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IT goes without saying that after starting a family, buying or building a house is the next most challenging chapter. Yet it’s vital that the thrill and excitement of the occasion shouldn’t cloud your decision-making – without proper planning the debt you incur will hang around long after the kids have flown the coup.

Fair Trading spokesperson Teresa Mullan says when it comes to home building, complaints about poor workmanship continue to top the list, followed by issues such as unfinished work and design faults.

“Consumers should establish and maintain good communication with their trader and seek clarification in writing to anything they’re unsure of in the contract,” Teresa says.

“If it’s not in the contract or forms part of an approved variation to the contract, it may be difficult to resolve if it becomes a dispute at a later date.”

She says that clients should be made aware of all costs they are likely to incur upfront, including BASIX and site cost fees, before signing on the dotted line.

“Prices need to be identified upfront or if not known, estimates should be provided. However, any estimated costs should be clearly stated and realistic and a consumer should understand how and why costs might change and how the total cost can be affected.

“Some traders will specify the site cost in the contract as a provisional cost item, meaning this cost could vary depending on what the actual costs are in preparing the site. If the site is difficult to build on, or the trader hits solid rock, the cost will increase,” she says.

“A trader’s estimate will often allow for any additional excavation and removal of fill or excess soil from the site. And if you are building a new home in Sydney, you need to know about the BASIX Certificate.”

A BASIX certificate is necessary if you are lodging a development application in NSW for a new home, or for any alteration and addition of $50,000 or more to an existing home.


Before you allow yourself to fall in love with a home design, get all the facts about costs for the entire building process, starting with site costs.

Dominic Vitalone knows only too well what it costs to build a house from scratch, and says his company, Wisdom Homes, is up front about figures from the start.

Wisdom Homes gives prospective clients a quote that includes site costs, BASIX, floor coverings and stencilled concrete driveway completion.

This was unheard of in 1999 when he set up the company.

Today, most builders will quote on the home and finishes but you’ll need to dig deeper into your savings before you’re home is complete.

“Talking to someone like a four-year-old is not a bad thing when you’re dealing with anyone who has never built before; you need to be upfront about all costs,” he says. “Most people wouldn’t have a clue about site costs and BASIX. Finding out about costs after you’ve signed with a builder is not right; you need to take out the guesswork for people.”

Wisdom Homes has a flat fee for site costs where the block has one metre or less of fall and BASIX is worked out on council necessity.

“A lot of builders quote on a low price, but that’s the bare bones; once you include flooring and driveway and site costs, you end up with a very different figure to the $200,000 that you originally started with,” Dominic says.

“When you add up all the extras your budget is blown. There are essential items that people need to be aware of. The bare minimum price might sound great, but it won’t get you in your home.

“People who have built before won’t fall into that trap, but there’s a whole other group of people who you need to educate.”


Housing NSW, an agency of the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), says project home companies can offer houses at reasonable prices compared to custom builders.

But when you find something in your budget, don’t be too hasty in making a decision as any changes required by you after construction could be expensive and cause delays.

This organisation also suggests getting tHicks Real Estatee or four builders to quote when building a house on your block of land as the price tag might not include site costs.

A builder’s quote should be itemised to include extras such as site access problems for delivery of materials, pier and beam footings, extra lengths of connection to drainage, water and electricity, engineer’s fees and drilling for service connections.


* Will the house layout fit on my land? Most project homes are designed for at or gently sloping blocks of land. The wrong house design could add considerably to the price.

* Measure the room size for yourself and make sure your furniture will fit.

* Find out exactly what is included in the home and what is not.

* Ask if changes can be made.

Questions you must ask before you build

* What is your contractor licence number?

* Where can I see examples of your work?

* What other jobs have you got on at the moment?

* Who will supervise the work?

* Do you have proper insurance?

* How much deposit do you need?

* When can you start the work and how long will it take?

* What sort of contract will be used?

* How much will it cost?

* When are progress payments to be made?

* What happens if the work is defective?

* Who cleans the site?

Story:  Catherine Nikas-Boulos    Source:

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Hicks Real Estate is a Brisbane based, full-service real estate agency supporting buyers and sell as well as renters and property investors. With almost 20 years experience in the local market, we are the real estate experts you can rely upon.