a separate “tender builder” where effectively you act as the project manager or do you want to use a design and construct building company where they manager the whole process for you (See FAQ No. 1 & 7).
  • (c) Do you want to include a “contingency sum” in your budget to cover possible variations and cost revisions?

Ultimately, the key to setting a realistic building budget is to know exactly what you want to achieve and being able to effectively communicate your requirements to your architect and builder.  Before you start the design process, you need to have an open and honest conversation with your builder to set a realistic budget and make sure the agreed budget and design brief are written down and clear and concise.

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