In May 2020, the Federal Government announced the new HomeBuilder grant. Designed to stimulate the construction industry, the grant offers a huge $25,000 to home owners undertaking significant projects.
Despite the name, the grant isn’t just there for people building a new home. Eligible owners can also get the money if they’re undertaking a significant renovation or extension.
If you’ve been wanting to improve where you live for a while, this might be your chance. Here are three ways to access the grant.
What is HomeBuilder?
First, a refresher on the grant.
HomeBuilder provides $25,000 to eligible home owners towards the cost of building a new home or renovating an existing one. There are some income and asset tests to be met.
• If you are building a new home, it needs to be worth less than $750,000.
• If you are renovating, the home needs to be valued at less than $1.5M.
• It is available for single people earning less than $125,000, or couples earning less than $200,000.
The grant is only available towards projects of $150,000 or more. This means that your renovation work must be substantial to qualify.
It is only available for owner-occupiers. You can’t access the grant to build or renovate an investment property. Owner-builders, who would be doing the work themselves, also can’t access the money.
Option One: The New Build
Eyeing up house-and-land packages? Or maybe you’ve already bought a block of land – in which case, now is the perfect time to build.
There are substantial advantages to building your own home. You can customise it to suit your specific needs, including floor plan, finishes and fixtures. Want two walk-in-robes and an en suite? You’ve got them! Always dreamed of a wine cellar? Now might be your chance!
Building a new home also gives you an opportunity to use energy efficient principles and design to keep running costs low. Building an energy efficient house is easier than retrofitting an existing one and can pay off in the longer term.
Start by brainstorming. What have you always dreamed of? Don’t worry about practicality at this stage. List out how many rooms you want and the features you’d like to see in each room. Don’t forget to think ahead: your dream house should be perfect long into the future. If you’re planning children, or you expect aging parents to live with you down the track, budget that in now.
Once you’ve got the wish list, prioritise. Is a gourmet kitchen your top priority, or would you rather have a huge al fresco entertaining area? If you have to choose, do you ditch the butler’s pantry or the home theatre? Your designer and builder will be able to help you understand what you can afford and get the most from your budget.
Don’t forget that the shape and position of the block will influence the design as well. If you already have the location locked down, design a home that makes the most of it. Ocean views? Elevated position? Great northern light? Your builder or architect should be able to help you optimise the block.
Option Two: The Extension
Love where you live but feeling the squeeze? Consider an extension. This is a great solution for people who don’t want to move house but whose family has outgrown the current footprint.
With the HomeBuilder grant, you could consider a substantial extension. That might involve building some extra rooms onto the back of the property, or even adding a second storey.
Make it a parent’s retreat with bedroom, home office, en suite and reading nook. Elderly parents? Add a self-contained granny flat to the main building so you can keep them nearby.
When you’re planning an extension, think about who, and what, you’re building it for. If you’re adding bedrooms for your children do you also need an extra bathroom and additional living area? Will those children be living with you as young adults, and if so does the extension give them the privacy they’ll want?
Bear in mind that one of the rules for the HomeBuilder grant is that the works must “improve the liveability, accessibility or safety of your home”. Sheds, garages and other stand-alone structures won’t be approved so you must be adding to the main structure. You also can’t add a pool or tennis court, so if your extension is designed for leisure only you may want to check eligibility ahead of time.
Have fun with the design. You don’t have to match the current style. In fact, in some areas councils prefer extensions to draw a clear contrast with the existing building, especially when the former has character or heritage features. You can have fun with your extension plans and use the materials and look you really love.
Option Three: The Refit
Bought a fixer-upper? Now’s a great time to do a complete restoration and add huge value to your investment.
Because the HomeBuilder grant is only eligible for projects worth $150,000 and up, you can’t use it to give the bathroom a bit of a facelift. But if your new purchase needs substantial work, it might be the ideal time. There are plenty of old properties on the market which offer solid bones but need a lot of interior work to bring them up to a liveable standard. Done correctly, these projects offer the chance to add some serious capital value to your property — especially if you find candidates in inner city or coastal areas.
Start from the ground up. Do you need to add flooring? What about the walls and windows — would they benefit from some work? If you can add insulation and double glazing, your power bills will thank you for it later.
The nice thing about doing a full renovation is that you can make sure the look is coherent. Whether you go ultra-modern or opt for vintage charm, your finishes should all reflect that style. Consider finishing your kitchen bench tops and bathroom vanities in the same material, and matching the tile work in all the wet areas.
While a $150,000 renovation is going to be significant, you can still work with what you have. High ceilings? Original fireplaces? A great view? Look at the features that drew you to the property in the first place and make sure they’re showcased.
Whichever way you choose, one thing is clear. For those who can afford to do so, there’s never been a better time to put your money into property. Generous grants and ultra-low interest rates make it easier than ever. You’re only limited by your imagination!