Building or renovating your home is a major project. And might be one of the biggest, most expensive and enduring tasks you will ever undertake.

If you embark on this journey you should make sure that the whole process will run as smoothly as possible. As sad as it is, in almost every single project there will be at least some stumbling blocks in the process. Trying to keep on top of things, and not losing it is really important.

When you are building or renovating there are 2 paths to chose from. You can either engage a builder that manages the whole process for you. Or you can choose to be an owner builder and manage the whole lot yourself.

However, these 2 options aren’t black and white. There are several grey zones and opportunities in between.


Engaging A Builder

The benefit when engaging a builder is that you have one person who will overlook the entire process and will guarantee you that things run as smoothly as they can. But this service comes with a price tag. Obviously, the builder himself won’t do all trades himself. He will engage contractors to do work for him. And for every quote, cost he has to pay he will put a 15-30 % margin on top. Because of that added cost and the prospect of saving this extra money people may think going owner builder is the solution.

But managing a construction yourself also comes with a price-tag and its problems. For once many banks will only borrow you 30-50% of the entire construction cost. And I had many projects in the past where the clients could not get the necessary funding from their bank. So they had no other choice than to employ a builder.

However, the biggest challenge and problem is managing the entire construction yourself. Even I would never dare to manage an entire project myself. Although I am in the industry and know quite a lot about the build process, I would not have a clue when I would need to book in what trade, when to order all the materials and so on.

Luckily, as mentioned before, it is not all black and white, there are several variations and options available if you do want to build your home.

Let’s assume the bank won’t borrow you enough money if you would go owner builder. So, you have to engage a builder. There are several ways how you can reduce the overall construction cost. This depends on your own abilities, availability and willingness to do things.

The simplest and most straight forward thing to do is to supply certain items. For instance, you can source fixtures and fittings, light fittings, the oven, tap ware and so on and the builder will install them for you. On every item the builder will buy for you he will put his margin on top, to cover for his time. Which means you can simply save some money if you buy and supply those items yourself. This also as the benefit that you might be a bit more patient and resourceful than the builder. Such as you could get cheaper tiles from a backyard sale, or find cheaper light fittings on gumtree. How far you go and which items you want to buy and supply yourself is totally up to you. But it needs to be clearly communicated and documented with the builder beforehand.

You can even get one step further, and supply/provide the windows. If you were to get a special quote from someone. Or if you have some trades people amongst your family and friends – that will give you discounted rates – you can let them do certain works on your house.

However, if you are planning to supply some items and or to use your own tradespeople on certain jobs this needs to be discussed with you builder beforehand. While some builders are more than happy for you to be involved in the process, other builders won’t let you touch a thing. So make sure you have the conversation before you engage someone.

Another option would be to take over some of the actual work yourself. Painting for instance is a very time consuming and hence expensive part of a project. So, this might be a part that you could easily do yourself. If you have done it in the past and have the time to do so. Or you could install the kitchen yourself, help with the landscaping and so on. The options are endless. But here again, it is crucial to communicate this with the builder, while some might be happy to have you on board, others will not have you come near any tools, since it will impact on their liability.


Going Owner-Builder

As I have mentioned before, I would NOT recommend managing the construction completely on you own. Unless you have relevant experience. I guess we all have seen many Grand Designs episodes where things go really bad.

Luckily there is a middle way. What I mean by that is that on paper you are the responsible one, the one that pays the insurance. But you engage someone to help you manage the construction. And this person can then help you for us much or as little as you need him, to make sure the journey to your dream home does not end in a disaster.

For sure, you will have to pay this person, but it will be much cheaper than engaging a builder to run the entire project. We work closely with a few builders that regularly do jobs like this for our clients.


If you are looking for a great builder, please give us a call or send us an email. We work closely with several amazing builders for any kind of build projects.