It’s a seemingly simple question with a complicated answer: how much does it cost to build a house in Australia?
While industry data reveals that on paper the average house costs about $320,000 to build in 2020, the “real world” figure depends on a number of factors.
From where the house is located, to the size and cost of the block its built on, to the finishes selected, there’s lots to consider. Let’s break it down.
The cost of the land
The first thing to consider when calculating how much it costs to build a house in Australia is the price of the land for the house to sit on, which varies hugely from state to state.
According to The Urban Development Institute of Australia’s 2020 State of the Land report, in 2019, Sydney’s median lot price was $459,000, Melbourne’s was $330,000 and Adelaide’s $179,000.
The average cost of land in Sydney was $1209 per sqm, Melbourne $837 per sqm and Adelaide $400 per sqm.
Average cost of building a home
The cost of building is influenced by many factors, but in December last year, the Australian average was $1393.55 per sqm, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
However, this figure doesn’t include design, planning permits, any site works or any cost blow-outs.
According to ABS December 2019 Buildings Approvals data, the average dwelling in Australia spans 229.8sqm, which puts the cost for the build portion at $320,238.
Wolf Architects director Taras Wolf, on the other hand, said the cost of building an architecturally designed house starts at a minimum $3000 per sqm, right up to $5382 per sqm or $50,000 per Australian house square (9.29sqm).
Wolf said it is difficult, if not impossible, to compare the cost of an architecturally-designed home to one built by a “volume builder for as little as $1600 per sqm.”
“The higher price of architecturally-designed homes is due to the nature of each one being essentially a one-off prototype, because no two clients, site or requirements are ever truly the same. It’s not necessarily related to materials of quality, it has more to do with time,” he said.
While he declined to put an average price on building with a large builder because of the many variables, Hotondo Homes’ general manager of building and operations Nicholas Erbacher said his company’s designs are “architecturally-inspired to deliver a stunning home at a lower cost.”
The company offers more than 90 flexible floor plans, which clients can tailor.
“As a national franchise network, Hotondo Homes’ builders encourage clients to select a design from one of three ranges,” Erbacher said.
Supplier partnerships with brands like Beaumont Tiles, Haymes and Colorbond help achieve this “reasonable pricing.”
Factors affecting building costs
The cost to build a home is influenced by five key factors:
- site considerations
- desired timeframe
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Wolf said a larger house with more bedrooms naturally requires more materials, more labour and occasionally more specialised equipment.
“When it comes to build quality, higher-quality materials demand better finishing and craftsmanship, which costs money. The terrain and condition of the land being built on also has a big impact and an architect is best placed to maximise a lot and floor space,” he said.
Erbacher said site costs are an important consideration.
“While many factors can be managed by the client, it is the site costs where control is limited due to a number of site-specific requirements,” he said.
“If you are in a situation where you need to reduce costs, compromising on the quality of your foundations is not the area, you can always upgrade your doors in the years to come, but you can’t upgrade your concrete slab,” Erbacher said.
“The location of your home can also impact the cost due to council requirements and planning overlays.”
Timeframes also affect what resources are required for a build, Wolf said.
“Architects design to make the absolute most of space, to make it inspiring, so that can mean more complex structures, which can increase the cost too,” Wolf said.
Budget blow-outs are not unheard of either and can generally be attributed to changes made to original plans.
Erbacher said all Hotondo homes include a list of standard inclusions, “however you may choose to upgrade the existing inclusions. If you do, your costs may begin to rise.”
The price of building often doesn’t include optional extras like landscaping, fencing, swimming pools and local council costs, which can also add tens of thousands of dollars.