Great tips to get you started as an owner-builder

Do you fancy yourself as a big project manager and are looking at being the owner-builder of your next home? Registered architect and Home Base owner-builder course presenter David Uhe shares some top tips to get you started.

Understand the scale of the project

While you may end up wheelbarrow-deep in bricks and building materials as you get your hands dirty, you will most likely spending a majority of the time dealing with subcontractors and managing the construction process.

It will be on you, and you alone, to keep the build on time and within budget. It can be a massive undertaking and the more knowledge you can build first the better, and it won’t hurt to get knowledgeable people to help guide you through the process.

Get your building permits sorted

You can’t just dive right in and start building on your land. Owner-builders have to become registered as such with the Building Authority before applying to their local government for a building permit.

Get expert assistance

Mr Uhe says owner-builders are responsible for supervision of the construction but may, and should, engage qualified people to assist with inspections at key stages of construction.

Comply with building codes

It’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about the legalities of your building process. Owner-builders must comply with all relevant building codes and also the conditions of the local government building permit.

Meeting construction standards

As the owner-builder, you are responsible for the construction integrity of the house for six years. It’s important to get a qualified building inspector to visit the site at key milestones to check the progress.

You need your inspector to alert you to any potential risks or issues with the build as it progresses.

Managing your budget

Before starting the project, the owner-builder should get it properly estimated for cost. By getting the build estimated, it will give you a great understanding of all the costs and you’ll get a detailed quantities list that will help you during the months ahead.

Getting finance as an owner-builder is always a challenge so having all of the costing, planning and estimates sorted beforehand will help your finance approval.

Being the one responsible for managing the various tradespeople is a real life skill and you’ll quickly become aware of how important budgeting is and to be very vigilant with the purse strings and keep track of every dollar, because things can get out of control very quickly in an owner-building scenario.

Three years until your next project

An owner-builder can’t undertake another project as an owner-builder for three years.

Learn what you can and can’t do yourself

As an owner-builder you might be able to help with some of the construction work yourself, but you’ll need to leave the plumbing, gas and electricity to the professionals.

Allow enough time

One of the most common mistakes owner-builders make is underestimating the time construction will take, and also how much it will cost. If costs blow out it means more application for finance which holds up the process even more. 


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