If there’s one thing Australia has in abundance, it’s land (and sun, beaches…). So if you’ve got a picture in your mind of your perfect home Down Under, why not take advantage of this empty space and find your own plot to build your own? That way, you can have it exactly how you imagine. But how do you buy land to build on in Australia?
Am I allowed to buy building land in Australia?
Yes! Anyone can buy land to build on in Australia, as long as their purchase is approved by the FIRB, or Foreign Investment Review Board. Normally, this is quite easy to obtain, and will rely on you agreeing to complete the building within four years of buying the land, and on providing evidence of that completion within thirty days. Remember that if there was a house on the plot, even if it’s a ruin, it doesn’t count as vacant! In that kind of case, you’d just need to apply for a residential redevelopment purchase, instead. The same conditions apply as above, so it’s no hassle.
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To apply, simply fill in the Australian Taxation Office’s exemption certificate form. Depending on the value of the land, the fee ranges from AUD5,600 to 102,300. Most people will pay the AUD5,600 fee, as it only increases on land worth more than a million!
What are my options for building?
You’ve got three main routes you can go down. Firstly, you could essentially self-build from scratch – finding your plot of land to build on, choosing an architect to help design your home and having a builder to construct and finish the home. The second option is to buy off-plan. This means that you buy from a developer, with a general design already in place, and then choose your fittings and fixtures and so on. Both are great ways of getting your dream Australian home, and choosing will really depend on how hands-on you want to be, and how long a timescale you have.
The final option combines the two. You could buy what is known in Australia as a ‘kit home’. This means that you choose your plot, wherever you want to buy – so you’re not in a development – and then purchase a ‘pre-built’ home, built off-site and then delivered to your land for assembly. This can be very cost-effective, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of the work yourself.
How do I actually find land to build on in Australia?
Now for the million dollar question – how to actually find the land to build on? When you’re looking at plots, make sure to check the zoning rules, especially in rural areas. There might be a lot of it, but not all land is allowed to be built on. To find your actual plot, use the main real estate portals, such as RealEstate.com.au, Property.com.au, and specialists like AustralianRural.com.au.
Naturally, the coastal areas will be much more expensive than inland areas. However, you don’t need to go as far as you might think. For example, in New South Wales, you can find land in the town of Mudgee, just three and a half hours’ drive from Sydney, for about $70/m2 – with services already connected.
Where can you find the experts to make this a reality?
Whether you’re self-building or buying off-plan, you can’t do everything on your own. Finding an architect in Australia is quite straightforward. The Australian Institute of Architects has created a directory, Find An Architect, where you can search by practice, location and building types. If you don’t use this tool – for example, if you have a recommendation from a friend – then do just make sure they’re registered with the Institute.
As for finding a builder, you’ll probably want to start with a couple of options and ask them for a quote. For peace of mind, make sure they’re trained by Master Builders of Australia or the Housing Industry Association. Both of these also offer training for sustainable construction, so they can be a good source to ask for someone to help with an ‘eco’ project.
You’ll likely need other tradespeople further down the line, so make sure to check out our article on how to find trustworthy ones.
What factors do I need to consider when buying building land in Australia?
As previously mentioned, the location has a big impact on price, not only of the building land in Australia but also of the construction costs. In the major cities, these are the prices you can expect to pay per m2:
However, you can expect the cost of land to be lower in regional Australia – but construction itself could cost more, if you need to get materials shipped from elsewhere.
Secondly, as well as zoning, you’ll need to consider the type of climate zone where you’re looking for land to build on in Australia. If you’re in a bushfire-prone zone, you’ll need to use fire-resistant materials that meet requirements. You’ll also need to make sure other aspects of the house comply with the rules, such as having bushfire shutters or metal frames for your windows. However, this doesn’t mean you need to compromise on the materials you want – wood isn’t off the list, for instance. It just needs to be fire resistant and meet regulations.
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2. Covenants and easements
Check, or have your lawyer check, what covenants or easements, if any, there are with the plot. For instance, you might need to use certain building materials in a heritage area, or you might have a right-of-way through a rural property.
3. Soil and contour testing
We’d always recommend having soil testing carried out outside of pre-planned developments. Australia’s range of climates means you can get quite different results in different places, and some might be much more difficult to build foundations – which can raise the cost. Very moist soil is more likely to move and expand/contract, which can be more unstable, so foundations may have to go deeper.
We’d always recommend having soil testing carried out outside of pre-planned developments.
A contour test, as the name implies, checks the gradient of your plot. The differences might not be so apparent to the naked eye, but will be crucial for your architect/builder in drawing up the final plans. A significant slope (definitely visible to the naked eye!) can be a bit of a cost sink – some builders estimate as much as AUD6,000 per every metre fall.
You can expect the two tests together to cost within the region of AUD1,200.
4. Service connections
If you’re buying in a remote community, or even in a greenfield area of a larger city, you may well not yet have service connections established. This isn’t an issue – it just means you or the developer will need to lodge new connection requests with the appropriate distributors for your area.