The Pros and Cons of Owner Builder Designs

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To owner build or not to owner build? The great dilemma!

In a world where DIY culture is thriving and the price of building materials is skyrocketing, many homeowners are grappling with the question: should I become an owner builder? With a record number of people now opting to take matters into their own hands, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before diving headfirst into a construction project.

The Upside of Being an Owner Builder

  1. Join the rise:
    Due to the ongoing shortages of tradespeople and the ever-increasing costs of materials, there’s been a significant rise in owner builder applications and projects. More and more people are taking the plunge and doing it themselves, meaning you are not alone. If everyone else is doing it, you can do it…right? This rise in popularity is creating growing communities and more support for owner builders.
  2. Pride and Joy:
    There’s an unparalleled satisfaction in watching a space you’ve envisioned come to life by your own hands. The pride of building one’s own house is an experience that money can’t buy. Imagine looking back in 10-15 years and saying, we built that!
  3. Complete Control:
    One of the most enticing aspects of being an owner builder is the unparalleled control over every detail. From the choice of materials to the finishing touches, the vision is yours and yours alone. Whilst some find this daunting, the control freaks amongst us thrive in this environment…is that you?
  4. Cost Savings and Online Support:
    The digital age has been a boon for owner builders. With YouTube channels dedicated to this topic, shows like The Block brining it to our loungerooms, and even influencers providing step-by-step instructions, there is no shortage of online info and advice. Online communities often highlight potential cost savings and aim to simplify processes and educate their audience as much as possible.
  5. Skill Acquisition:
    Being an owner builder demands robust planning, budgeting, and decision-making skills. These are valuable assets, transferable to other career pursuits or future renovation projects.

The Challenges of Being an Owner Builder

  1. Safety and Licensing Concerns:
    Owner builders may quickly find themselves in waters too deep, especially when undertaking significant renovation, house raise or extension projects. Such endeavors demand the expertise of licensed QBCC builders, especially when safety is at stake.
  2. The Learning Curve:
    The journey from being a novice to an expert is long and arduous. The time spent learning the ropes can be overwhelming. Are you ready to put in hundreds of hours of research and video watching to take this on? Is your informant reliable and credible? Every property is different, is this taken in account (just ask a builder about how much Queenslander renovations can change from house to house).
  3. Professional Hesitancy:
    Many professionals, including engineers, designers, surveyors, and certifiers, hesitate to work with owner builders. They cite heightened risks, compliance issues, insurance costs and the added time spent explaining nuances as deterrents.
  4. The Need for Constant Supervision:
    Being on-site, monitoring every detail, and coordinating with tradespeople is a demanding task. The responsibility of ensuring everything adheres to building regulations can be taxing. Will you be able to step in if and when there is an issue? If you fire some trades, can you find adequate replacements?
  5. Financing Woes:
    Banks and financial institutions often view owner builders with heightened skepticism. Securing financing can, thus, become an uphill battle. Ensure that budgets are triple checked, prices are locked in, quotes are air tight and you’re ready for the finance battle ride.
  6. The Experience Gap:
    Courses (and influencers) can teach the basics, but hands-on experience in building is invaluable. Sometimes you just don’t know how to tackle a problem unless you’ve lived and breathed it before. The lack of hands on experience can sometimes lead to oversight, which might result in future structural issues and money woes.

Our thoughts:

From a design perspective, we respect the spirit of owner builders and the willingness to take on a project from start to finish. Our preference for designing projects that are likely to get built makes us lean towards homeowners who collaborate with licensed builders. Why? Such alliances often ensure projects stick to budgets, timelines, and face fewer hitches during the certification and approvals process. There is also the reality that not all external professionals are willing to work with owner builders, which can stall projects.

However, with rising construction costs, builder shortages, and a general market distrust in some construction companies (we’re looking at you project builders), managing projects personally might seem more efficient. Therefore, if you’re considering the owner builder route, please research the entire process from start to finish extensively. Delve deep into costs, timelines, productivity, and, crucially, gauge your stress levels. It’s essential to ponder: is the satisfaction of being an owner builder worth the potential hurdles?

At Designer Planning, we are happy to provide owner builders with individually priced quotes for plans, however these are priced separately from our advertised prices as we need to take into account our increased liability and the time commitment required. If you would like a free proposal for your project, reach out to our team for a chat first.

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