Actually the very first person you should speak to is your mortgage broker or bank and find out just how much you can borrow to facilitate your dream home project. Without knowing your available budget, you are lining yourself up for possible disappointment. The banks can be difficult, particularly with renovation projects on how they are valued and approved. Once you have passed this hurdle its so much smoother as well to get to the construction stage.

Now, as to whether the builder or architect should come first?… Well the best approach to a renovation or custom home is to ensure you are talking to your builder and your architect at the same time.  This approach is made even simpler when you engage us to complete the design for you.

If you find your architect first and get on with the design before you find your builder that is fine, and likewise your builder first. We recommend discussing the project with both parties as this will often dispel the issue of going over budget at an early stage. An architect or drafter will complete the home as per your specifications, but this often means the budget can snowball very quickly out of control, as we all get carried away with adding particular features, but not thinking about the end cost. The most important thing is to be discussing the project from conception stage with your builder and your architect, that way your scope and budget remains in focus throughout and often solutions to design ideas, can be developed by both parties.

You can live in the home while it is being renovated – Sometimes it can be difficult or simply too expensive to move house while you are renovating. We understand this, that is why we have developed a process for keeping you and your family safe and happy living in your home while we renovate. We just hope that you are morning people for the duration of the project as we do like to start our work days very bright and early!

There will be instances where living at home during the build won’t always work, though where possible we do like to section the house off, provide secondary access and undertake daily tasks to ensure your home is clean and safe. The times when it will be impossible to live in the home, some examples include when the house is being raised and is positioned on sties or a second storey is being added. As the house is not tied down, and a roof may be removed, it would not be safe for living in, there will also be no plumbing or electrical facilities (i.e. toilet, shower, power access). This is not the only instance where a home may not be habitable, but there are alternatives that some owners have taken on. Such as camping in the backyard, with temporary amenities (shower, toilet, power) hired on site.

Things to consider:

  1. You should consider that a builder will need to take into account the labour for disconnection and reconnection of water and electricity, such as during demolition and again for varying renovation stages, in order to facilitate your needs while living in the home. This may add to the cost of the construction a small amount, depending on the extent of works being completed.
  2. You should also consider whether you are up to the challenge and extra time it takes for daily activities when you are “roughing it”.
  3. Can you stand the dust and dirt? This is a component of any build, and as much as we can clean and sweep up general messes, when concrete slabs are exposed they generate dust daily, and mud can still enter the home from foot traffic. So be prepared to either clean regularly or live with things being a bit dirty for a while.
  4.  Do you have small children? Where kids are involved, many aspects of a building site can be exciting and all they want to do is explore and touch. However there may be such things as nails, screws and glass particles on the ground, or reinforcing steel exposed while slabs are prepared. A builder is not liable for any personal injury that you encounter while living on the property, as access cannot be closed off to all areas. Despite cleaning measures and fencing areas that really shouldn’t be accessed, this isn’t always enough. For example, for some time you may have to walk through an area under construction to access your temporary living quarters.

Try not to use this method for your renovation or custom home. There really is a mountain of things that will affect your square meter cost. You will likely be disappointed if you attempt to estimate your costs based on some online tradies forum stating the average square meter rate. We recommend finding out what your budget is, so first on your list should be to visit the bank and see what you financially do, then get a reputable builder and/or architect to walk through your ideas and provide an initial rough estimate based on feasible solutions.

Time is money in any business, so expect to pay for someone’s time to complete a quote for you as well as any variations along the way. A reputable builder will request a fee to cover these expenses as it genuinely takes hours and hours to complete a detailed quote, just right for you.

Be sure to talk to your builder through the design process and be honest about your budget. It is the only way to accurately ensure you avoid disappointment after weeks of planning and designing, only to find out that you have over-run your budget and need to cut back on your dream design. Which anyone whom has renovated or built new will tell you it is sooo hard to compromise on your dream.


  1. Speak to your bank first about how much you can genuinely borrow! Do not rely solely on the mortgage calculators. Your bank will need to complete a valuation on your home and undertake a market comparison before providing you with any actual idea of how much you can borrow.
  2. Renovation projects can cost anything from $1,200/m2 up to $5,000 per metre squared. So don’t develop your budget based on a guess!
  3. Its the old adage “How long is a piece of string?” Renovations host all sorts of surprises, and homes can have hidden treasures or complete disasters behind wall linings and below concrete floors. A builder, an architect, and an engineer cannot quantify the cost when they cannot see the problem. So have a little extra cash up your sleeve for these cases! When you get past the structural nitty gritty in your construction and have that money spare, you can think about either a few upgrades, or getting those finishing touches you’ve been shopping around for.