Salter Builders Ltd

Designing Your Build Budget

How to Design your Build Budget, not just your House

In these modern times there are now so many choices available when it comes to deciding what type and size of home you are going to build that it can all seem overwhelming as to what the build will actually cost.

Sometimes expectations about the cost don’t match up with desired outcomes and this is a very common issue when getting a custom design priced.  All of the optional extras on their own don’t seem to add much to the price, but when you have dozens of these choices to make over the whole build, they can quickly turn into a budget blowout.

The bigger the house and the more complex the design, the more likely this can happen.

We may liken this to planning a wedding, you may want to have endless supplies of Champagne available for your guests but may have to settle for a carefully selected choice of wines and beer.  Costs can escalate quickly, leaving you wondering ‘how did that happen’?

It is best to make a decision at the beginning of the process about what is the maximum you are happy to invest in a new home.  Don’t get blinded by a budget figure you would prefer it to cost if you actually have the ability to spend more to achieve your desired result.  It is far better making this decision at the very beginning than having to decide where you feel it will need to increase to after you have decided on your final house design.  You will then have time to get used to what that feels like before you spend anything.

Remember, the cost of building is a moving target and the old saying “ It will never again be as cheap to build a house as it is today “ rings true, as if you had a house built today the cost to build the same house in 12 month’s time would probably cost 5% more due to average cost increases across the board.

The good news is there is a way to get your build cost under the total investment figure you have decided on, but it does require a good amount of work pricing the concept design as accurately as possible, so you fully understand the likely build cost so you are able to use this amount as your start point.

This is where it is so important to engage the services of a professional Builder who understands how to achieve this and has proven processes in place to be able to price correctly.  You will probably have to pay for this service but spending a small amount at this stage should set you off down the correct road to achieving a positive outcome that will ultimately save you time, money and possible heartache.  

The best way to explain this is when you start with a house design the cost to build the basic structure (the floor and framing) will usually vary little from one house to the next;  the size of the house and the gradient of your section being the main variables in relation to basic structure.  Once the flooring and framing are quantified it is generally how you dress the structure that ultimately determines the final cost.   If all these costs have been separately priced then you now have the option to down-spec to more cost effective options or up-spec in other areas to get your build within a comfortable amount.  You may also need to make some small design changes like reducing the size of some rooms, reducing internal stud height or dimensions of your windows. 

Once the concept pricing has been finalised then the cost breakdown and selections can be forwarded to the Designer so they can now progress with the final working drawings and when the plans are submitted to the council for the building consent application, the plans can then be checked again to tweak the pricing and adjustments made, if required.

This process is still far better and cheaper than having to shelve a plan that looks beyond your reach and going down the road of a complete re-design or changing to another designer hoping they can do a better job.  This all costs extra money you could have avoided spending. 

Remember, a Builder currently building homes in your local area will have a far better idea of the actual build costs than a Designer or Quantity Surveyor (who may not even be in your area), as they won’t know what the local suppliers and sub-contractors are charging. 

Correctly pricing projects is an essential element of a successful building company so we suggest you tap into their knowledge and expertise as early in the project as possible.

If you currently have or are working towards your own architecturally designed concept plan, we are happy to discuss with you our concept plan pricing process and how this could create a lot more clarity for you as you work towards finalising the design of your architecturally designed dream home.


We have written a Guide for you detailing how you can avoid many of the pitfalls during the earliest part of the build process.   You can access this here :   Salter Builders Guide



Trevor Salter
Licensed Building Practitioner
Registered Master Builder 
Phone :  NZ (0064) 021 229 6222

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