One of the most common questions we get asked is “how much is it going to cost me to build?”. Given it is the start of a new year, many of you may be thinking about renovating or building your home and we hope that by sharing this with you, it helps you to understand in a little more detail what is involved in building/renovating your house and how certain variables can impact your budget.

In the building industry, we generally gauge how much it is going to cost to build something through a combination of the following:

  • The size of the building (Sq M)
  • The level of detail that we have to quote from (i.e. detailed set of plans, construction drawings, engineer drawings, bill of quantities, geotechnical report etc.)
  • The quality of finishes that the client is after and;
  • The level of difficulty (e.g. time-frame to build, site accessibility, site context, site conditions, level of technology, luxury appointments, use of materials)

Generally speaking, the more inclusions that you have and the level of finish you desire, will have a significant bearing on the amount of money it will cost you to build/renovate your home. Unless you have an open cheque book (and let’s be honest not many of us do!), having it all is not always possible (or essential). Throughout the design process, there often needs to be comprises made in order to bring the scope of work in line with your budget. This is where a good Architect/Building Designer and an Interior Designer can help, as they will work with you to determine your priorities, understand how your family move and use spaces throughout your home, design a structure that is functional and suited to your lifestyle and help you to agree on a level of finish that you will love for years to come. It is a collaborative process, that involves iteration however, investing the time and money up front to get a detailed set of plans and finishes schedule together, will ultimately save you in the long run.

Other factors that can greatly influence how much it will cost to build include:


Site conditions play a large part in preparing the site, ready to build on. Whilst experienced architects and building designers can design spaces to feel larger, maximise light etc. they cannot change poor soil quality, hard bedrock or the orientation of the site. It is best to obtain a geotechnical report before you commence your build so that you can better understand the site conditions and how preparing your site ready to build on may impact your budget. Builders also need to have suitable access to the site to manage deliveries, store tools and equipment and to navigate machinery (i.e. excavators, cranes etc.) as required. A tight inner-city site or a renovation on a steep block may incur additional costs simply due to logistical challenges.

  • SIZE:

The size of your house plays a role in how much it is going to cost to build. Obviously the larger the space is, the more materials, sundries and labour it takes to build. Costs can blow out based on the sheer size of the items we are installing i.e. a large/heavy bench tops and/or glass windows may need to be craned in, we may need additional scaffolding to reach higher levels and/or cherry pickers for installation. Remember, bigger is not always best and this is where your Architect/Building Designer can guide you so that you can optimise your budget and invest in the right areas of your home.


Architects, Building Designers and Interior Designers work with a number of our clients to maximise and optimise space. They have the ability to create the illusion of something being grander, larger, and imbued with light, beauty and meaning. However, this standard of design often commands additional cost as voids, split levels, open plans, and spaces that connect cleverly together often require structural designs beyond the norm. Complex structures will not only be harder to conceive and assemble, the structural members and materials themselves will add cost. It is best to engage a Structural Engineer to provide you with detailed engineer drawings up front to avoid unforeseen costs once the build commences.

When it comes to deciding on the level of detail you want in your home, it is most economical to use what is called ‘standard details’ incorporating simple but conventional skirting, cornices and architraves. This also applies to standard door and window sizes. These are universally understood and available as opposed to components that have to be imported, customised or carefully constructed. Understanding where to invest and where to pair back is an important factor in ensuring that you can complete the build within your budget.


The quality and level of finish that you select has a big impact on your budget. The higher the quality and finish, the higher the costs – simple! Better materials demand better finishing and craftmanship and the labour costs increase proportionately. When receiving quotes from Builders, one thing to look out for is the provisional sums they have allowed for. If the provisional sums allow for a level of finish that is below what you are after, it is best to spend the time before your build commences to specify your exact requirements through a finishes schedule which, the builder can then use to provide an exact cost. We believe in only investing in quality finishes and fittings where it is most effective in terms of purpose and impact. We work with our clients to get the most out of their investment and always look at ways to reduce costs where it makes sense to do so.


A large component of a Project Manager/Site Foreman’s role is project managing your build from start to finish. This can be a complex job depending on what stage the build is at. Finishing a job quickly is not about rushing, as this can increase the likelihood of short cuts and mistakes being made. It often involves having a larger team on board to get more done. At the same time, adding more people to the team doesn’t automatically mean that work will progress faster. Unforeseen things do happen throughout the building process (i.e. inclement weather) that can cause delays that not even the most experienced Project Managers can avoid however, a good Project Manager/Foreman will coordinate with the team, sub-contractors and suppliers to manage the schedule on a daily basis to ensure the job is completed on time and on budget.


Technology should always be considered a luxury, especially with the amount of choice that is available in the market place. Swimming pools, home theatre systems, internal lifts are all items that many of us desire but don’t realistically allow for when calculating our budget to build. A basic rectangular swimming pool, for example, might start at $60,000 and seem affordable, but when you add in fencing, cover, heating and self-cleaning the costs start to creep up. On top of this, add designer tiles, an infinity edge, a spa, a little more length to do laps and landscaping and what once was considered ‘affordable’ is now very expensive. The same logic can be applied for home theatre systems, lifts etc. so it is best to costs these things up front and allow for a little buffer in your budget for variances/instances when you change your mind and any unforeseen costs the may arise throughout the build.


Experienced builders can discuss a project brief and have a gut feeling for the overall costs by providing you with a ballpark estimate. In order to provide you with a detailed estimate, the builder will need to be provided with the details outlined above (this is usually within a 10% accuracy). Projects realistically can range from $3,000 + GST per square metre anywhere up to $10,000 + GST per square metre depending on the variables outlined above. You need to be realistic with what level of finish and detail can be included which is dependent on your budget.

Building costs less than $3,000 + GST per square metre are achievable, but it is unlikely an architect could be involved. While ‘build and construct’ companies can offer new homes at significantly lower costs, caution must be taken regarding exactly what will be delivered. Display homes can be appealing, but keep in mind that they are mass produced products and the quality may be poor (despite presenting well).


  • A 300 sq M house built at $3,000 + GST per square metre = $900,000 + GST
  • Site conditions: for significantly sloping block with limited access, allow an extra 10% = $90,000 + GST
  • Luxury items: heated swimming pool with cover and self-cleaning capability = $100,000 + GST
  • Landscaping and fencing, allow an extra 15% = $135,000 + GST
  • Existing house demolition and site preparation = $20,000 + GST
  • Other consultant fees = $20,000 + GST
  • Total Build cost = $1,265,000 + GST

By involving your Builder early in the design process, they can help guide you on what your home will cost to build. We are always happy to help guide prospective clients in the early phases of your build so, if you would like to have a chat, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us via our ‘Contact’ page.