Building on acreage to lock up

Anna Jean
February 2, 2017
Hi All,
We are considering buying a block and building on an acre or two in country vic near Geelong. We are looking at houses but find many of the new builds similar and without a lot of character. We would like to put some of our own stuff in because we know people like floorers etc. does anyone know of any builders who would build to lock up stage and some of the interior without costing a fortune? We are really into recycled materials and that type of thing but are usually not allowed in a new build. Sorry for the essay but does anyone have experience in this?

Comments (7)

  • oklouise

    no personal experience but i wonder if a relocated old home might suit your style..there are several House Relocators listed for the Geelong area

  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    Use a designer to design the home you want. A good draftsman, building designer or an architect that's local to your site is a good starting point.

    Yes many new build's are similar in particular the volume (project) builders design's.

    Any builder can do it lock up. Just look at the smaller builder's, volume builder's don't do it or aren't interested in it.

    There's hundred's of quality small building companies about. Use them, the good one's are easy to work will, do great work and usually enjoy their job so are very accomodating with a bespoke build.

    Just don't expect them to be cheaper than a volume builder, hourly rate is probably similar but they need to spend more hour's on custom work.

    Your designer if in the local area where you're building will know of a few you could have a chat with. Use local's as they know the area, regulation's, etc..

    Recycled building materials can be used in new build's it just depend's on what it actually is. Thing's like old glass in window's and door's may not meet the building or thermal efficiency requirements.

    As noted above a relocated old house is another option to look at.

  • bigreader
    Have a look at Storey Book cottages. And Harkaway Homes. Both are traditional designs, and their kit arrangements may suit you.
  • PRO
    Manias Associates Building Designers

    Hi Anna Jean,

    Congratulation on your possible new project, building on acreage is a great opportunity and hopefully, you will have your expectations realized by a competent design.

    Nearly all Builders will build to lockup, especially if you choose a local country builder you would probably increase your opportunity to achieve your result, and most likely reduce your costs.

    Using recycle materials might require a bit of research and organization with transport and storage but could make a real good difference to the cost if you are willing to do some of the research and leg work.

    There are some priorities that I would consider.

    1. Buy your block of land first.
    2. The Site (The Block of Land) will be a major influence on the design - views, slope, distance from amenities etc. (Budget and the Brief are the other influences in a design process)
    3. Find a Building Designer you can converse with and is sympathetic to your idea. (Begin your search now, search find and talk to Building Designers - I would be happy to talk to you - phone Skype email etc - use the above contact information)
    4. Get a design that you are happy with, this might take a few goes, but you must be completely happy with the resultant effort before you proceed)
    5. Spend a lot of time getting your design right, to reflect your lifestyle, this is the most important stage
    6. Agree to do the leg work for materials and delivery of drawings to council etc. and, this may reduce your Design and Documentation costs.

    Hopefully, this will help you getting started, but you must buy the land first, else nothing will happen - then you can prioritize your next step.

    A good solution is achieved by good communications by all stakeholders.

    I would be happy to further comment on your project.


    Michael Manias

  • PRO
    Undercover Architect

    Hi Anna,

    How exciting to be embarking on your new home project.

    I have a blog which can help you with understanding buying land first vs choosing the home first. There's also lots of information on my website (especially in the latest podcast episodes) to help you with understanding and designing for various orientations.

    I would recommend, when looking at splitting work between a builder and yourself, that you get some advice around how your mortgage will work (if you need one), and how the Building Approval certification process will work.

    Some mortgages are structured as construction loans - and will only make progress payments directly to a builder based on what's in the contract. If you need to borrow more than the contract sum to fund your component of the work (the fitout), that may pose challenges with getting access to the money.

    When you apply for your Building Approval, you'll have to get certificates for various work along the way to prove it's been installed as per Australian Standards and Building Regulations - and get your final for your Building Approval. Fit off of plumbing fixtures, for example, may fall into your fitout work. Some of the materials you're choosing may require approvals. So, understanding really clearly where the lines of demarcation are - and what will fall to you to be responsible for - so that you can ensure you get all the required paperwork at the end to make your home legal.

    I find that homeowners feel they can eeek out a lot of savings by managing work themselves, sourcing their own materials, or eliminating the builder's margin and working with trades they have access to.

    Just be careful and do your sums. Those same homeowners often spend more money, or suffer a lot of stress managing the work themselves, or worse still, make mistakes that are expensive to rectify, or hard to live with. In our personal renovating experience, the biggest savings we made were in replacing the labour component (ie doing the work ourselves). Any other savings were minor.

    Ignorance can be bliss. It can also be super expensive and stressful.

    Best wishes for your project,

    Amelia, Undercover Architect

  • PRO
    DIMA | Design In Mind Architects

    Hi Anna,

    Some really good advice from others, and it does sound like you should consider the custom home path, rather than look at packaged house designs. Undercover Architect's blog has some info specific to your situation and is definitely worth a read if you haven't done that yet.

    I would like to add a couple of points though:

    -There are a lot of great builders in this area, so there is the potential to speak to a quality builder who will refer you to their designer and handle much of the process similar to if you went down the volume builder path. A volume builder won't allow occupancy without finishing the entire house, but a custom builder might with this type of arrangement.

    -The benefit of having your house plans & permits done independently of a builder is that you can tender to a few builders and more easily find the best price/quality. Doing a custom home will also give you a lot more scope to exclude items if you were looking to save costs by doing some of the works yourself (painting etc) as you've mentioned. It will also allow you to search for a building designer / architect who you work well with, trust and like their ideas, rather than being put in touch with someone the builder uses.

    -Builder's generally prefer to use their own sub-trades because they know their quality and punctuality. Some custom builders will allow you to select your own sub-trades, but you can't hold the builder responsible if costs rise due to their available times not matching up. If the builder selects the sub-trade, then it is the builder's responsibility if something goes wrong.

    -Judging by your comments, at some point someone will mention going 'owner-builder' to you, which is a way you can essentially control the project and select all of your own consultants, trades and subtrades. This will often result in a longer build process but is worth considering in some situations. There are many additional responsibilities (building insurance) and some constraints on the house (additional issues with selling/renting it out within 6 years) which many of our clients have not realised when coming to us, so speak to a knowledgable builder/designer/architect or a building surveyor before choosing this path.

    Good Luck,

    Matt - DIMA Design Studio | Geelong

  • PRO
    Manias Associates Building Designers

    Hi Anna Jean,

    Really like to support Matt - DIMA Design Studio with his comments, especially the part of not going direct to Builders that do design and construct and they send you to their preferred Design Professional to do the drawings - certainly something to be avoided in my opinion.

    I have written a FAQ on my website which might help in the explanation of this process.

    - Getting all your documents done by an independent Building Designer/Architect/Drafts-person is definitely the best choice.

    Wish you the best in your quest.