How to finalise an affordable contract with your builder

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In case you missed it, I recently refinanced for my Knock Down and Rebuild.

After we got the green light, I grabbed my architect and met with the builder to get us to the magic figure the bank had offered.  We sat down for a heart to heart about what was in and what was out.

We had some options, but the changes couldn’t compromise the bank valuation or we’d compromise the deal.  So chopping off the second storey or going ‘budget’ on the finishes wasn’t on the cards.

Here are some strategies you can use to get your build price under control.

Cut out the nice but not necessary features

Concept Click Batten Screening, beautiful, expensive but functionally useless, were first in my sights, along with some pretty pricey joinery.

I was happy to get rid of the oak, waterfall nosed, timber stairs (bloody noisy safety hazard they are) and replace them with carpet suitable for the bouncing of toddler bums down stairs.

Building consultant’s, if you are using a volumne builder or in my case, your architect, usually select and recommend fixtures, fittings and finishes.  However there is no specific incentive for them to select items that are mid-range or low budget.  Their eye is on the final outcome, the design, the building product.

Your eye is on the budget.  (Well mine is).

I think my architect nearly fell off his chair.


Cut out elements that could be staged

Within our budget we could do the basics of the external works, but no more. So we have entry steps but the lovely extensive decking and carports can be delayed.

It is also common to stage or leave out other items like blinds and curtains and the owner will fund this sometime after the end of the project.

This is when you begin to see sheets tacked to the windows of new homes.

Dea would have a fit.


Prime Cost (PC) items where I felt I could negotiate a better deal

Ultimately, with our trade connections, we felt that we could negotiate a better deal than our builder on some items.

So we had our builder make these Prime Cost or PC allocations.  This means we are taking a punt that we can get them supplied or installed at a better price than him.


My husband’s, sister’s, brother in law is a joiner by trade and he does amazing work.  We can go to him and see if he can beat the price offered by the usual joiner who works for my builder.


My brother-in-law is a plumber, so we’ll have a better chance than most to get our hands on ex-display stock and wholesale price points.

The flip side of this risk is that if the cost goes over what the builder has allowed, I wear it.  Delightful.


Skip the architect’s project management

Yep, that’s right. I’m managing the whole build contract.  Because … spare time.

If you hear alarm bells ringing, don’t worry — so do I.  They are doing a symphony with my midnight grinding of my teeth.


So in the end, the dollar signs matched up and we signed the contract. Really quickly. As if it would cost less if we signed it faster.
However, we still don’t have a building permit. Tune in next week for tips and hints on a smoother build permit process.

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About Suzanne Commerford

Suzanne has stepped out from behind the desk of Australia's largest home inspection business to build the skills, confidence and independence of women to tackle maintenance and home improvement projects around the home.

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