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owner builder

Pitfalls of being an owner-builder.

5 good reasons to avoid being an owner-builder.

Some people take the great Australian dream to another level when they choose to build their own home.

In some cases it works out (even if it means the owner-builder goes prematurely grey in the process). But there are also a lot of stories about owner-builders coming unstuck. Here are some examples of how things can go wrong.

The budget

Everyone who builds has a budget, but problems during the building process might mean that you run out of money. It’s easy to overspend on extras. Bad weather can cause unavoidable delays. And tradesmen might not turn up when they say they will, delaying the next tradesman and the whole process. A lot of things can mean your building job takes longer than planned and if that happens, your budget could be in trouble.

Builder H failed to pay one supplier on time and the supplier took out a lien against the builder. It cost to have the legal restriction lifted and the building was delayed.

The sub-contractors

You’ll almost certainly need to employ experts in various fields. You hire them to perform a specific task. But are they registered? Do they know what they’re doing?

Builder T hired a concrete-slab sub-contractor who wasn’t properly insured and when one of the labourers was injured, the insurer refused to pay. The cost became the responsibility of the home owner, resulting in a budget blow-out and long delays.


What’s the shape of your building block? If it’s flat, well cleared and has easy access, life may be fine. But if there’s difficulty in delivery trucks getting access to your block, or if your block has an unusual shape (or is even a sloping block), then building takes on a certain degree of difficulty. You won’t find this sort of difficulty if you engage a top professional builder.

Builder K needed a special crane to lift a prefabricated frame into position. The access road wasn’t completely asphalted and wet weather set in. The crane operator refused to bring the crane to the property until the road was made safe. All work stopped for a month.


Any building project requires the owner-builder to deal with the local authorities. We’ve all heard horror stories about dealing with local government planning and building departments (you really don’t want to go there unless you have unlimited resources and patience).

Builder V thought he had all the right planning and building paperwork. He didn’t realise that the two departments were separate and approval from one department didn’t mean approval from the other. He began work without having had it checked and when an inspector arrived discovered he had to remove an entire section of the home. It had been built correctly but without permission.

The plans

As an owner-builder, you may employ an architect to design your new home. Can you read the plans? Can you explain the plans in detail to any specialist worker you engage to tackle a particular part of the build? If not you face delays, even more frustration and worse, the possibility that mistakes can be made in the construction.

Owner-builder D thought he understood the plans he’d paid a draftsman to produce but, to his horror, he misread the footings measurements and had to re-do an entire south wall foundation.

Avoid the pitfalls

If all these pitfalls seem overwhelming, it’s because they can be. But remember, there’s an alternative. If you work with a professional builder you’ll avoid the paperwork and hassles, get your house built quickly and stay on budget. The secret is to engage a top quality homebuilder – one with expertise, experience and a long list of glowing testimonials.