Building a brand new home is a huge accomplishment – however, it’s also one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. For that reason, many budding homeowners in Australia are looking for ways to reduce the cost of their new home’s construction.
Other than being an owner builder, one of the more popular options to keep costs down is having your home built to lock-up stage.
But how much does it cost to build a house to lock-up?
Generally the cost to build a home to lock-up stage is roughly 60% – 70% of the home’s projected completion price, depending on the final design of the home. However, you’ll still need to pay for the finishing stage separately, so there’s no guarantee the cost will be cheaper than a standard building contract.
This article provides insights regarding the lock-up stage: what’s included, what you’ll need to finish yourself, and the pros and cons of building to lock-up.
Keep reading to learn more!
Table of Contents
What is Building to Lock-up Stage?
Building to lock-up means a professional builder completes the home up to the lock-up stage of the process, rather than practical completion. This is also known as ‘finish it yourself’ building, where responsibility is handed over to the homeowner to complete the finishings.
At lock-up stage, the doors and windows are all installed and the primary structure of the house is complete. The finishing stage typically includes plumbing, electrical, flooring, tiling, painting and appliances. External features like landscaping are also covered in the finishing and fit-off stages.
However, individual builders can vary in exactly what portion of the building process they cover with a build to lock-up contract, and you may be able to negotiate what’s included for your unique build. If you’re currently choosing between being an owner builder or hiring a licensed builder, ‘finish it yourself’ building could be the perfect middle ground.
However, it’s important to note that the term ‘finish it yourself’ can be misleading. As a layperson, you still cannot undertake certain tasks such as plumbing, roofing, electrical works, and other skilled jobs on your own. These need to be sourced out to licensed professionals, but you’ll be coordinating these trades rather than having a builder to manage the process.
How Much Does Building to Lock-up Stage Cost?
The approximate cost of building to lock-up stage is 60% to 70% of the home’s projected completion price. That means this figure varies depending on the size and style of your home’s construction, as well as the type of finishings you choose.
It’s not guaranteed that you’ll save money by having your home built to lock-up. That’s because you’ll pay less to the builder, but will still need to pay for the finishing stages separately. Established builders typically have access to better rates for labour and materials than individuals, so you may actually pay more for the same results.
However, if you have access to free or low-cost labour – for instance, if you’re a qualified tradesperson or have several in the family – you may be able to save on finishing costs by building to lock-up stage.
If you have a ‘built to lockup’ construct with a custom home builder, you can also vary from the standard lock-up stage inclusions. For instance, excluding linings from the contract will reduce costs further, while requesting the builder complete plumbing or electrical before handover will add to the cost. This allows you to find the solution that’s best for your needs.
You’ll also need to take into account what your builder considers ‘building to lock-up’. Some builders will engage plumbers and electrical contractors to complete their preliminary work as part of the building to lock-up stage while others will not. This will impact what percentage of the projected completion price the building to lock-up stage represents.
What Does Building to Lock-up Stage Include?
When a structure reaches the lock-up stage, the following elements are installed:
- Roof structure
- Roof cover
- Internal render and white set to walls (linings)
- Windows (glazing only)
- External doors (to achieve lock up)
Obviously, the elements of a completed lock-up phase depend on the type of structure being built or what is agreed on in your contract with the builder. For example, you and the builder might decide to include plasterboard, linings, and insulation as part of the lock-up stage for an additional cost.
If you are working with a reputable buildinger, they will offer different lock up stage options including plumbing to lock up stage (which includes pre-lay at slab stage, drain connection to sewage and pipework through the roof and walls) and electrical to lock up stage (which includes internap pipework through the roof and walls, temporary power to the site and power to run from home to dome).
Sometimes, on a standard build, the builder might install momentary access points such as temporary doors or windows rather than the permanent doors and windows during this stage. This is just to ensure that the house can be locked up and secured as soon as possible. Sometimes this is done so that your permanent access points don’t get prematurely damaged during continued construction. For example, it would be wise to install a simple but sturdy front door during the lock-up stage rather than risk installing and damaging your permanent and expensive front door.
However, when having a home built to lock up stage only, you will have full responsibility for the site from that point onwards, including insurance. For that reason it’s especially important to ensure your property is fully secured.
Finishing a home from lock-up stage typically includes:
- Plumbing & electrical
- Appliances (including hot water)
- External render
- Carpentry & cabinetry
- Landscaping & paving
- Garage floor & roller door
Does Building to Lock-up Stage Save Money?
Building to lock-up is often a great way to save money, especially if you or your friends work in construction. Anecdotal evidence suggests homeowners can possibly save between 15% to 35%, but this isn’t guaranteed. It all depends on how you manage the finishing stages.
Having a professional build to lock-up and finishing it yourself will always mean a lower dollar amount on your building contract. However, there are pros and cons of building to lock-up. For one thing, you’ll be handling everything yourself, so you’ll need to be prepared to take on both responsibilities and risks.
With a built-to-lockup home, you are avoiding paying a margin on those stages, but be warned – it’s not a guaranteed money-saver either. The rates a building company receives from suppliers and contractors for finishing are significantly better than what members of the public can access.
This means you may be paying more for the same services, like tiling, electrical and even appliances. You also won’t be covered by your builder’s insurance for the finishing stages, and you’ll be responsible if any finishes aren’t up to code.
For build to lock up contracts, many builders will charge a lower margin than for complete builds. This is primarily because the time to build and related costs are reduced. There is also decreased liability given the builders would not be supplying or installing most of the finished items.
If you’re a tradesperson or can access ‘mates rates’, this can help make finishing it yourself more cost-effective. This means you will not only save money, but you have the opportunity to add your own personal touches to the home.
If you are building a home, it’s important to consider if you’re willing to pay for the convenience of a builder, or if you’re willing to handle the finishing touches yourself to save money.
It’s worth discussing your specific scenario with a builder specialising in built-to-lockup homes. This will allow you to compare costs for a standard built-to-completion home with the ‘finish it yourself’ option, and decide which is right for you.
How Can I Save Money Finishing My Home From Lock-up Stage?
Finishing a home from lock-up stage still requires a decent financial investment. Here are just a few tips on how you can save some money on your built-to-lockup home:
- Do some work yourself. If you have trade skills, you can save significantly on labour costs by carrying out work yourself. Some DIY tasks can also be completed by a layperson, but be sure to know your limits and don’t overextend yourself. Your home will still need to pass a building inspection, and safety should always be a priority.
- Source your own materials. If you’re hiring a contractor for post lock-up work, they often have their own suppliers – and typically can access better rates than members of the public. However, if you can find items like a hot water system at a cheaper price, this can help reduce the cost of finishings.
- Purchase bulk materials such as wood, tiles, doors, and more from wholesalers rather than retailers. Wholesale prices are much lower than retail prices. Don’t be afraid to talk frankly with your contractors and collaborate to find lower-cost materials. Tradespeople are usually in the know about where to find the cheapest supplies.
- Don’t skimp on quality piping, wiring, lighting systems, HVAC systems, and other vital structural elements. It will end up costing you a lot more to repair subpar components. Invest your budget in the most essential parts of your home.
- Recycle whatever you can. Furniture and appliances can usually be sourced secondhand, saving you money on these expenses. Your tradespeople can advise you on whether you can safely source certain materials secondhand – for instance, using reclaimed timber or tiles.
- When sourcing contractors, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Be willing to have an open conversation about your budget and find out if there’s any wiggle room. Always be respectful and ask if there’s any way costs can be reduced – there may be a compromise that suits everybody.
- Consider the time of the year. For instance, having your landscaping done during winter can get you a better price, as there’s less demand for the service.
These are just some things you can do to stretch out your dollar when finishing a home from the lock-up stage.
Can I Have Family or Friends Help With Construction Before the Lock-up Stage?
Owners, family and friends can’t assist with construction before the lock-up stage. For risk and liability reasons, only licensed professionals who’ve completed full site induction can perform work on-site.
After handover, you can have suitably qualified friends and family assist with finishing work. If you have a carpenter or plumber in the family, you’ll be able to get their assistance after your builder has handed you the reins.
There are more straightforward jobs you can assist with yourself to save money after the lock-up stage. Tasks such as painting and landscaping can often be performed on a DIY basis, but remember, you won’t be covered by your builder’s insurance at this point. This means you’ll be responsible for the safety of anyone ‘helping out’ on site.
Is Having My Home Built To Lock-Up A Good Idea?
If you want to save money and get hands-on with the finishing of your home, then build-to-lock-up contracts can help you achieve that goal. If you’ve got trade experience, or mates in the industry, you may be equipped to arrange the finishing touches of your home.
Compared to the process of being an owner builder, finishing a home from lock-up stage is simpler and more secure. This makes it a good choice for those willing to do more in exchange for saving money, with the assurance of having the basics covered by a registered builder.
However, you will need to be practical and understand your limits and capabilities with building and construction. Before you commit to finishing your home yourself, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have the time and energy to coordinate the rest of the build? Without a builder at the helm, you’ll need to organise contractors, source materials, and meticulously plan the rest of your home’s journey to completion. If you’d need to take time off work to do this, consider the opportunity cost of lost income when deciding if it’s the cheaper option.
- Do my contractors have the right skills and experience to complete the construction? Even amongst qualified tradespeople, skill and ability levels can vary, and not all handymen are able to complete specialised work. Friends and family may be willing to help for reduced rates, but you’ll need to be confident the results will be up to scratch. Your home will still need to pass inspection, and you’ll be liable for any faults in the home.
- Do you know the proper sequence of installation? For example, should tiling come before waterproofing, or is it the other way around? Managing the timeline of trades and contractors is essential to get your home finished correctly.
These are just some factors to consider before you decide to only use a builder to lock-up stage.
If you’ve answered these questions and have decided to finish your home build yourself, there are a few extra things to keep in mind. You’ll still need approvals to ensure that your home is built up to Australian standards and building regulations. If your completed home doesn’t pass a building inspection, you may need to spend more time, money, and effort fixing the issues.
If you think having your home built-to-lockup might be the right choice for you, the next step is to speak to a registered builder. Certain custom builders such as Central Avenue Homes specialise in build-to-lockup contracts, and can give you a better idea of how the costs compare.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding built to lock-up stage homes.
How Long Does the Lock-up Stage Take?
The lock-up stage of construction usually takes around four weeks. From the beginning of construction to the lock-up stage is approximately 8 to 10 weeks, and any siteworks will add extra time at the outset.
How Long Does It Take to Finish a Home From Lock-up Stage?
It often takes around 5 to 6 weeks to prepare the house for painting from the lock-up stage. Then it takes another 7 to 8 weeks for practical completion, including painting, fencing, landscaping, and more.
Ready to Find Out More?
If you are finally ready to build your dream home, there is no time like the present. Using the advice from this article, you may want to take the leap and start talking to a build-to-lockup specialist about your options.
If you’re building a home in the Perth region, Central Avenue Homes are the build-to-lock up experts who can offer you the most personalised experience. From design to handover, we focus on your needs, offering you both control and flexibility.
For more information about building to lock-up stage in Perth, get in touch with Central Avenue Homes.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. It does not take into consideration your individual circumstances and does not constitute an estimate for any specific project. Central Avenue Homes does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Construction costs and other financial details vary and you should always seek a specific quote.
Greg has over 40 years of experience in the WA building industry starting as a carpenter joiner.
He is entrenched in the local industry and has served on the board for MBAWA (Master Builders Australia WA) for over 10 years and was a founding director of Wesbuilders Cooperative for over 11 years.
With this experience he is able to quote accurately on new projects without the huge increase to provisional sum allowances.