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Why building a home in Canberra such expensive???

flysnow 22 March 2010 65

I am a new in property market and bought a residential land in the Gungahlin region. Now those days I am busy to traveling from one display home to get some design idea and most important, to find the cost of building.

And guess what? I was so surprise about how greedy and outrageous of the building cost charged by Canberra builders to local people. For example, for a double story home, looking about 220sqm (inclusive of area of Garage), 4 beds, 2 bath, double garage, the start price is around $340K. This price does not include any flooring or front landscaping cost, which you have to pay about more than $20K on top of the start price, also, there may be lots of things not in the standard inclusion list, e.g. gas cook top, change ceiling height from 2.4m to 2.7m, etc. Which means at least you probably look to pay $360k-$400k. That is about $1,500 – $2,000 per sqm !!!!!!!!

Ok, in the mean time I surf many Sydney and Melbourne builders’ website and still for the above house package, start price from $230K-$240K, and with all the upgrades, flooring and front landscaping, total price just over $250K. Example like one of my friend in Melbourne just signed contract with his builder, total area of 358 sqm and total price only $320K, that is about $900 – $1,000 per sqm !!!!!!!!!!!

So how come Canberra builders can charge 50%-100% higher than Sydney or Melbourne builders? Anyone know the reason? DO NOT TELL ME IT IS BECAUSE THE DIFFERENT BUILDING REGULATION FROM STATE TO STATE.

Sorry about the gossip as I feel so angry about the Canberra builders. Rumours I heared before was builders in Canberra make $180K profit from each home they build, and I think builders from Sydney and Melbourne will never dream about to have this high margin on their project.

My final comment: anyone saw this post and is going to build their Australian dream in Canberra, let us work out something together just being not to ripped off by the local builders. If we can put our block of land together and attract some Sydney builder to Canberra to build for us, even there is many additional cost e.g. transportation, I think it is still worth to try it.

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65 Responses to Why building a home in Canberra such expensive???
sydact sydact 8:55 pm 28 Mar 11

Have you built your home in Canberra yet? If you are already, could you please let the curious and frustrated people like me who are waiting to build on the land purchased how did you end up doing the project? I am very much interested to get Sydney builder if that is what is necessary to deal with this outrageous quote from Canberra builders. Thanks anyway for this forum at least I feel like I not alone in this!!!

cricketfan cricketfan 11:59 pm 31 Oct 10

Fully agree with Chrisi, Can you tell me the names of those small builders? I hope these builders remain small builders. People want good quality, cheaper houses.By giving me the names of these small builders on this website post will make them big (hope not) cos I know a lot of people in Canberra who are fed up with Canberra builders. They charge a fortune and dont care in the name of service. I have built my house through a Canberra builder and will not go with him again.Looking for a good, honest and most importantly a cheaper builder. As a customer I want to save money (Why not?).

chrisi chrisi 1:14 am 24 Oct 10

(opps pressed wrong button)

…. but use that gut instinct of the feeling of being taken advantage of, and do something about it. Go to the big builders display homes to see what you like. Then take these floor plans and inclusion lists to a draftsperson and get your own custom designed home drawn up using bits and pieces you like. If you’re serious about building, you’ll be serious about getting these plans drawn up ($2000-3000), but then they are yours to give to any builder (big or small) to quote on.

The alternative?
Get a project home off the shelf from a big name mob, over pay for it, and see your exact house around the corner that a neighbour has as well. Dont be sucked in folks…. its the biggest purchase you’ll make in your life. It’s worth it to do your homework properly and not just rely on conditioning from the display home slicksters.

chrisi chrisi 1:01 am 24 Oct 10

Travatine, I’d be very interested to know which building company you now work for here in Canberra…. and in particular why you now work here instead of Sydney. I would hazzard a guess that fiscal benefits might have something to do with it.

Very slick arguements you’ve raised to justify the obscene price differences, and I’m sure a lot buyers who raise this issue with you are satisfied with your points, and sign up to your contracts believing the spin.

I take issue with what you said;
“I occasionally encounter a few clients who think they know it all, and then see me later with very humbled looks…” Mate, dont you think that’s a little bit condescending? Clients rightly question the huge price difference, and you make them feel stupid for daring to ask why they are being ripped off- because they are being ripped off when compared to Sydney and Melbourne prices.

You claim that Canberra builders are more fair because they include unforseen costs that interstate builders dont, and that its in fact the interstate builders in the wrong with using bait advertising. Rubbish. Please…. if anyone reading this thread wants any proof, go do a google search on AV Jennings and see for yourself. ACT prices are overinflated to the order of 50% or more for the exact same house in NSW. SAME INCLUSIONS. Better yet, next time you’re in Sydney go out to Kellywille or Rouse Hill and pop into one of the many display homes out there and ask for an inclusions list. Sure, their may be 1 or 2 differences, but believe me…. certainly not $50,000-$100,000 worth. Not even close.

It has nothing to do with “selected information” and uneducated notions of greed. It’s a fact that big name Canberra builders over charge for their services. It’s got nothing to do with extra inclusions included in the price, its because these big name builders stick together on prices and effectively control the market. When most people look to build, they go to display homes and get prices. One after the other they are conditioned to think that these prices are ‘normal’… when in fact they are far from normal.

And how can I be so sure about all this?
I’m a property valuer by profession, thats how. I see building contracts nearly every day. And I’ve seen one house built in Queanbeyan, and the exact same house built in North Canberra with the exact same fitout, and the price difference has NOTHING to do with transporting goods from Sydney or BCA requirements or anything Travatine (or any other building rep) trying to justify the prices. Sure there are minor costs relating to actual contruction and safety (for instance roof railings for roofers and planning permissions), but these costs in no way shape or form can be blamed for the price differences in the contracts.

But at the end of the day, if people are prepared to pay then they’ll keep doing it. But anyone interested in building soon and reading this thread, needs to seriously contemplate getting quotes from smaller builders. They can and will save thousands of dollars. Dont be afraid about warranty’s and insurances (larger builders will use this arguement to scare people into not using small builders)… these are industry protected, regardless of where the actual builder is in 5 years time. Do your homework and slowly slowly as more people vote with their feet and not put up with being ripped off, prices will fall. In the meantime, save yourself a stack of cash and bullcrap marketing about inclusions, and give the smaller builders a call. You’ll either get a ton more house for your money, or a massive saving.

Travatine might sound convincing

Travatine Travatine 9:40 pm 14 Oct 10

Flysnow the difference between Canberra prices quoted and the ones from inter state are different based how they use hook marketing. Canberra builders will include more in the building than Sydney or Melbourne builders. For example Canberra overhead cupboards flush to ceiling level standard – Interstate extra, Heating systems Canberra standard Interstate extra, wet area wall tiling 1200mm Canberra standard interstate extra, driveways and paths Canberra standard interstate extra, termite protection systems mandatory under the BCA Canberra standard interstae extra. I can go on fore ever.This is where the true price differentials come in, not the Greedy notion you are assumming!
Flysnow you need to get into true comparisons not selected information. I how do I know? I use to work for Sydney based building companies and now work here in Canberra and encounter a few clients ocassionally who think they know it all and go off talking to interstate firms and then see me latter with very humbled looks when they get the full contract which does not include what Canberra builders have always provided as standard.

Smenjamin29 Smenjamin29 12:18 pm 22 Sep 10

Ok. Skim read through a lot of this and thanks to those who have recommended smaller builders I haven’t heard of before.

Interested in the idea of possibly joining a consortium to bring a builder here from Sydney, how many people on the post are still looking for their builder??

Scaarj Scaarj 4:40 pm 03 Sep 10

KambahUtd said :

Has anyone noticed that The local government has been jacking up land costs on every subsequent release? Its not only the buidling cost that is the issue, its LAND cost. The local government is ethically conflicted; how can they control both the supply and price of land and then also develop and sell the land, site unseen to the public.

This is a pure as pure monopoly, ECO101. We bought a block in Franklin in 2006 for 180k. In 2008, the same size block went for 228k. Seriously, Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot ?

One of the few people with sense here.

The more I read through the threads here the more I find my hand pressed to my face.

KambahUtd KambahUtd 4:02 pm 12 Jul 10

Has anyone noticed that The local government has been jacking up land costs on every subsequent release? Its not only the buidling cost that is the issue, its LAND cost. The local government is ethically conflicted; how can they control both the supply and price of land and then also develop and sell the land, site unseen to the public.

This is a pure as pure monopoly, ECO101. We bought a block in Franklin in 2006 for 180k. In 2008, the same size block went for 228k. Seriously, Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot ?

tyesonkatz tyesonkatz 10:20 am 26 Jun 10

The cost of materials is basically the same. The reason prices are higher is labour.

We are a booming city with 2 to 3 thousand homes being constructed annually,plus suburb infrastructure and commercial building. There aren’t enough trades people to around as kids would rather get a job in the public service that pays more with better conditions.

bundyjack27 bundyjack27 9:24 am 29 Apr 10


Back to your first comment, have you found anyone else who is interested in trying to bring a builder down from Sydney or up from Melbourne?

I myself am looking at building as well and think that it is a bit of a joke in Canberra.

My mates oldman owns a buiding company (I won’t say who but is well recommended) good quality home builder but a small co. He laughs when people want colourbond roofs, because they charge more for them, even though the cost of materials is cheaper and it is quicker to install then roof tiles. Just because it is popular…

westyonline westyonline 3:06 pm 04 Apr 10

materials also cost alot more down here,as we have very little manufacturing in canberra,going to 2.7mt high ceilings is also a big jump as its not a standard height,everything goes up in price…even down to the painter who now has to work off a ladder instead of a milk crate?very labour intensive…..I didnt think the price was that bad either?..perhaps you should do a bit more research.P.S. i do agree with Scaarj,sydney tradies are one of the worst in australia,but i guess you get what you pay for!!!!!!!!

Scaarj Scaarj 5:22 pm 01 Apr 10

Further Info:

If you want to try to get something for as cheaply as possible then perhaps you should look into buying land yourself, drawing up plans for your house and pass it around to various builders. Look into their reputation as well as their price though. Visit for the latest in land releases.

Only downside is that a lot of people are going for this method. The latest release by the LDA was, ‘Aspect’ in Forde, with only 11 blocks on release, people took up camping for a few days to insure themselves a the block that they wanted.

Scaarj Scaarj 10:17 am 31 Mar 10

$340k for 4 bedroom, dbl garage sounds pretty cheap to my ears…

This is just the prices you have in Canberra. It’s nothing to do with the builders, it’s because of the land prices they get from the government.

Gungahlin is pretty cut-throat. Builders happily sell for low profit margins. A lot of smaller builders don’t go out there because they’re scared of the low profit margins.

Crace is a different matter, those are all display homes and the majority of Crace wont be built for some time yet. Don’t look there and don’t look in Forde either.

And don’t give me that shit about Sydney builders coming here, ooh no… There are plenty of Sydeny tradesmen and builders here, they don’t get anything done for cheaper at all, and the quality is often shot.

Example, the Village Building Company. Building in multiple places around Australia, through NSW, around Sydney and in QLD. They are looking at picking up more work in Sydney at the moment because the profits are good. Anyways, they just built about 200 homes in Macgregor, which are very much on the cheap end. Some of their houses are actually having difficulty getting passed because of flaws in the construction.

If you want a quality house you need to pay premium.

And one last thing, I actually am a aspiring builder, and have been looking around for land. Last place I looked was in Forde. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get anything there. Because the cheapest block of land was $308k

sepi sepi 8:22 pm 30 Mar 10

The historical booklet at the Downer 50th birthday said it was 25% more expensive to build a house in Canberra than Melb or Syd way back in 1960. So this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

westyonline westyonline 4:47 pm 30 Mar 10

because us tradesmen love ripping off you stupid cashed up public servants!

flysnow flysnow 10:46 am 27 Mar 10

water tank is EER rating is compulsory in ACT but not in NSW so there is add. cost;

Sorry I meant to say “water tank and EER rating are compulsory”

flysnow flysnow 10:44 am 27 Mar 10

Do not want to see this post fall.

Someone asked more example, to compare the building cost from same design and same builder but one from Sydney and another from Canberra. I only have Rawson Homes Bayview design as an example as this is the only one I approached recently and surprise about the cost difference. I suggest people can view other large Sydney/Mel builder websites as I mentioned before and calculate the unit price (cost per square meters) and will see the huge difference. Examples are:

Eden Brae Homes (Sydney)
Port Davis Homes (Mel)
Burbank (Mel)

Although those above listed builders do not have branches or offices in Canberra, but check out their designs and also check out the standard inclusion list. Most of designs from them are much better than Canberra builders’ project home design but within a reasonable price range to build.

Yes, I did ask Rawson why there is so much difference to build same design same size home between Sydney and Canberra. Answers from them are official and I think most of are craps, e.g. difference regulations from NSW and ACT; water tank is EER rating is compulsory in ACT but not in NSW so there is add. cost; material is more expensive in ACT than in NSW. However, I just do not see how come a $1000 water tank and some hundred dollars regulation fee and EER rating, plus couple of thousand $$ more material can make the difference up to $80K-$100K.

Another purpose of this post is encourage people who had building experience before can either share their good or bad experience and others just joint in the building own home club will know who to go after. Simple I also want to turn this post into experience sharing topic and your comments are very appreciated.

Azza Azza 10:05 pm 24 Mar 10


I don’t know why they don’t come to Canberra. I spoke with a local builder mate who builds spec homes to get his opinion of what would happen if Masterton Homes come to Canberra. His reply was we are in trouble or words to that effect.

The price for the septic and water tanks are additional, so if you want to live in Murrumbateman, these costs are additional. However, apples for apples, house for house it’s still over $100,000 cheaper for building the house even after installing septic and tanks.
As far as tradies overcharging, i know of one business (Friend) who supplies and installs a particular product in the building industry, installs this particular product in about four hours with basic trade tools and charges $2100 -$2500. He purchases this product for $900 and he is booked out for the next month. However, I know of other businesses charging $1800 for the same job using the same product/brand/model etc. So as long as people keep paying these prices and accepting them as the norm they will continue to charge the way they do. So, yes shop around there are some businesses out there that aren’t looking at making a killing on every job.

affordable affordable 8:51 pm 24 Mar 10

had similiar thoughts
how did they justify the difference, assume you did ask them

cranky cranky 6:57 pm 24 Mar 10

Flysnow has been copping some flack, but his(?) post re Rawsons charging $88,000 more for the apparent same building (35% more) does require some explanation. I am not singling out Rawsons – I suspect Flysnow probably has further examples.

My personal horror story during a massive reno was being charged $800 to install a double powerpoint in the meter box. It was listed as ‘installing temporary power’. The builder and his legal eagle brother threatened court action unless it was paid. I would like this firm to get their just deserts.

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