Thursday, December 12, 2013

How much did it cost to owner build our house?

How much? This is easily the most frequent question we have been asked and is the most difficult to answer for a couple of reasons.
  1. It's none of your damn business! Well, OK maybe I am overreacting here but I have been amazed at how often complete strangers have asked us how much we have spent on our home. At first this was incredibly confronting! I've calmed down a bit on this now and am happy to give this information to genuine owner builders like yourself but I suspect that most of the early queries were from nosy neighbours just looking for gossip on the newcomers.
  2. All houses are different and all owner builders are different so in effect the question is the 'how long is a piece of string' classic. However, I will try to answer in more detail below.
So, to actually answer the question. Building our two storey eco-home came in at around $150,000. This is in the same ballpark as a (boring but cheap) one storey brick and tile project home of average size with basic finishes. We also had to deal with some fixed costs due to our rural location. The on-site wastewater treatment system and underground rainwater tank came in at just under 20 grand combined so in reality our home cost closer to $170,000.
So how did this stack up compared to how much we expected to spend? Oh, man, we blew our budget BIG TIME. I thought we could do it for $120,000 and Greg was even more optimistic (he is still recovering from the shock!). If you are a fan of Grand Designs, you will know that hardly anyone estimates the cost of their build accurately - we are all in a bubble of denial at the start no matter how 'realistic' you think you are being!
There weren't any major budget-busting building shocks either. It was just that things all cost slightly more than we thought. Building materials did go through a bit of a price hike during the process (especially copper pipe). The big ticket expenses were definitely trades (electrician, plumber, stairs joiner, waterproofer). But also, little things really added up too. For example, I think we spent nearly $1500 on screws and nails.
Plenty of people consider owner building as a way to build cheaply but our experience taught me that the real value in doing it yourself is having a better house for the same money.