Owner Building Step 4: Where to turn when you hit the design phase

Owner builders have four basic options when it comes to obtaining workable blueprints for their new home. Which path you’ll choose depends on the complexity of your design, budget, and level of experience in the building field.

It’s just like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

Companies offering kit homes have been around in Australia since the early 1970’s, but today they’re more popular than ever. Most kit homes are built with a steel frame that comes pre-cut and ready to assemble. If you’re still skeptical about being ready to build your own home, then purchasing a kit could be a great choice.

After four decades of improvements under manufacturers’ belts, their systems are down pat. Going with a kit home design is the closest you’ll find to having a “1, 2, 3” step-by-step guide to maneuver you through the construction process. As an additional bonus, most kit home companies provide free guidance along the way should you hit a snag.

Design options are more limited and pre-determined depending on the manufacturer, but some basic customisation is available.

Kit home owner builders are motivated by low price and ease of build. If you’re looking to save big bucks by building your own house and aren’t super picky about having the most unique house on the block, a kit home design could be for you.


Department stores charge significantly less for a suit than a tailor.

Along a similar vein, you can purchase pre-made residential blueprints from a stock design service. An as-is stock plan is the cheapest option out there, and with literally hundreds of designs to browse through there’s a good chance you can find one that matches your needs without any modifications.

If you find a plan that’s to within 80% of your ideal design most home design services will make changes to their plans for a fee. The more changes you make the more you pay, but even a significantly altered stock plan will still cost less than hiring a designer to start from scratch.

Stock plans cater to owner builders that don’t necessarily have specific ideas on how their dream home will look like. If flipping through a catalogue of plans and picking one out sounds perfectly acceptable to you, then a stock plan will be right up your alley. Enjoy the cost savings you just shaved off your total bill but be aware theres a reason homes in the outer suburban belt have double garages with their cars parked on the street (storage wasn’t part of the plan).


Is there space to squeeze in a solarium next to the pool room?

If you’ve got a custom design, then you’re going to need to pay for a custom plan. How much you’ll pay and who you’ll hire varies greatly depending on the complexity of your project.

Most owner builders, including those doing renovations, end up hiring a residential design firm to draw up their plans. These firms hire draftsmen to work with clients one on one to transcribe your ideas into AutoCAD schematics. Fee structures vary, with some draftsmen charging an hourly rate and others setting a price per square meter. Be sure to ask up front what the total cost will be and how much they charge to do modifications.

If your plan is extremely intricate and you want to build the kind of place that deserves to be showcased in a design magazine, plan on whipping out the chequebook and hiring an architect. An architect’s services will cost significantly more than those of a draftsman, but it’s definitely a case of “you get what you pay for”.


Get it right the first time.

The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to pay for blueprints more than once. In order to avoid this huge mistake you’ll need to have a clear picture of what your needs truly are. Don’t buy stock plans to try and save money if a high level of customisation is important to you. Take your time and decide which combination of price and service is right for you before you sign on the dotted line.

Next up, once you’ve got a workable set of plans, it’s time to dive in the world of Building Authority bureaucracy!







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