SJN Building Consultants

Thinking of joining the Owner-Builder club? Think again!

Thinking of joining the Owner-Builder club? Think again!

We all love a good renovation show but reality television has a lot to answer for the proliferation of DIY’ers enthusiastically slipping on the steel caps and strapping on the tool belt to tackle their own home building project. If your favourite home improvement show has you feeling inspired to become an owner-builder, what you’re about to read should have you thinking twice.

Follow your heart or listen to your head?

There’s an undeniable sense of pride to be felt from producing something with your own hands. But building your own home is not for the faint hearted – or the unskilled.

An owner-builder permit is intended for people with the skill and ability to build their own house or to supervise construction. An owner-builder is legally responsible for all the tasks a licenced builder would carry out including overseeing trades, ordering materials, obtaining approvals, ensuring paperwork is in order and compliant and checking that contractors are licenced and insured.

If you don’t have a background in construction or you don’t understand the building process, the DIY route is probably not for you.

Four things you should know before you decide to become an owner builder

  1. We should all work to our strengths: Changing the oil in your car might be convenient and cheaper but there is a reason why we get mechanics to service our cars. If you don’t have an industry skill or building experience, you should reconsider taking on the responsibility of building your own home.
  2. Inexperience is a punishment: Contractors don’t prioritise owner builders because they aren’t repeat business which is why they charge more for one-off jobs.
  3. Time is money: The idea that being an owner-builder will save you money isn’t always true. The reality is owner-builder projects take longer to build and almost always go over budget. The longer they take, the bigger the blowout.
  4. Rookies make mistakes: Your inexperience could cost you if you are unable to tell the difference between quality workmanship and a shoddy job. An untrained eye won’t know if a contractor’s work is up to par or if it even meets code.

An owner-builder permit is not the same as a builder’s licence

Becoming an owner-builder is surprisingly easy. Becoming a licenced builder is not.

To apply for an owner-builder permit, you need to complete a NSW Fair Trading approved course. They can be done online, cost less than $200, and require as little as eight hours of commitment. No hands on experience is needed. It won’t teach you how to use a hammer but it will broadly educate you on the administrative functions you need to nail like project management, contract requirements, scheduling and insurance.

To obtain a builder’s licence, you must complete four years of study and have at least two years on the job training. And not just any building experience: you must demonstrate experience across all stages of construction to show you have the capacity to do the work as well as to coordinate and supervise.

One final note

If you still think you have what it takes to be an owner-builder, it is important to know that, unlike licenced builders, you are not covered by the Home Building Act 1989 which protects home owners against defective building work. That means if you choose to sell the home you built within 6 years and 6 months of when your permit was issued, you must inform the buyer. During that period, you risk the new owner seeking compensation from you for any building defects.

Alternatively, a licenced builder affords you the security of a fixed price, a deadline and structural warranty.

Finally, the money you spend on an owner-builder permit could instead be well-spent on regular inspections at critical stages of your build to ensure it is of the highest standard. Ask us how.