North Shore Home And Renovations – Building To A Budget

The Smartest Investment You Can Make When Building Your New Home

You decide you want a new purpose-built or renovated home for you and your family and having looked through magazines, watched building shows on TV and visited a range of houses to develop your ideas, you now have a vision for your dream-home.

You consult an architect or draughtsman and explain this dream home to them. They draw up the plans and wow it looks fantastic – just what you envisioned.
You give two thumbs up and have your designer submit the plans to Council for building consent and finally, get approval to go ahead with the build. You could easily have spent $10,000 by this stage, but you have a budget in mind so what could possibly go wrong?

Sadly, a lot can and frequently does go wrong even before the building starts.

The Next Step In Building Your Dream Home

Once you have the plans and consent from the Council, the obvious next step is to call in a builder so they can give you an estimate. It is here, that things often go horribly wrong.

The building estimates can be way over your budget. In fact, in our experience, they usually are (and sometimes by double). This is because people significantly under-estimate the cost of even basic, entry-level building. So, when we price their luxurious dream house, they are of course shocked at the cost.

People get carried away in the excitement of having a big kitchen with all the bells and whistles, a third bathroom or perhaps an entertainers’-sized deck complete with mini-bar. This is their chance to have top-of-the-range fixtures and fittings.

The biggest costs are labour and building materials, but you also have to add in other big costs. For example, initial groundwork alone can run to tens of thousands of dollars. If you are on a sloping site, then you may need retaining walls. Any increase in the floor area, especially on sloping sites, will add significantly to your building costs.

Many times house building or renovation projects do not go ahead simply because people have had unrealistic budgets and grandiose plans. Not only have people paid out $10,000 or more, but their dreams are squashed.

The Best Way To Build To Your Budget

What is the solution to build within your budget?

Oddly, the best way forward is to invest a relatively small amount of money before you get to the final plans. This may seem counter-intuitive to spend money at this stage, but it can save you thousands and help you get a home that will meet your family’s needs.

Before running off with your grand ideas to an architect, first, run your ideas past a Licensed Builder. Ask for their expert opinion on what you could realistically build on your site or with your existing house – and within your available budget. An experienced builder will have real-world knowledge on the range of costs and work involved in executing your ideas, be able to offer solutions where needed and even suggest alternatives you may not have considered. This collaborative discussion will help manage both your expectations and budget from the start, getting you closer to the home you want.

Most builders will also be able to recommend a few architects or draughtsmen best suited to your project. Once you’ve settled on one, ask them to draw-up a draft plan rather than full building plans. When you have those, enlist your builder again, along with a Quantity Surveyor. Show them the outline plan and ask them for draft costs both for labour and the materials. Of course, you will have to pay for their time and work but this will be a lot less than having fully developed plans and consent that you cannot actually afford to build.

What Happens If The Draft Is Too Expensive?

Our job as a builder is to help you manage your expectations and your budget. If the labour and material costs do come back way over your expectations, we will work with you to decide what are the absolute must-haves in your new or renovated home – maybe you don’t really need that extra bathroom that is adding $20,000-$30,000 to your build.

Other things to consider are the fixtures and fittings. Do you need the highest spec of everything?

A small but surprising example of how these sorts of costs can get out of hand is the unassuming household door. Doors can range from $80 to $900, while handles can range from $10 to $800. Even a modest change in specs for these could easily save $7,000 in a four-bedroom home. Make these spec swaps to a few more items and you can imagine the potential savings on a whole.

Budget Over-runs Cause Stress And Financial Hardship

A common problem people end up with for a building project is that too many builders use a poor pricing model. It is very common to see prices quoted at a price per square metre. Even online guides offer pricing guidelines by the sq metre. This inevitably leads to under costing and financial over-spend.

Much better is to have either itemised or fixed pricing.

In the itemised models, you can see where your money is going so you can make changes before building starts (changing the fabric of the structure after construction has started is always expensive).

Using a fixed-price option, you and the builder will agree on the final specs at the beginning, with no changes possible within that price limit.

With both of these, you have more understanding of your financial exposure and can budget accordingly.

Smart Pricing For House Building

Over the years we have seen many disappointed homeowners who cannot afford their new home simply because they did not know the likely costs up front.

We encourage all of our prospective clients to do their due diligence and follow this simple but worthwhile approach to building or renovating a home. It saves everyone time, money and disappointment.

If you are thinking of having a new home built or undertaking a major renovation, we are happy to have an initial discovery chat. We can introduce you to an architect or draughtsman (depending on your build requirements) and a Quantity Surveyor so that you can get a fuller picture before you spend thousands of dollars on unusable drawings and Council consent – and ultimately have a positive building experience from the beginning. You can reach us via email at or on 0800 224 628.


North Shore house renovation builder and architectural new builds.