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New Home Designs: The Process

Most people have some concept of what’s involved in building a new home. It is a complex process and takes quite a while – compared to things you might buy off the shelf!

A decision that people tend to make early on is to choose between a project builder, or a boutique, local builder. A project builder is generally a large building company, with a large turnover of standardised products. A boutique, local builder is general a small business, with the day-to-day operations being run by the Registered Builder.

The differences between a project builder and a boutique builder are as follows;


A project builder has a defined process to move homes through the production phase. They have computer systems and defined steps to manage the building process. A boutique builder will give personal attention to each stage. The comparison could be illustrated as the difference in process it takes to make a cake that comes out of a factory, compared to one that is baked at home.


 A boutique builder is generally your one point of contact throughout the whole process, from design to construction to completion. A project builder has different employees to assist you during the process, such as Sales Consultant, Pre-Start Consultant and Building Supervisor.


This is a factor for conjecture. Some people claim that project builders offer better costs because they have the advantage of large buying power with suppliers, and have driven out inefficiency in the building and construction process. However, they generally operate with large offices and a high number of employees, adding overheads to their operating costs. A boutique builder may have a small office, few employees, and in some cases be able to source good value building products that the project companies can’t offer (because they are not available in high or consistent volumes, for example).

 If you’ve decided to build with a boutique builder, here’s how the process will unfold.

Meeting your Builder and giving them your brief for a new home 

Giving a brief to your new home Builder is the first place to start. A meeting on site is a good idea, so you can discuss your block of land, the aspects and dimensions. There may already be an existing house there that’s marked for demolition, which is also something your new home Builder can take care of.

Getting to know your Builder is important at this stage. Do you feel comfortable with them? Have they worked consistently in the area for a long time? Do they have examples of their work, case studies and testimonials that they can share with you? At this stage it’s important to trust your gut, as the relationship you build will be critically important in completing your new home with as little drama as possible!

Creating your new home design

Your new home brief should include some of the following parameters;

Size of the home

Single or double storey, and the desire for more, or less, space for outdoor living. An often overlooked tip for managing the cost of your new home is to focus on the total footprint of the home. After all, every square metre adds significant cost. Based on rules of thumb in the building industry, you can estimate a good quality new home may cost around $1,500 per square meter. So if you reduce your size of home by just 10m2 (about the size of two dining tables) you will reduce your cost by $15,000!

Composition of the home

The number of bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces.

Construction method

Double brick or timber frame with brick veneer or cladding. We describe these processes in detail in the What We Can Do section on our website.


The inspiration for external elevations and interior design. You might prefer modern, contemporary, Hamptons or traditional. Simply collect photos of what you like, and anything is possible.


How quickly you want to be in the home might affect your decisions. Certain construction methods are faster, and might be worth considering if you are renting and building.


Most people are understandably nervous about sharing a budget with a Builder, as they fear that the Builder will simply provide a cost estimate at that level. Our years of experience demonstrate that it’s far better to have an approximation of the budget that a client would like to achieve, to avoid a major mismatch between the design and the cost.

Given that a home can cost anything from $100,000 to $1,000,000+, it’s important to set a scope for the Builder. A trusted new home Builder will be honest about what you will get for your budget, and suggest ways you might be able to reconfigure the size, design or inclusions to get as much of what you want, but still fit in your budget.

Designing your new home

With all of the above parameters defined in your brief, the design process can get underway. At Exactus Homes, we regularly work with Architects or Draftspeople. The decision of who to use will be made collaboratively with you. Over the years we’ve built trusted relationships, and can generally match the right building designer to the right project – based on your preferences.

At this stage we will provide you with the fee for a draftsperson or architect to develop concept plans. This fee will be reimbursed if you build with Exactus Homes. If you do not proceed with Exactus Homes, this fee enables you to keep your plans.

A site survey may be required before design commences, and your building designer may meet with you on site and ask some more questions about your new home. An initial design will be ready for you to view in a couple of weeks. At Exactus Homes, we will present this to you, and give you an approximate estimate (based on assumptions about the quality of inclusions like benchtops, cabinetry and floor coverings).

The design process will inevitably involve a bit of back-and-forth to achieve what you want, and, to fit your budget. Generally at Exactus Homes we include most of the elements to finish your home, such as timber flooring, painting and carpets, so you know exactly the total cost of your new home. It’s no point agreeing on a budget for a new home that doesn’t include painting and floor coverings!

The final estimate and your acceptance 

We prepare a detailed estimate for your project. The estimate is an indicative price based on assumptions, allowances and provisional sums. For example, at this stage you won’t have selected the exact tiles you want in your bathroom, but we will estimate a standard rate, such as $50 per square metre for tiles.

Usually an estimate is within about 5% of the final quote value. Once you review your estimate, you may either choose to reduce or add to your inclusion standards. For example, if you desire $90 per square metre tiles, the final quote value will be increased accordingly.

An estimate is an extensive process for Exactus Homes. We provide your plans to our suppliers and tradespeople to source accurate costs for their materials and services. The process can take several weeks as we wait for their responses, and collate all of the costs in an extensive spreadsheet.

When we share with you our estimate, we clearly specify the component costs, rather than providing one big number.

Selection of fixtures and fittings and the final quote 

Based on your acceptance of our estimate, we proceed with;

  • A complete site inspection
  • Site contour survey and soil test
  • Engineering plans
  • Working drawings and plans
  • Energy efficiency report
  • Your selection of fixtures and finishes
  • Dilapidation report

Following the completion of these steps, we prepare a formal quote. At this stage you can continue to make changes. All going well, a fixed price contract is prepared and signed. We utilise a standard HIA industry contract which complies fully with State regulations.

Building plans to Council

We submit your building plans and the contract to Council for approval. This can take a few weeks, although a home that is fully compliant with R-code regulations can be fast-tracked by getting pre-authorisation from a building surveyor.

Begin construction

Construction commences! You can still make changes (where it’s feasible to do so) and a variation to the contract is created and signed. Variations can strike fear into new home builders hearts, as people have heard horror stories of people being hit up for excessive additional costs.

It’s important to know that if you are worried about the cost of a variation, you are legally allowed to view the invoices (or if prior to execution, the quotes from suppliers) relating to the final cost. At Exactus Homes, we are happy to share a breakdown of the cost of variations so you’re not just taking our word for it!

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