Last month we wrote about buying the land to build on in Australia, and discovered that it’s easier than you might imagine. So now you’ve got the perfect plot and evicted the wildlife, how do you go about getting your home-of-a-lifetime not only designed, but approved by the authorities too? We’re going to meet some architects….

And, if you missed part one of our series, which was about buying land, do have a read of that, too.

Finding an architect

First off, you need to find the right architect. You want someone who is, naturally, trustworthy, but also a good communicator – a good litmus test is whether they respond promptly when you enquire with their office. It’s also important to consider their style. Have a look at previous projects, in person if possible. Although their job is to work to your brief, they will have a particular specialty, perhaps modern builds or classic-inspired homes.

In Australia, all architects should be registered with their territory/state’s registration board. Don’t use anyone who isn’t registered – you run a greater risk of shoddy work. These are the NSW Architects Registration Board, Architects Registration Board of Victoria, Board of Architects of Queensland, The Architectural Practice Board of South Australia, Architects Board of Western Australia, Australia Capital Territory Architects Board and the Northern Territory Architects Board.

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A good place to start looking for your architect is by personal recommendations. Ask around neighbours, friends, family and colleagues who have built their own home. If you don’t know anyone, or you want to find more people for further quotes, try services such as findanarchitect.com.au, accredited by the Australian Institute of Architects.

Self-building in Australia

Designing your own home in Australia is a big and exciting adventure.

How do architects work out their fees?

There are three main ways that an architect will work out their fees.

  • Fixed fees: You agree to a set fee right from the start of a project – a good idea if you know exactly what you want, and you’ve got a clear briefing down to materials and labour. It can help to stop costs spiraling away, but it does provide less leeway if anything does crop up.
  • Percentage fees: Sometimes, architects in Australia will charge based on a percentage of the final cost of the overall project. Usually, the smaller the project, the higher the percentage.
  • Hourly rates: This will require a lot more oversight, but it does mean that you’ll only be paying for exactly what you get, and is a good idea if you’re only engaging them temporarily or for certain stages/elements of your project.

How do you get planning permission to build a house in Australia?

Getting planning permission isn’t a hugely complicated process, as long as you provide all the necessary information from the off. You’ll usually get two kinds of permits: a planning and a building one.

It’ll depend on your area’s rules, but, normally, you provide your plans, a copy of the title deeds to the land plot, your application form and, of course, pay your fee. The fee is totally dependent on your state or territory, or even local municipality. As an example, in Victoria, depending on the cost of the development (from $10,000 to $1,000,000+), the fee ranges from $199.90 up to $1495.80. The timescale is usually around nine to 12 months.

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