How to Save Money When Building Your Own Home
Construction. It’s all about staying on time and keeping within budget, right? So how do we do that when it comes to building our very own home? Because let’s be honest, we all want the best quality home with the finest fittings at the cheapest price, but we don’t always know how to get there.
There are many ways to save (and spend) money when building your own home. Building can be an emotional roller-coaster for many of us, because it’s not just four walls and a roof to us. No, it’s so much more. It’s the pitter-patter of little feet, it’s dinner parties, birthday celebrations, BBQ’s with friends, and time spent sitting around the dinner table with family making memories. Because we are so emotionally invested in our own homes, it is even more important for us to plan and plan some more and to stick to the plan as much as possible. Failing to do so can cost us greatly, so we need to keep a level head and keep our eye on the prize.
So, how exactly do we go about saving money without compromising on quality?
- Consider Modular or Prefabricated Structures
Modular and Prefabricated construction helps in reducing costs as well as accelerating the construction process. They are prepared and assembled in a factory, ready for delivery and installation, thereby saving you time, money and labor. However, these may not always be suitable options for the specific project or reno that you have in mind, in which case be sure to work closely with your chosen architect to design the most cost effective home from the very start, as changes made during the design process are a lot less costly than changes made during construction. Keeping the design smaller and more open plan will help to reduce costs, so think simple and minimalistic and design your home for the needs of you and your family. Bigger is not always better.
- Be a Part of Every Stage of the Build
Make sure you are a part of every stage of the building process, right from the word go. Be in all the planning and design meetings and consider your costs in every single step. (Even if you feel like you know nothing on that particular topic or have no experience in that field, question anything you don’t understand to avoid costly mistakes.) Open and effective communication should be encouraged throughout the entire process and to ensure that all parties are always on the same page. At the end of the day, this is your hard earned money and you have a right to be kept in the loop.
- Get Several Estimates and Choose Wisely
Never just go with your first quote, no matter what service or trade you are after. Shop around for a minimum of 3 estimates in order to give you a good idea of what the price range is. Approaching several contractors or trades (and letting them know you are getting other quotes) can often result in some of them offering to price match, or even beat another’s price. Before making your final choice, ask for references and make sure your builder/contractor/tradie is adequately licensed and insured. It’s also worth researching them online to get customer reviews, see some of their previous work and to ensure they are reputable.
- Get Advice Before You Sign
When your chosen builder presents you with his construction contract, make sure you understand it before signing. The best option is to contact a professional who understands construction law to review the construction contract for you. “The contract sets out the ‘rules of the game’. Make sure you have one, it is clear and concise, and deals with all the essential ingredients such as price, scope, quality and time.” says Steven C Evans, Construction Contract expert from CMC Asia Pacific. It could cost you dearly in the long run if you don’t fully understand your contract.
- Plan to Build During the Off-Season
In general, winter is a slow season for the construction industry and contractors still need to work. As a result, they are often more willing to negotiate with you and to try and meet your budget during this time. Subcontractors and suppliers are also likely to be less busy throughout your project and more likely to meet your schedule. As an added bonus, Government agencies are less busy so you can usually get your permits quicker too.
- Keep an Eye on Labor Productivity
There are many variables that can influence the productivity of your contractors, from low morale, fatigue (due to overtime) and the weather to having too many/too few workers on site or a hazardous working environment. Some of these factors are out of your control (i.e. the weather) however, some of them you can identify early on, some you can prevent and others you can effectively manage to prevent poor performance and keep your build moving along smoothly. (as if any construction project ever ran smoothly, right?)
One great example I came across recently was of an owner-builder who, following the weather patterns, noticed that the following day was going to be a particularly hot and humid one. In the hopes of keeping productivity and morale up on his building site, he decided to go and buy a case of lemonade and a few bags of ice and delivered them to site in an esky for the contractors to enjoy and re-energize. His workers were beyond grateful and the outcome he had hoped for was achieved.
- Don’t be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty
Remember that you have many skills yourself and some of those may come in handy when trying to save a few pennies. Before hiring a contractor, ask yourself if you are capable of doing the job yourself. Can you dig a hole? Paint the walls? Carry cement? The amount you can save is only limited by your ability. Only you know what your skills are and what you are capable of. It could even be as simple as going to your site each day after the contractors have left and tidying up, throwing away rubbish, sweeping, cleaning and putting the materials in the correct place for the following days’ work. This could save your contractors valuable time the next day, which in turn will save you money.
- When Possible, Purchase Your Own Materials
Sourcing and purchasing the materials yourself gives you the opportunity to shop around for the best deals and to negotiate the best prices. In some cases, though, your contractor may be able to get better prices on bulk items, such as paint and timber. It’s best to discuss this first and decide which items you will source yourself. Doing so gives you the opportunity to oversee what materials are purchased and to keep costs under control. It also allows you to consider using reclaimed materials. Just make sure to stay organized so that your materials are available on site as and when they are needed by your contractor. (You don’t want to be delaying things and costing yourself more money)
- Choose Appliances, Fixtures and Finishes Wisely
Your choice in fixtures and finishes for areas such as your bathrooms and kitchen can add up, and FAST. (Especially tapware and benchtops!) So be wise and shop around. Do your research and decide where you want to scrimp and where you want to splurge early on in the game. Where possible use coupons, vouchers, reward programs and purchase sale items. Don’t overlook “end of range” (previous year model) taps and fittings either as these could potentially save you a large chunk of change.
A great example is to choose laminate benchtops for your kitchen instead of granite or stone, and consider tiling your bathroom walls only halfway and then painting the rest instead of having floor to ceiling tiles. (This is way more stylish and modern too, in my personal opinion)
- Reduce Wasted Materials
Every stage of a construction build or renovation produces waste, from offcuts of wood and tiles to tins of paint. There are two ways to minimize waste on site. Firstly, by ordering the correct quantity of materials. Secondly, instead of using a skip bin, park a trailer on site and every time it fills up, take it to the tip yourself. This alone could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Also, salvage any materials you can for reuse and upcycling. (Just jump onto Pinterest for some inspiration – you will be amazed at the beautiful and unique picture frames or shelving you could make out of timber off cuts as well as other ideas for your new home or work space)
- Choose Cost and Time Saving Products
When choosing your products and materials, do some research and choose products that save you time and money by paying attention to factors such as installation time, labor costs, removal time, assembly time, delivery time and cost etc. Choosing your products wisely can have a large impact on the total cost of your project. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts for advice and to enquire about new products on the market.
During the entire construction process, it’s vital to be one step ahead of every stage (I cannot stress the importance of planning enough) and to constantly watch your bottom line. Remember that home construction and/or renovation is an investment (a financial and emotional one) in probably one of your biggest assets, so be wise when sourcing your contractors and materials, don’t always choose the cheapest option and always keep in mind your home’s resale value.
“Success doesn’t just happen. It’s planned for” – Anonymous