Hicaliber Team

64 Essential Questions to Ask Any Builder

Before you sign a contract or pay a deposit, ask your builder the following questions. It could potentially save you thousands and avoid costly legal bills.

Deposit and Pricing Questions

Once your plans and detailed specifications are finalised, a reputable builder will prepare a contract. The contract should set out both parties’ responsibilities, and importantly, a progress and payment schedule.

  1. How much is the deposit and how much will be kept should we not proceed?
  2. At what point will we have the final price?
  3. Can you give us a price before we pay a deposit?
  4. If we pay for things like soil test and property information, do we get these reports to own should we not proceed?

Land Questions

Finding the right block of land for your new home is an important decision. There are a number of considerations when choosing the size and location of your land to ensure you can build your dream home.

If you agree to pay for preliminary information like a soil test, property report and levels, you should ask your builder the following questions. If the answers to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you will need to obtain a cost for each that will likely sit outside standard inclusions.

  1. Do I require an engineer-designed foundation? (You may require this if your block is on reactive soil or close to the coast.)
  2. Do I require protection against termites?
  3. Does the storm or septic water disposal system need to be engineer-designed?
  4. Are retaining walls likely to be required?
  5. Will there be soil/fill that needs to be taken away or brought onto the site?
  6. Will there be services required to receive distant connections?

Plan & Design Questions

  1. How many plans do you have in your range?
  2. Can I modify your standard plans and at what cost?
  3. Can I bring in my own plans for you to price?
  4. Will you inspect our block before we buy it to ensure it’s suitable for the kind of house we want to build?
  5. What is included in your floor area total? (The square metre area of a home can be measured in different ways. Some builders could include decks, eaves, patios or paved areas.)
  6. Will you provide a comprehensive design consultation service? What will this include?
  7. Will you provide modern visual design aids and access to professional designers to help me achieve the ideal plan that I want?
  8. Will you help me to find out if there are specific requirements or restrictions regarding our home’s location on our block, and are there any protective covenants?
  9. Will you give me a simple concept plan with my quote before I pay my deposit?
  10. What energy rating will my home be aiming to achieve?
  11. Where will the midday winter sun enter the house?
  12. How much summer afternoon sun is going to enter the house?
  13. Where will the view (if any) be visible from inside?
  14. Are there long runs for the hot water and if so how will wastage/lag time be reduced?

Standard Inclusion Questions

  1. Is your quote comprehensive in its inclusions?
  2. Can you explain what is not included?
  3. What soil classification is allowed for in your standard inclusions for foundation and slab design? (Some builders often treat even simple excavations and earthworks as extras.)
  4. Will my colour selections be carried out locally?
  5. What heating and cooling is included?
  6. What floor coverings are included?
  7. Do you have a soil test allowance in your standard inclusions?
  8. Does the contract or quote include any provisional sums? (These costs could potentially be a guesstimate that are not fixed and will change once they have the final price from their supplier.)
  9. Have you included full drainage and other service costs or have you listed them as a provisional sum? (This could potentially be listed as a provisional sum which could rise considerably.)

Credibility Questions

  1. Are you trade certified and affiliated to a recognised industry body such as HIA/MBA?
  2. Can you show me through any homes that are currently being constructed, or any completed homes? (Here you can check the quality of workmanship of existing customer homes.)
  3. Can you provide me written testimonials from past clients?
  4. Is it a fixed build time?
  5. Will you pay me money if you are over contract time? (This is also known as liquidation damages.)
  6. What exceptions enable you to extend the contract time with no liquidations damages payable?

Confidence Questions

  1. What health and safety processes do you have in place?
  2. What contractors do you use?
  3. Do you have a dedicated construction coordinator who will personally manage all sub-trades on my site, keep me informed of progress and answer my questions?
  4. Can I speak directly to the registered builder who’s ultimately responsible for my home construction?
  5. How can I be sure your company is financially stable?

Guarantees Questions

  1. Who does the builder acquire home owner warranty insurance from?
  2. Does this insurer cover loss of deposit, non-completion and defects?
  3. Does the builder have min $10 million dollars public liability insurance, and construction insurance adequate for your home?
  4. What is the maintenance period?

Technical Questions

Although many of these questions are technical in nature, it can be beneficial to have responses so that you can accurately compare quotes.

  1. Is the supply of concrete pumping included?
  2. What wall and ceiling insulation is included?
  3. Is a three coat paint system included? Using whose paint?
  4. Is sarking to roofing included?
  5. Are COLORBOND® down pipes included?
  6. Are eaves standard on our chosen design?
  7. What type of toilets and basins are included? Are they china?
  8. Is obscure/safety glass to ensuite and bathroom included?
  9. Are there plan-specific overhead cupboards to kitchen included?
  10. Is a gas (electric in some areas) boosted solar hot water system with two solar panels included?
  11. Is the rangehood ducted to natural air i.e. not recirculated?
  12. Is termite treatment included and what system is used? Will maintenance be required??
  13. Is trenching and conduit for service connections included?
  14. Is ceiling plaster fixed onto metal battens, reducing the risk of warping and cracking?
  15. Are steel lintels with bricks over the garage and windows included i.e. no high maintenance timber in-fills?
  16. At what stages will you be able to inspect the works?

Two Golden Rules

Finally, there are two golden rules to follow when dealing with builders.

First, do not sign anything with your builder until you have read all the fine print. If there is anything that you do not understand, ask for advice from an independent builder, consultant, or obtain legal advice. Remember once you have signed a building contract you cannot normally back out if you change your mind. There is no ‘cooling off’ period.

Second, ensure that everything important is confirmed in writing and keep a copy.

Looking for a builder in your area? Contact your local G.J. Gardner Homes office.

The Hidden Costs of Building a New Home

Building a new home is a great adventure. It should be a fun, enjoyable and stress-free process. After all, this is a time when your dreams come true. You’re building your future and life is good.

Unfortunately, the hidden costs of building a house can potentially jeopardise these dreams and your future happiness. As a new home builder, it’s important for you to be aware of the hidden costs of building a home.

Keep reading to learn about the different factors that will affect how much you pay for your new home.

Changes and modifications

One of the biggest traps in building a new home comes from the costs associated with changes and modifications. It’s so important to be aware of material upgrades that will add to the standard cost breakdown of building a house. If you upgrade items such as floorings, appliances, finishes and lighting—these will likely be additional to your initial negotiated cost to build, and your typical building costs will naturally increase.

If you start to make small modifications, you may not notice the cost initially. But it stands to reason, if you make a lot of small changes, or if you make large or structural changes to the plans or package, it could end up significantly adding to the cost breakdown of building your home.

Make sure you have an upfront conversation with your new home consultant or builder about the level of changes and modifications that will be included in your contract.

This is particularly important if you’re comparing a display home to a quote or estimate you’ve been given by a builder. It can be easy to fall in love with a floor plan and certain range of fittings and finishings, but often, the display homes you tour (whether virtually or in-person) will be a modified version of a standard plan. It’s therefore vital that you have a clear understanding of any gaps in cost. For example, the display home you visited may have marble benchtops in the kitchen, where your estimate may only cover laminate.

Builder promotions and offers

You’ll be amazed by the sheer number of home package deals available in the housing market. The thing is, many package deals promise the world but fail to deliver on the marketing hype. Simply put, many of these promotions are too good to be true, and are actually obscuring hidden costs in building your new home.

If you’re wondering if you should consider an offer born from a ‘deal’ or promotion, read our guide about builder promotions and offers

Site preparation

Site preparation is an area which is often overlooked by first-time home builders. Every block of land undergoes a site survey and soil test prior to construction.

If your block is difficult to access or is situated on a slope, your typical building costs will be higher. Likewise, rocky or highly-reactive soil will need to be included in your cost breakdown of building as they can increase your build costs due to needing different foundations. You also need to make sure that your sewage, water, stormwater and electricity connections to the street are covered in your cost breakdown. 

Although these costs are often unavoidable, if you uncover them early, you can better budget for your new home build. Read more about the three reports you need before paying a builder’s deposit.


It’s always tempting to cut corners to save money. In the spirit of being sensible, you might decide to forgo those extra cupboards in the laundry or install cheaper kitchen and bathroom appliances. What appears to be common-sense at the time can actually turn out to be “false economy” in the long run.

Cheaper appliances, fittings and finishes may require fixing or replacement in a shorter time frame and can affect the resale value of your home in later years. The moral of the story is: focus on quality and lasting value.


Where budget allows, make sure that finishes such as landscaping, driveways and window furnishings are included in your contract initially. These are not always included in building contracts and can add hidden costs to building your house.

Plan ahead

Within the building industry, it’s acknowledged that home renovations can cost significantly more (per square meter) than new home builds. That’s why a new home design should accommodate both your current and future lifestyle needs.

For example, if you’re a couple with plans to have children in the future, it’s much cheaper to build that extra room or two at the onset. The same can be said for kitchens, bathrooms, garages and storage spaces. Obviously a lot will depend on your budget, but always try to think long term.


Costs associated with delays are a great example of hidden costs in building a house. These can be caused by you as the buyer through changes and modifications, or if you are late in paying stage payments.

Delays can also be caused by your builder, who may not have prioritised your property over others they are completing. Delays may also be completely out of your control or your builder’s control, such as weather or contractor availability.

The weather… well there’s not much we can do about that! But some careful contract clauses can help avoid these hidden costs of building a house. Make sure you ask your builder about the costs associated with delays, and what is being done to mitigate these.

Change of mind

Finally, if you’re looking to avoid hidden costs, we’d recommend avoiding making excessive changes to your plans or build. Not only do changes of mind often attract additional drafting and material and labour costs, they can also cause costly delays.

Beyond Square Metres: Accurately Estimating The Cost Of A Home

If you’re going through the process of costing up a new home build, you’ll know that there is no shortage of opinions and recommendations on almost every aspect of the process. But beyond the complexities of choosing the ideal location, organising financing, and making design decisions, estimating how much it costs to build a house can be an incredibly difficult process.

The cost of building a new house is reliant on a number of factors that many builders may be unintentionally leaving out.

The most common thought is that the cost to build an average house should be based on  ‘per metre square’ or ‘per square’ basis. However, when using this as a house building cost estimate, problems can arise as buildings with the same square meterage can vary greatly depending on their floor plans.

A better approach to estimate the cost of building a house is by considering additional parameters such as the perimeter and style of roof. These elements, while not obvious at first, can often result in costs being driven up considerably.

Perimeter length

In the diagrams below are an example of three different floor plans – Houses A, B and C. While all are shaped differently, the square meterage is the same for all. The difference between all three lies in the perimeter length which ranges depending on the design.

Beyond Square Meterage
House ‘A’ has an area of 100 metres squared, and a perimeter of 40 lineal metres
House ‘B’ also has an area of 100 metres squared, however it has a perimeter of 50 lineal metres
Beyond Square Meterage
House ‘C’ also has an area of 100 metres squared, however it has a perimeter of 52 lineal metres

If you estimated the cost for these three buildings based on square meterage, you would assume that they would cost the same. However, House A’s perimeter measures 40 lineal metres, while House B is significantly larger at 50m. Comparatively House C’s perimeter is the largest of the three, measuring 52 lineal metres.

Due to the alcove, Design ‘C’ has a significantly greater exterior wall length, which is likely to drive up the cost. 

Roof design

While you need to consider the linear perimeter measurement as one part for estimating building costs, the roof design also plays a significant part in providing a more accurate representation.

Generally, there are two styles of roofing that are used – hip roofing and gable roofing.

Square M
A hipped roof – three or more sides slope downward

A hipped roof has three or more ‘sides’ that slope downward from a ridge at the top over the walls of your home.

A gable roof – two sides slope downward

By contrast, a gable roof has just two sides that slope downward. The cost of the gable style is generally much less than that of the hip option. Floorplan ‘C’ would require a hipped roof, where you could choose a gabled option for floorplans ‘A’ and ‘B’.

How to accurately estimate the cost of your home

So what do you need to know when looking for an accurate estimate for the cost of building  a house? In short, this depends on more than just the ‘per metre square’ cost. Without taking into account additional costs for the perimeter walls and choice of roofing style, both of which the house cannot exist without – it can be more or less expensive than originally quoted.

It’s therefore important that you ensure you get an accurate quote from your builder, rather than try to estimate and compare house prices on a ‘per square metre’ cost.

If you want to know more about how builders quote, or have a question about the cost to build a new home, contact us to learn more.

The North Point: Designing A High-Performance Home

One of the key features of a liveable home is a floor plan that is optimised for both the movements of the sun during the day, as well as throughout the seasons. The main factor in determining the relationship between your home and the sun is orientation, specifically the position of your floorplan in relation to the northern winter sun.

Every home design by G.J. Gardner Homes has a recommended north point. When our building designers are creating floor plans, this north point informs factors such as room layout, internal wall positioning, window type and orientation and even materials used.

New levels of comfort

North Point

By taking into account the north point when planning your build, you will unlock new levels of comfort and liveability. Orienting your floorplan correctly means that your home will be optimised for interaction between the indoors and outdoors—resulting in ample natural light, a better ambient temperature and more usable space.

This is particularly important during winter, where sunlight is more limited. Choosing the correct north point will ensure you are maximising the amount of winter sun that flows into all living areas of the home. A properly situated home will benefit from:

  • Morning sun in your kitchen and dining area
  • All-day sun coming into as many rooms and spaces as possible
  • Evening sun in your key living areas

When it comes to outdoor living, focusing on the best north point for your floor plan will also ensure that your outdoor entertaining areas—such as courtyards and decks—are usable. If you’re going to use these types of living and entertaining spaces in the winter, you want to consider shelter and indoor-outdoor flow.

The majority of our home designs feature a courtyard or indoor-outdoor entertaining area that, if oriented correctly against the north point indicator, should face the sun. These sheltered spaces are designed to catch the sun and heat in the winter (particularly the afternoons) but are also protected from the sun’s rays during summertime.

A more sustainable home

As well as considering comfort and liveability, it’s important to understand that orienting your home correctly is also a sustainable choice.

One of the most obvious sustainability benefits of having a home that receives optimum sunlight is saving money on your power bill—you won’t have to run the air conditioning or heating as often. There are also lifestyle benefits to less artificial air. As soon as you turn on the heating or cooling, you shut your home from the outdoors and contain your lifestyle. A house with an optimised north point will mean that you can have the windows and doors open, letting natural sunlight and fresh air in.

Often, new home builders aren’t aware that a well-positioned home will also likely lead to more affordable construction. This is because there are energy standards in every state, often in the form of a star rating. If you don’t get the north point right, you will likely have to spend more money on things like insulation, glazed windows and heating and air conditioning systems in order to meet your state or territory’s energy requirements.  

Optimum site use

When you’re building a new home, there are only a handful of things that are inflexible—your land size and view both cannot change. Your floor plan, on the other hand, is completely your choice.

At G.J. Gardner Homes, we believe we have an obligation to make the most of your block of land. One of the best ways we can do this is by helping you choose the home design that makes the best use of your site’s north point.

If you choose the right floor plan for your block, taking into consideration the north point, you will get the best out of the land that you’ve chosen. 

The end result is a home that feels like a resort, made up of spaces that you will enjoy being in every second of the day.

How Much Should it Cost to Customise a Standard Plan?

If you’ve been browsing home designs online or visiting display homes, you will probably find yourself liking a bit of this and a bit of that—a bedroom from one display home and a bathroom from another. As an individual you have the right to change your plans to suit you and you shouldn’t be penalised for it. After all, it’s not built yet!

Most builders will accommodate change. The question is—at what cost? It’s understandable that there are costs that come with customising a standard plan, but many people are unsure of how much they should be paying for customisation.

Understanding customisation costs

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say exactly how much it should cost to customise a standard plan. After all, it is completely dependent on your builder, the plan you have chosen and the modifications you’d like to make.

As a general rule of thumb, we believe you should be able to change things like paint colours and tiles at no cost within certain ranges. More significant items like appliances and bathroom fixtures may involve a relatively low customisation cost, depending on your selection.

Finally, changes to things like facades, layout and room sizes will almost certainly involve a customisation cost, however these costs should be detailed and line-itemed (rather than charged as a lump sum).

To ensure that you aren’t being charged unnecessarily for ‘customisation’, you should review the standard inclusions of the plan. You need to make sure your builder isn’t charging you extra for features that other builders would include in the standard plan price. For example, at G.J. Gardner with a G.J. Designer Plan, you will benefit from:

  • An innovative floor plan that has been carefully designed to maximise usable space
  • A choice of facade—the majority of our home designs have different facade designs to choose from, including styles like “Hamptons” and “Urban”
  • A degree of personalisation e.g. choosing fixtures, fittings and colours (this will depend on the design you choose and your local G.J. Gardner office)
  • Expert advice from your new home consultant in regards to layout, positioning on your block, etc.

Keeping costs down

Even if you’re unable to estimate the customisation costs upfront, there are a range of rules to stick to that will help you keep customisation costs down. 

Plan range

By choosing a builder who has a large and diverse range of home designs and floor plans, you will have a better chance of finding a design that will suit your style and budget, without having to make a large number of changes.

Land fit

When choosing a plan from a standard range, watch that it really does optimise your selected block of land, and is not just the closest fit. If—when taking into account the view, north/sun direction, privacy and site slope—you’re compromising to use a particular plan, consider whether this is the right type of plan for you.

Lump sum vs actual cost

Ensure the cost for changes is relevant to the work done and not just an inflated lump sum.

Get a fixed price

If you do want to customise a standard build, get any modifications fully priced up before committing to them (and make sure they’re included in the contract). In reality, at some stage you may have to compromise, either on price or on what you want included. If you leave this until after paying a deposit or signing a contract, you could find yourself trapped in a home that is not your own. Read more about the benefits of a fixed price quote.

Align on suppliers

Choosing a builder who traditionally doesn’t supply the fixtures and finishes you want is not likely to be the most cost effective choice. It will require them to go outside their normal suppliers and tradespeople which can lead to increased costs, complications and mistakes.

The first step

The first step in getting a feel for customisation costs is being upfront with your builder about your desire to make changes.

You should take in and show the builder all your ideas, including: 

  • Clippings and inspiration boards (e.g. Pinterest)
  • Floor plans and renders you like the look of
  • Any plans you have had drawn up, or architect sketches 
  • Concept designs

Any builder worth their weight will take notes of your wish list, and try to include your items in their quote. It’s important to discuss this in detail very early so that they can guide you as to how it can fit into your final budget.

A good builder will be flexible and open to your individuality without making you pay exorbitantly for it.

Learn more about G.J. Gardner Homes’ approach to custom home designs.

How To Choose A Floor Plan That’s Right For You

If you are planning on building a new home, you will have likely come across a range of different options for floor plans. A home floor plan is a drawing that shows an overhead view of a house and highlights the relationships between the rooms and spaces.

When designing a new home, floor plans are an invaluable tool. So, what makes a good floor plan? And what do you need to consider when choosing a floor plan that is right for you?

Key Characteristics Of A Good Floor Plan

A good floor plan is the foundation for a well-designed home that is a joy to live in. Choosing wisely means there will be great solar gain (or shade in warmer climates), good flow between spaces, noise management, and it is likely to increase your home’s resale value.

A good floor plan should:

Have a highly-considered room configuration

For optimal flow and enjoyment, rooms should work together. Bedrooms should be far away from entertainment spaces, bathrooms should not face common areas such as a dining room and kitchens should open out to a dining or living room.

Be versatile and flexible

Versatility might not be something you consider when planning your dream home. However, choosing a floor plan with flexible spaces means that an office space could easily be converted into a bedroom or vice versa. This is particularly important if you are planning on selling in the future or if you change your mind on the layout of your home.

Consider size

Every area in your house should be considered carefully so that there is enough room to move around and complete desired activities. It sounds simple, however this is one of the main areas that people fail to consider. This is one of the benefits of choosing a home from a proven catalogue of home designs—your rooms will be just the right size for your needs, and therefore highly functional.

Choosing The Right Floor Plan For Your Home 

When choosing or designing a floor plan for you, it is important that you also consider the following:

Block layout 

Start by considering the size and layout of your block. The size of the block may determine the size of the house you can build.

Determine house size 

In some situations, the size of the house will be dependent on the restrictions of the block. For example, a sloping block restricts the size of a house that can be built on it. A common house design for a sloping block is a single-storey split level home. If you have more space to work with, you should consider the needs of your family and your lifestyle. This will help determine your floor plan size, and number of storeys.

Restrictions & regulations 

Before proceeding with your floor plans, you may have to check with your local council and other relevant authorities about regulations and restrictions. Restrictions such as house heights, home sizes and environmental considerations may limit your options.

Lifestyle considerations 

This means considering the layout of rooms, size of rooms and other specific requirements for your family. Don’t forget to think about your daily activities such as doing laundry and cleaning the house—do you really want to walk up two flights of stairs to hang your washing?

Future considerations 

Think about what your plans are for the future. Will you be staying in this home for a while? Will your family be growing? Will your kids be moving out? Will you be selling in the future? These are all important questions to ask when thinking about designing your floor plan. As mentioned earlier, keeping rooms versatile is an important component for future planning.

For retirees, future accessibility should also be considered.Certain design features are much more cost effective to incorporate as part of a new home build, rather than through renovations later on. For example, you might consider:

  • A level front door transition
  • Larger kitchen and bathrooms
  • Wider halls

Make sure you know what you are looking at 

Finally, with multiple abbreviations and symbols, floor plans may appear overwhelming at first. It is imperative you understand measurements in terms of flooring, wall heights and ceiling heights.

Ask your building consultant or designer to help you understand and interpret these.

The House Building Process: Advice For First Time Buyers

Building a house is one of life’s biggest projects and it’s incredibly rewarding to see your beautiful dream home take shape.

Not many people do it more than once in their lifetime, and it can be a very daunting process, particularly if you are not familiar with the process of building a house.

If you’re a first time buyer, it’s important to stay on top of things. You need to be fully briefed so you’re ‘in the know’ with the process of building a house, and not flying blind.

What Are the Steps to Building a New Home?

Generally, the house building process can be split into seven steps. These include:

  1. Finding Finance
  2. Locating Your Land
  3. Create Your Dream Design
  4. Contracts and Approvals
  5. Constructing Your Home
  6. The Finishes
  7. Final Sign Offs

Keep reading to find out in more depth what each step involves and you will be well and truly on your way to building your dream home!

Step 1. Finding Finance

Designing your dream walk-in wardrobe might be the fun part, however understanding your finances must come first. Having a clear budget from the very beginning helps to avoid blow-outs and unmet expectations.

To work out what you can afford, research home loan options so that you can make informed decisions on land and design. You may want to speak to your bank or work with a financial adviser or mortgage broker to help with this stage.

Step 2. Locate Your Land

Finding a location you love is a critical step. Location is a lifestyle decision, as you must consider things like your neighbourhood, commute and schooling options.

Your chosen location will also affect your home design and budget. The results of your soil test, site survey and detailed property report will inform the foundations needed on that land, fill/scrape recommendations, home design, aspect, and more.

Listed below are three major options for locating your land. A good lawyer/conveyancer  is a must—they will help with the contract and conveyance, ensuring you’re ticking all the right legal boxes before proceeding with creating your dream design.

Buy the land separately

You can buy the land separately and then engage a builder to build your dream house. Once you have found the perfect block of land, you will need to negotiate the right price (where you can) and complete the purchase. It’s a good idea to talk to your likely builder as they will know of available land and likely cost associated with building on the land.

Choose a house and land package

Another option for locating land is to find a house and land package, where the builder will give you an end to end or turn key cost that includes land and home build. If you choose house and land option, you may be required to enter two contracts one for land and one for the building.

Knockdown rebuild

Keep in mind that your land doesn’t have to be a blank canvas—knock down rebuilds are also popular ways of building a new house, particularly in metro areas.

Step 3. Create Your Dream Design

Designing your dream home is an exciting, yet sometimes overwhelming, part of the home building process. The best first step is to start collecting inspiration. Instagram and Pinterest are a great first step, combined with looking at home designs online add in link. If you can, you should also visit display homes to see, feel, touch and experience the home design for yourself.

When you’re ready to select a design that suits, it’s best to meet with a new home consultant as there are a significant number of things to consider. Should one of your builder’s available designs not fill the requirements, the best way to approach your home is to customise an ‘off the shelf’ plan in partnership with your new home consultant or builder. This way, you will get all the benefits of a tried and tested design, and still be able to customise certain elements. Learn more about our approach to custom home designs.

Alternatively, you can bring your own plan or concept sketches.

Step 4. The Fine Print (Contracts and Approvals)

After you have decided on your dream home design, you’ll need to start the paperwork. Your builder should handle the project end-to-end by dealing with all the council and building authority requirements, using expert staff who can streamline the process of building a house.

Throughout the contract and approvals process, we’d recommend that you work towards securing a fixed price quote. Fixed quotes, and subsequently fixed contracts, provide assurance around the timing and cost of your home. This means you avoid ongoing delays, the pain of paying extra rent or mortgage, and the surprise of unexpected variations.

Step 5. Kicking Off Construction

This is where the action in building your house happens. Seeing the foundations being laid means your home is officially “under construction”.

Once the frame goes up you’ll really see it come to life. This is one of the most exciting stages of building a house. Next, your builder will put a roof over your head and complete the exterior walls.

Step 6. The Finishes

And then the fun part starts, the interior fixtures and finishes. Painting, colours, floorings, kitchens, bathrooms, lighting, window furnishings, tapware—all the details you have been dreaming of start to take shape.

After this, the next steps to build a home are just the finishing touches. Painting external walls or trims where needed, landscaping, driveways and fencing (if included in the contract).

Step 7. The Final Sign Offs

Once all the steps in building your new home are complete, your builder will organise the building and council approvals. It’s then time for the bank to complete a final evaluation, finalise your mortgage and mortgage release. Then before you know it, you are ready to move in.

A Guide To Downsizer Contributions Into Super

What are downsizer contributions?

Downsizer contributions are voluntary superannuation contributions that have been targeted towards older Australians looking to downsize from their long-term family home. 

They can help you significantly increase the account balance of your superannuation account, as they provide the opportunity for tax-free payments that can total up to $300k per person.

Why were they introduced?

Australia’s downsizer contributions to super accounts were introduced as part of the 2017-18 budget in an effort to relieve some of the pressure on housing affordability. It aimed to free up housing availability through encouraging older homeowners to downsize, moving into houses more suited to their needs once kids have moved out.

Eligibility for downsizer contributions

So, are you eligible? Here are the conditions that you must meet in order to make a downsizer contribution:

  • You are 65 years or older at the time you decide to make a contribution to your super fund
  • The total amount you are contributing originates from the sale of your home and does not exceed the total sale price of the home,
  • Your home was owned by your or your spouse for 10 years or more
  • Your home is not a caravan, houseboat or other form of dwelling
  • The money you have received from the sale of the home is exempt from Capital Gains Tax, or would apply for exemption but was acquired before 20th of September 1985
  • You have filled out the relevant downsizer contribution form and supplied that to your super fund
  • You have not made a downsizer contribution before
  • You make your contribution within 90 days of receiving the sale proceeds.

If you meet all these conditions, then you are eligible to make a downsizer contribution to your superannuation account.

The benefits of downsizer contributions

There are a number of reasons that make downsizer contributions an exciting opportunity for older Australians. It varies a great deal from other voluntary superannuation contributions, a lot of which have restrictive measures placed on them:

  • No work test or age limits apply in this case. Normally voluntary contributions are not allowed at all for people aged over 75, and those aged between 67 and 74 have to pass the ‘work test’ (where you have worked a minimum of 40 hours over a 30-day period).
  • Annual caps on concessional and non-concessional contributions are usually capped at $25k and $100k. They are capped at $300k in this case.
  • The normal limit on after-tax contributions to superannuation accounts with a total balance of $1.6m total does not apply. However, it does contribute towards your Transfer Balance Cap (TBC).
  • There is no requirement for you to buy another home. You are under no actual obligation to move into a smaller house or any other specific living situation for that matter.
  • You don’t have to have lived in the house for the entire 10 years, but it must qualify as a ‘main residence’ under Capital Gains Tax rules.
  • Both spouses (even if only one is on the property title) can make $300k contributions, totalling $600k. However, the total contribution cannot surpass the total sale price of the home.

Extra things to consider before making a downsizer contribution

You may want to take the time to consider the following before committing to making a contribution of this type:

  • A downsizer contribution can affect your eligibility for the age pension. 
  • Time limit extensions only apply to circumstances out of your control, so don’t delay if you’re interested!

Everybody’s financial circumstances are different, and this advice is  so we recommend you consult with an expert before you decide on making a contribution such as this.

Things To Know About Builder Promotions And Offers

If you’re doing research on building a new home, you’ll know that many builders offer promotions and giveaways. You may have seen offers for “free” rooms, “bonus” appliances, $x in value, and even buy now pay later arrangements.

These types of promotions can be both exciting and tempting, but the truth is, they are mostly designed to get you in the door and signing a piece of paper.

Is it too good to be true?

In most cases, yes.

Builders that offer promotions worth tens of thousands of dollars are likely recouping their profit elsewhere. If it’s not in the initial price then it may be in high costs for variations and extras you may want (or you might need them due to site conditions). It could even be on commissions from third party suppliers or finance providers that you will be forced to choose. At the end of the day, you aren’t actually saving money, rather just paying for the ‘saving’ somewhere else.

The alternative is the potential that the business is running with very low or no profit. This, of course, is unsustainable. If the business folds before they complete building your home, you may end up having to deal with significant delays and additional costs.

Why do these promotions work?

Humans love the word “free”. Science shows that even the sight of the word releases large quantities of dopamine—the happy chemical—in our brain. Offers that use the word “free” are designed to motivate you to sign a contract or put down a deposit.

Many of these promotions are also accompanied with a time or quantity limit e.g. “Hurry, only 3 available!” This tactic is called scarcity bias—as the availability of something decreases, the more desirable it comes.

It’s important to be aware of these biases when you are making decisions.

Should you say ‘yes’ to a promotion?

Building a house is such a significant investment of time and money, and it can be daunting when you start to think about the size of the commitment. It’s therefore completely understandable that new home builders are looking to save money at every available opportunity.

But really, there are better ways to be smart with your money when planning to build a new home:

  • Do your research and choose a reputable builder
  • Order a soil test, site survey and detailed property report so that you can have as much information as possible about your land
  • Use the information from these tests and reports to secure a fixed price contract from your builder
  • Work out what you want and get it priced accurately early in the process 
  • Receive multiple quotes and compare them

If you are interested in learning more about a promotion or offer to test it’s real value, we’d encourage you to get a full quote with no options for increased costs. This means that everything is included and there are no prime costs or provisional sums allowed. Then a comparative quote. You may find that the cost of that “free” master bedroom is hidden in an inflated price for something else.

Also, if you’re required to use a particular finance company with their offer, be sure to check out the interest rates, set up fees and insurance costs in comparison to market rates. You should also ask if the builder receives a commission on your loan.

How Much Will Landscaping Your New Home Cost?

As Australians, we’re lovers of the great outdoors. There aren’t many better ways to spend time in the sunshine and fresh air than in your very own slice of paradise—your front or back yard.

A well-designed and neatly landscaped outdoor space can offer much more than just a private outdoor sanctuary. Your outdoor spaces can be transformed, adding significant monetary value to your home as an asset for years to come.

While planning for the landscaping aspect of your new home, you may be finding it a little difficult to estimate just how much of an impact it’s going to have on the final price.

Landscaping a new home can include any combination of elements such as earthmoving, lighting, decking, paving, turf laying, retaining wall construction and planting. The list goes on! These all involve a number of trades and specialty skill sets.

There is therefore no easy calculation that can be used to give the exact cost of landscaping your new home due to the complexity involved. As a very broad rule of thumb, you can expect to put between 5 and 10% of your house cost towards landscaping.

If you set aside this much of your budget, you can establish a good baseline for a full landscaping project that can easily adjust to fit the needs of your specific preferences and budget.

Calculating The Cost Of Landscaping A New Home

For example, if you’re paying $400,000 to build on a new lot, you should consider putting somewhere between $20,000-$40,000 aside to put towards landscaping. 

  • By establishing a figure in your mind that you would like to spend on landscaping, you can seek out expert advice on the finer details of how this will look. 
  • Through consulting with an expert, you can then start to get a little more specific in your requests in terms of key features and project scope. 

This method can be applied whether you’re looking for a simple, low-maintenance garden project or an outdoor living area with all the bells and whistles!

There are also a number of factors you can consider to try and estimate the price.

Factors Involved in The Cost of Landscaping Your Home

  1. The size and complexity of the project you had in mind for your new home plays a huge role in how much it ends up costing. This may sound obvious, but the disparity in overall cost for small and large projects can blow out to be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Make sure you are realistic with your needs and expectations!
  2. As much as a lot of us would like to see ourselves as accomplished handymen, there is a lot that cannot be done in a landscaping project without expert help. As a result, labour makes up a good portion of the overall cost.
  3. Plants and materials also make up a significant portion of the overall project cost. Your plant selection in garden-heavy designs; as well as where you source them, can play a lot into your landscaping bottom line.
  4. The location that you pick to build your new home will also dictate a portion of the cost of landscaping. Regional areas may not have the same access to resources and can result in a more lengthy and costly project. 
  5. The type of planting will dictate what sort of irrigation (if any) will be required. This can alter the overall cost dramatically.

Budgeting For A New Home Landscaping Project

As the last thing to be done in the construction process, landscaping is often the unfortunate casualty of budget cuts. This is why it’s so important to set aside a portion of your money for landscaping, to avoid having to sacrifice this essential addition to your brand-new home.

Try to get your landscaping costs included in a fixed price quote before you start, so that your funds for your beautiful garden and outdoor area are protected.