What are the real costs of home pre-construction?

Today I’m answering the 2nd most asked question I get about our renovation –

(the one that comes after “When are you starting?”… but this may help to answer that too)

 “What do you need and how much does it cost to get the pre-construction stage paperwork done ready to build?”

It seems everyone I’ve spoken to has been unaware of just how much time it takes or how many people are involved in the pre-construction phase of building.

We’re talking everyone involved in the plans and approvals before you start.

There are several consultants who are required and of course they each have individual fees.

Fees for the designer, surveyor, council, engineer, timber framing designer, training levy, private certifier, energy efficiency report and maybe more – phew!

Now if you sign a building contract for a project home right at the start, all of these fees are just shown as “Included” in the contract and the builder takes care of it.  Therefore the client doesn’t see them listed with their individual costs.

But when doing a custom addition like we are, to get to the stage of signing a building contract we’ve had to first get these items arranged ourselves.

So I thought I’d break it down to give you an idea of where the money goes and what exactly it’s for:

{here’s my disclaimer: costs are approximate and vary significantly depending on construction size/type.  To be used as a guide only for South Australian readers}


Estimated costs of pre-construction


(this will vary significantly depending if you’re using a draftsperson or architect)

–  sketch & planning drawings $2300+

The designer/architect will have an initial meeting to discuss ideas (and in our case measure up existing residence) before coming up with possibly several sketch plans to look at.   After further discussion and tweaking of the floor plan and elevation, planning drawings are done inc site plan, ready to submit to council for planning approval.

–  meetings, working drawings  $2500-5000

There can be A LOT of back and forth to get all the little details correct on the working drawings so several meetings are usually had (not to mention countless emails) before a full set of working drawings are done.

This can include floor plan, elevation, site plan, roof plan, window schedule, section plans, electrical plan and possibly existing/demolition plan.



A surveyor may be needed to do a contour plan to check the levels of the site and also a boundary survey to ensure any existing boundaries are true and correct



Development plan consent involves an assessment of the overall concept of your proposal by a Council planning officer taking into consideration:

  • the zoning of the land
  • the physical constraints of the land and the potential impacts of the proposal on neighbours and on the broader locality
  • The Development Plan

There is a set lodgement fee and then an assessment fee which is calculated as a percentage of the construction cost.

Notification to neighbours may also be required (as ours did) which was another fee.

There’s also a fee if the proposal is non-complying [I’ll delve deeper into Councils approval in another post]



The engineer does soil testing to then assist in designing the footings required.

They also calculate details for any steel beams that may be needed to support the roof.



Since 1st September 2010, all new homes (and alterations to existing homes) in South Australia are required to achieve a 6 star energy efficiency rating.

So, it means that every new development must have a special report done by a registered assessor to get development approval (there are only a limited number of registered assessors in South Australia . They are usually engineers, designers, private certifiers or independant assessors – awesome for them, not so awesome for us!)


Building thermal performance for occupancy comfort (which includes things like thermal insulation in roofs, walls and floors, better window glazing performance, building sealing and draught proofing, and good ventilation and air movement)

The services to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which includes things like sealing of heating and cooling ductwork, better performance of artificial lighting, efficient water heaters and use of renewable energy sources eg solar panels)

Exciting stuff right? Hang on wake up sleepyhead!! 🙂

(If it’s your thing though and you want to read more check out http://www.nathers.gov.au/



A timber estimator does the framing layouts, cutting list (used to quote the timber) & roof truss calculations



This is a mandatory levy for all construction work in SA worth over $15,000 (inc GST).

It’s paid to the Construction Industry Training Board who re-inject it back into the building industry to improve and encourage skills development to construction workers and apprentices.

It’s value is calculated on the total contract price of the construction work.



Once all of the above items are received, the Building Rules assessment can be done.  Often a Private Certifier is engaged to issue building rules consent rather than council (either can do it, private certifier’s are cheaper and quicker though).

The certifier then lodges the consent to council for Development Approval (the fee for this is included above).


All together this is upward of $10,000 so definitely nothing to sneeze at AND you need to have available funds ready to pay these peeps as the invoices roll in (forgot about that bit, oops!)

Obviously if you’re subdividing your land as well, there’s a WHOLE load more fees to add here (mostly from the surveyor and Development Assessment Commission) but for a standard new home or addition in South Australia those above are the norm.

So as you can see, it’s not just a matter of “let’s build a house tomorrow” (unfortunately), there’s a whole lot of work going on behind the scenes by many.

And as you can imagine, each of these reports/approvals take several weeks/months to receive so the time quickly fades away, which is seriously frustrating but that’s just the way it goes.

The good news is that once all of these reports are received, it’s time to get Development Approval and get cracking!


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The costs of home pre-construction