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Trust No One!

Hi there, this is Barry from UBuild Homes and in case you didnt catch the title I’ll say it again: Trust No One!

If you are planning on building a home then you need to take extreme care. As an Owner Builder you must take precautionary steps to manage your risks.

Learn About the Building IndustryMy intent is not to bag the construction industry, and as someone who has operated in the insdustry for over 40 years as a licensed builder, I think I can talk with experience. Putting trust in unprofessional people in the residential construction industry can hurt. In addition, these are difficult times which puts added pressure on the builders and trades who are out there quoting for work – many doing so without systems or proper training.

The problem is: it is so difficult to differentiate between professional and unprofessional conduct.

I’m not talking about dishonest people. There are plenty of those types in every industry and we all need to guard against the sharks out there. What I’m talking now is dealing with trades and builders who simply don’t use good, professional systems to quote, and who then create a disastrous outcome for you as a result.

Unfortunately, this happens too many times. The general public puts their faith in so called industry experts only to find their hard earned cash vanish into thin air. Please allow me to share a recent example:

A couple that came to UBuild Homes recently were very distraught. From the outset this couple had no intention of Owner Building. They had engaged a builder to do a quote for them to build their home. They accepted the quote. Unfortunately, the quote lacked detail and was poorly put together. The couple trusted the builder and thought he knew what he was doing. Just prior to signing the contract the couple made some changes to the plan. Nothing too dramatic – but then the builder used this opportunity as an excuse to lift the contract amount by as much as 100k. In other words he exposed his unprofessional conduct. It was very obvious the builder under quoted the job in the first place and so waited for the right opportunity to adjust the pricing in his favour!

Now, legally he is within his right to do this. But morally it is wrong. And unfortunately, happens all too often – and not just on large projects but small ones too. Owner Builders often recount similar stories of conflicts with a variety of trades because of the exact same process.

In the end the couple had to walk away from the builder. Due to the cost blow out and the resulting bad experience they then turned to Owner Building and today they are now UBuild Homes’ customers and moving forward.

The same couple also had a very poor outcome with their drafting service. Again the reason was trust. They simply assumed that the drafting service would be professional and knowledgable about the planning requirements. They were not, and this resulted in further costs and anguish.

Now let me say this: Neither the builder or the drafting service provider in question are bad people or what you would call ‘shonky’. They were just unprofessional due to a lack of skill, training and experience. This is what commonly happens in the building industry and it creates problems for customers.

It’s vital that if you are building a house through a builder, or are planning to owner build, you get educated. Don’t fall into the trap of trusting that others will always do the right thing. Learn to spot the difference between professional and unprofessional behaviour. Be vigilant, check everything, question everything. This knowledge and questioning might just be one of the biggest investments you will ever make!

Owner Builder True Cost Savings

One of the most common questions we are asked by prospective Owner Builders is “How much am I going to save by Owner Building?”

That’s not a question that can be answered right on the spot – and it’s also not the only question they should be asking! You see, the key points influencing the decision to become an Owner Builder have to be more than just price!

However, let’s just focus on costings for the moment.

If you want the cheapest house then there is a very simple answer: Go to the nearest display home centre where all the project builders have their houses lined up with their price lists, and select the home that comes as close as possible to meeting your needs. Make no changes to the standard plan or specifications. Build it to the minimum stage and finish it yourself (ie. carpets, tiles, landscaping, driveway, etc.).

That is the cheapest way to build a house. No question about it. Even the best Owner Builder will struggle to match the pricing structure of the project home builders when compared on a square metre basis.

Here’s proof in a case study:

Ok, it’s mid October 2008. Let’s choose a builder from the top 10 volume builders in Queensland: Coral Homes. As the average size of a single storey house today is 250m2 let’s select something around that size from one of the designs from their website: The Brampton 251. It is 251 square metres, has 4 Bedrooms, a Double Garage, etc. The base price is $139,900. As we know the industry very, very well we can tell you that to finish the house, including initial site costs, retaining walls, internal floor coverings and landscaping, etc. you should add an additional 30% to the base price. This will give you a finished price of $181,870 for a modest, single storey home in South East Queensland. (Prices differ obviously on a regional basis, but let’s use this as a good base for the equation.)

This is equivalent to a finished house price of $724.58 per square metre.

Unless you are a qualified carpenter and you are going to do the majority of your own work you will not match this price as an Owner Builder. In particular when looking to build a contemporary home of quality materials, using professional tradesmen. 

So if you are doing price comparisons as an Owner Builder then forget comparing your prices to the Project Home Builders. Of course, if a project home is all you want, then go ahead and get a project home built.

But if you do not want a project home then you need to plan to spend from $900 per square metre up to $1200 per square metre as an Owner Builder. Then you need to compare that to the cost of a custom builder who is likely to charge you from $1100 per square metre to as much as $1500+ per square metre.

Why does the price differ so much? Well that’s a whole new article! (and something we can discuss later on Owner Builder Advice). Some hints about this topic pop up around this website and on our E-Course so keep reading and researching if you wish to learn more. 

In summary, you should be very clear about what it is you want to achieve and why. Then go and price your detailed plans with professional, custom builders. If you want to save money by becoming an Owner Builder you must first start with a realistic budget expectation of the cost of building your house, on your land, with your design and your specifications. We can then help you to work out the ‘true cost’ savings of Owner Building.

Building Quotes and Services

When Owner Building it is so desperately important that you are certain of what services you need. And the word ‘need’ is not to be used loosely…

The amount of times Owner Builders have paid for services that simply aren’t necessary is tragic. Please, before you approach any service providers, check with us at UBuild Homes. You may discover you don’t even need the service, or that we can get you superior results at a lower cost. That’s why we’re here – to help your Owner Builder experience to be successful and economical.

Another important component to Owner Building is getting accurate quotes for every piece of work or service. Please do this BEFORE you sign any contract or begin a project.  We know of Owner Builders who have instructed professional firms such as drafting, structural engineers, surveyors, Geotechnical engineers and so on to proceed with works without ever so much as an idea of what the costs will be. The job is completed in some cases with lengthy time frames, and when the invoice arrives the Owner Builder’s jaw hits the floor. 

Every little step of the way must be quoted in advance and again get advice on what you require to complete your project.

Recently an Owner Builder came to us for help after he had paid over $2,000 for his plans and a further $3,000 for engineering. The tragedy was that the plans were of a low quality – in particular for what he paid! UBuild Homes could have supplied him with better quality plans for a fraction of the price… and the engineering – he did not even require that service. He could have saved almost $5,000 in just two service areas of Owner Building had he come to us first for advice.

When frames and trusses are being quoted most Owner Builders will not know that most frames and truss plant will not include any structural steel beams in the quote. If this happens the Owner Builder may not even realize these beams are required to erect the house – and your Carpenter will leave the job because these beams are not on-site… simply because nobody advised the Owner Builder that the beams needed to be ordered seperately. In some cases structural steel beams have to be fabricated and this can take some weeks. If this is the case, your Carpenters won’t be prepared to just hang around on your site during that time – they’ll leave and you may not be able to secure their services again for some time.

And you also need to know ‘where to spend’ on services and where you don’t need to.

We have recently refused to do business with a potential client because she did not want to spend money on an accurate set of plans. She had no idea how vital these were. Her own plans were very confusing and Trades will use inaccurate or confusing plans to blame for mistakes during construction, and double charge you to rectify the mistake.