Update: This article is maintained for informational purposes, but Homebuilder is no longer available.
You may have heard the news that the government has announced a contribution of $25,000 toward a significant renovation or new home for the next 6 months. For new home builders in estates this is reasonably straightforward, but if you are considering completing a renovation in order to make use of this grant, there are some crucial details which will affect you.
In order to qualify for the grant you’ll first need to pass the individual and combined income tests, which are $125,000 and $200,000 respectively. You’ll need to be over 18, an Australian citizen, and to own a house to renovate. The cost of the renovation must also exceed $150,000 and be completed at market rates by a registered builder who is unrelated to you.
Perhaps the most important consideration for renovators are the time constraints. There are strict requirements which indicate that making use of Homebuilder may be more difficult for renovators. Forward planning is necessary to ensure you don’t miss out. You must sign a contract with a builder within the next 6 months, and you must begin construction within 3 months of having a signed contract. For renovators though, there is plenty to do before that will occur.
Not only will you need to design your renovation, but you’ll need to have sufficient construction documentation completed. You may need to engage consultants such as architects, building designers, structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, energy assessors and land surveyors among others. This takes time, and in most cases cannot be performed concurrently because information from one consultant is required to feed into the next. Generally an architect or building designer will assist in arranging all of the consultants required for your specific project. Some builders may also assist in handling this process in its entirety, though some will request that you to engage them independently.
There may be some benefits in having a builder handle this process such as firmer prices earlier in the design process, however a major benefit of engaging them independently will be that you have control over your own design and plans, so can move between builders if required in order to ensure you meet the timeframe requirements.
Whether or not you will require a planning permit will depend on your zoning and the extent of the renovation. The planning process can take a long time, and this will vary significantly between different projects. You may wish to discuss with your designer whether it is possible to create a concept which you are happy with, and which avoids town planning and the associated time risks. This will need to be ascertained for your site specifically; the same renovation of the same house may require a planning permit on your site, but not the site next door.
Not all planning permits are equal though and Vicsmart applications or some simpler designs which do not require advertising may not have the same time risk. If you must go through the full town planning process in order to end up with the renovation you’re happy with in the end, you’ll want to ensure you’ve allowed for possible delays for various reasons (such as objections by neighbours).
Once your design and construction drawings are ready to go you’ll need to engage a registered builder who is ready to start construction within 3 months of December 31. You may wish to communicate with a builder or builders at the beginning of the process to ensure this is possible, but having control of your own plans will allow you to discuss with a different builder if your intended builder picks up additional work in the interim and cannot begin as planned. Once you have invested into the process and other consultants, it would be disappointing to miss out on a grant you are relying on purely because your builder has become busier than expected.
You may be able to avoid a planning permit in many situations, but it is very unlikely you’ll be able to avoid a building permit. This process is much more straightforward and predictable than town planning, but it could still take a few weeks to over a month and needs to be allowed for.
If you are electing to obtain finance this will also need to be finalised before construction begins. Whilst this may not slow down the process considerably, it is one more variable which could contribute to delays.
Begin Compiling Your Ideas
As long as you are prepared and have allowed for sufficient time at every step, you should be able to reach construction having met all of the requirements to receive the grant. Importantly, you will also reach construction with a design which you are happy with, which improves your lifestyle and suits your needs. The most important thing is that you are happy with the final product, and you should proceed at a pace which reflects this in the early stages of designing your renovation.
*The information regarding the HomeBuilder requirements may change. Please refer to the Treasury Website for further information on HomeBuilder specifically.