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Owner builder home loans

Owner-builders can finance their home construction with a construction loan. But if you're not a qualified builder, you'll have a much harder time getting approved.

An owner-builder is someone who decides to construct their home themselves instead of contracting a licensed builder. Owner-builders who need a home loan can take out a construction loan, sometimes called an owner-builder home loan.

For most lenders, a key criteria for being approved for an owner-builder loan is certification as a licensed builder yourself. This is because they need reassurance that if they lend you this huge sum of money, you have the skills, expertise and experience to complete the project.

How much can owner-builders borrow?

A qualified owner-builder can generally borrow up to 80% of the property's value on a construction loan.

You could even borrow up to 100%, depending on the lender, if you have a guarantor and take out a guarantor loan. This is when someone is willing to offer their own property as security to back your loan.

Lenders are much more conservative if you're not a licensed builder. Most lenders won't lend you a dollar if you don't have proper certification; those that do, may only lend you up to around 60% of the property's value to minimise their risks.

What documents do owner-builders need to provide?

The specific documents vary lender to lender but generally you need to provide:

  • Council-approved plans. Your lender will need copies of council-approved building plans.
  • Cost details. This includes a detailed breakdown of construction costs, copies of quotes and estimates plus a payment schedule.
  • Quantity survey reports. You'll need a copy of your quantity surveyor's report and a soil test.
  • Insurance. Lenders require owner-builders to hold builders all risk insurance and public liability insurance.

How to maximise your chances of being approved

If you meet stringent lending criteria such as having enough equity, savings or a guarantor willing to offer security for the loan, you may have a better chance of being approved for a home loan application.

Owner builder home loans

  • Effective budgeting. As part of your loan application, most lenders will need to see a cost estimate for your project. You’ll need to ensure the numbers are as accurate as possible, and you should always include a 10-15% contingency buffer. Unless you're a licensed builder, most banks won’t lend you more than 60% of the build cost, so it’s important that you don’t run out of funds midway through construction.
  • Pre-approval. It’s wise to seek pre-approval before entering an owner builder arrangement. Pre-approval will give you an idea of what your maximum loan-to-value (LVR) ratio will be, which can help you decide whether or not it’s the right decision for you.
  • Be patient. You’ll need to wait until your home loan is officially approved before you can start construction, and most lenders won’t approve your loan if you’ve already started the project.
  • Seek advice. Before you apply for finance, it’s a good idea to seek advice to determine how much you can afford to borrow and whether or not you’re likely to be approved for a home loan application. Speak with a financial adviser and accountant to help with your budgeting as well as tradespeople or project managers before commencing.

How do owner-builder home loans work?

Construction loans are different to standard mortgages. Rather than simply getting your loan approved and getting all the money at settlement, owner-builders receive funds in stages to cover various construction costs.

These stages are usually:

  • Foundations
  • Frame and exterior
  • Lock-up
  • Fit-out
  • Completion

The builder needs to provide evidence at the completion of each stage before the lender will unlock funds.

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Frequently asked questions about owner-builders home loans

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