Being an owner-builder

September 23, 2016

An owner-builder is someone who has the permits, skills and capacity to build or supervise the building of their own home. If you have an owner-builder permit you have the authority to become the project manager of all building or renovation work being carried out at your home. You will also be permitted to do the building and construction work yourself, providing you have the necessary skills to be able to do that.

An owner-builder permit allows you to be more hands-on with your renovation or build project, so that you can stay involved long after the skip bin hire has been dealt with.

However, it is important to remember that an owner-builder permit is not the same as a building license. A building license is a permit given to tradespeople who achieve a certain level of knowledge and experience. Holding a building license shows potential customers that this person is allowed to carry out any building work worth more than $5,000. Holding an owner-builder permit means you cannot work on any other renovation or building project aside from the one you applied for, and most importantly it means you cannot carry out any kind of specialist work such as plumbing, electrical, gasfitting or air-conditioning work.

In most states, an owner-builder is only allowed to build or renovate one house every five years, and they must have the intention to live in the house once it is completed.

How to get an owner-builder permit

The first thing to do is see if you even need to apply for a permit. If the work you are going to undertake (including labour and all materials from skip bins through to the last coat of paint), is more than $10,000, plus if you require either a DA or CDC, then you will need a permit. If you are unsure, you can go online and use a self assessment tool which will advise whether you require a permit or not.

If you need a permit, you’ll need to lodge an application in person at your state service centre. Fill in the forms and bring along proof of identity as well as:

  • Evidence that you own or have a registered lease of the property you are going to renovate or build on.
  • DA or CDC approval (proof that your building plans have been approved by council).
  • A general construction induction training card such as a WorkCover Statement of training or a Workcover Whitecard.
  • For any building work that is over $20,000 you will need to prove that you have met the owner-builder education requirement.
  • Details of all other listed owners for the same property (as they will also not be able to take out owner builder permits for another property within 5 years).

The benefits of being an owner-builder

Some may ask if it is worth getting an owner-builder permit and doing all of that legwork yourself rather than just hiring someone else to do it. Well, there are quite a few benefits to being an owner-builder. They include:

Cut down on costs: The best perk of being an owner-builder is the money you’ll save. By being in control of which tradespeople you hire, the materials you use and by cutting out the project managers you can save yourself a small fortune. In fact, it has been reported that it can save you as much as forty percent! That’s almost half of your budget saved by doing the work yourself. Imagine what you could spend that money on instead.

By putting in some research you will be able to source the best bargains on all of your building supplies such as tiles, timber, cabinetry, appliances and bathroom fittings. If time isn’t a problem, you can wait for different sales to come up throughout the year and start collecting the materials you will need in advance.

Control: Another huge benefit of being an owner-builder is the amount of control you will have over your renovation or build. As mentioned above, all sourcing of materials and supplies is in your hands. As well as that, you get to choose who you work with and when, as the hiring of the tradespeople and the time frames you do it within are entirely up to you. Not only does this save you money, but it will save you time.

Once the build starts, you will remain in control all of the way through. Usually, especially with the bigger companies, once you sign off on the plans or building begins, it is very hard to change your mind about anything. But if you are an owner-builder you can swap and change as much as you want, and as often as you want.

Satisfaction: Let’s face it, building your dream home yourself would rate very high on the life satisfaction scale. Even if you don’t pick up many of the tools yourself, just being in charge of the build will be the ultimate DIY project. And at the end of it you will be able to kick back and relax in your new home, knowing you did everything on your own terms.