Most of us dream of living in a luxury home with all comforts. If you are planning to build your dream home in a rural area, then this is the article to read before you start!
Building a house in a rural area costs upwards from $60,000 AUD extra than the equivalent suburban house. Connection costs to power and data supply, installation of water tanks, water pumps, and a septic system are some of the additional costs. Also, most rural properties have longer drive ways and fence lines than suburban properties.
In this article, I take you through some of the extra expenses I incurred and learned along the way when I built my rural residential home.
While the cities are getting more populated and house blocks are getting smaller, the appeal of living out of town is understandable.
When working out the average cost of building a house it is best look at statistics of cost per square meter. This is because, there is such a variation in house sizes, that the square meter average is the most accurate measurement. In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that the average build cost is $1393.55 per sqm.
To plan a realistic budget based on your actual build expectations, you can consider that an average cost of $900-$1,400 per square meter for a basic house that is not very high-end. A high-end house would cost $1,700 to $2,800 per square meter or more.
But you do need to note that this does not take into account additional costs that you would incur when building a house in a rural area.
In suburban areas, there is a lot of infrastructure that is included by the developer when you buy your block. You are already connected to town water, a road is bypassing your driveway, and electricity and data supply has been pre-planned to suit the number of houses.
But there is a lot less available infrastructure when you build your rural home, and just getting the basics right can start to add up pretty quickly. We say it will cost upwards of $60,000 AUD more to build your rural house. That is the base rate, as it really depends on what infrastructure you wish to be connected to, the size of your house, and how far away your house is from the connection points.
We are going to go through a number of specifically rural considerations and steps that will help if you are thinking of buying a block of rural land (or have already bought one).
This is the biggest expense by far, and decisions here can make a big difference to the price of your build. Before you even make an offer on your parcel of rural land, you should learn a bit about power poles (unless you are planning on going off-grid).
Not all power poles are created equal so you need to be able to identify a power pole with a transformer on it. The power poles with a silver bucket on them is usually a power pole with a transformer.
You can’t connect to the other power poles. You need to find the closest transformer to your block to connect to or alternatively buy a transformer for the pole. To install a transformer on its own you are looking at approximately $25,000. The further away your house is from the transformer, the more power poles you’ll need, the more expensive it is.
You are also going to need to call the energy provider for that area and speak to a technician, to ask how much power is available in that transformer. Transformers do not have endless power capacity. If all the power supply of that transformer is already allocated to your neighbours, then the cost to buy a larger transformer will fall on to you.
On top of that you need to get the power from the transformer to your house. I got in touch with Gavin Gasnier from Gasniers Electrical to get an up to date idea of the average costs. As with all the considerations in this blog post, there are huge variances depending on your property. But as a general guidance, Gavin said,
“For a basic rural job, where you connect to a pole with an existing transformer and the edge of your property is within 50-100m of the power pole, it will cost approximately $33,000 inc GST. But you also need to consider that you need to install a meter box and run a low voltage power line to your house, which will also cost upwards from $10,000.”
Another factor to consider is whether the transformer is on your side of any asphalt road. If the transformer is on the opposite side of the road to your house, you need to check council regulations as some stipulate that overhead powerlines over roads are not allowed. This means you have the additional expense of boring a horizontal trench under the road, just to get it to the other side.
Lastly, depending on your power requirements, there are different sized cables that can cope with different amounts of power and all come with different price points.
When you look at the costs associated with power supply it can be tempting to go off grid. With the increasing technology around solar panels and battery storage, off-grid houses are on the rise. In the past people used to fear that an off-grid house would negatively affect property value prices. However, if done properly, then these days with growing environmental concerns and increasing energy prices, an off-grid fully powered property is quite an attractive feature to more and more buyers.
But while the costs of solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage etc. are all reducing. Any choices you make here are an additional cost that you would not incur in a suburban build.
Unlike in town where your builder just connects you to the town water, in the country you need to establish your own water supply. This could be in the form of rainwater tanks, bore water, or dam water.
You need to consider what the water quality is, how much water you are going to need, how many people are in your house, are you planning on having different water to drinking and for the garden?
Rain water is what most people choose to have on their rural property for drinking. Some people connect a pump to a dam, or install a bore for gardens. The choices you make really dictates the size of the rainwater tank/s you will need to ensure you family has a constant supply of water even through periods of drought.
For context, our set up is 2x 45,000L poly rainwater tanks for drinking, and we installed a bore for our gardens. A council requirement was also to install a fire water tank which is not used at all (just sits there full), so we also have a 25,000L water tank with a firefighting fitting installed.
The price of the tanks alone are approximately $7000 per 45,000L tank and $2500- $3000 for the firewater tank.
You also need to consider the cost of reliable pumps. You’re going to need a pump for your house, and chances are a separate one for your garden.
Some people can drink their bore water but you do need to get it tested to see what minerals it has in it. Some bore water can be salty (research your region’s water before you dig a bore as salty water can make your land infertile), or if it is like mine have a lot of iron in it. Because of the high iron content, my bore water turns any solid structures orange, so it is unsuitable to run through the toilets , but it is fine to water the garden with. The cost of installing a bore pump is not cheap. In our instance we had to drill 50m deep, and install a high power pump to draw the water up from that depth and provide adequate pressure around the garden.
No one is giving your Number 2s the royal treatment except for you in a rural area. It is your cost to install a septic system to treat your sewerage.
Staying in a rural and countryside area means being more cautious and taking precautions against possible fire scenarios. With bush fires being a sudden and unexpected occurrence, one needs to install the necessary fire safety equipment.
As mentioned above, depending on your local council regulations, you may need to have an isolated rainwater tank that is only to be used in the event of fire emergency. You may also need to set up fire breaks around your property and other safety measures directed by the fire authorities.
With the improvement of satellite technology, it is becoming easier for rural houses to access remote internet connections even if there is no data line nearby. In our case, we chose to run phone and data lines to the house so we could access ADSL.
This is a rapidly evolving space, so you need to check what mobile reception and internet speeds you are able to get on your property. As our house doesn’t get the greatest mobile reception naturally, we purchased a specialty antenna from Telstra so we can get signal within the house.
Transportation of building materials to the construction site could impact your building costs. But in reality, this should be all factored into your building quote from your builder. The further is the distance, the higher the transportation charges.
In town you may have a 300 square meter yard and you share the cost of your boundary fence with each of your neighbours. In rural homes, you have two fences to consider. Your house yard fence (if you choose to have one) where the entire cost is yours. As well as any boundary fences which may be a mix of shared fencing with neighbours or fencing that runs next to a road (where the cost is solely yours). Doesn’t sound like much, but rural fencing adds up quick to be quite a considerable expense.
This is an obvious expense that could be easily overlooked. If your property is covered in trees, you are likely going to have to clear the parcel of land where you are building your house.
If the land where you plan to build your house in has a slope or is uneven, you may need to level the land before construction can begin. The levelling could be done by either razing the ground or building in more soil to fill in the gaps and holes in the ground. This is a cost-intensive exercise and could impact your home building budget in a big way.
Depending on the ground level, the structural expenses of your house could also increase as it would need to be sturdier and more balanced to bear the load on your house on uneven land. Using material to make the structure, whether wood or steel depending on the ground topography, will also affect the budget of building a house in a rural area.
While not technically a ‘building cost,’ I thought I should quickly address how the price of land could impact how much money you need (if you are just dreaming about your rural home).
Land per meter is cheaper in rural areas, but chances are, you are not going to live on 300m2 out in a rural or semi-rural area. Therefore, there’s a huge chance that your land is going to cost significantly more than if you were to buy a block in town. This varies hugely depending on your location, but the general rule is – the closer your rural block is to a major city, the more expensive it is going to be. There is a high chance that the land alone for your rural block will cost more than a house and land in town put together!
And if you see a rural block of land that is significantly cheaper than others, check that building a house on it is permissible. You need to check that you can build a house on this rural land, as there are plenty of blocks not approved to be lived on and are for other purposes like cattle grazing etc.
Rural life has its charms and attractions, but they come at an extra price. With proper planning and professional contractors, one can easily build a custom house in a rural area. But it is best to research up front, so you are well prepared to deal with any extra expenses that come your way.
A professional architect or construction company will give you a more detailed budget once you finalize the final design, quality of interiors, flooring, fixtures and fittings, etc. The size of the house, quality of the interiors and fixtures and landscape features are some of the standard factors which play an important part in the overall construction budget of a house in the rural area. But apart from these standard costs, you need to take an active role in managing your house build so the ‘Extras’ do not blow out. If your builder has built homes in the area then they will have a level of experience, but if a builder comes from suburbia to build your house, they too will have a steep learning curve.
There has been a steady rise in the demand for rural or regional properties in Australia. The housing values across regional Australia witnessed a growth of 7.9% – which is four times more than the average growth rate of the capital city regions which only grew 1.7% in the last 12 months up to January 2021.
Compared to building a house in the city, building a house in a rural area is going to cost a bit more.
Another factor one needs to consider while building a home in a rural area, away from the town, is the extra expenses you may incur daily travelling to town for any business or personal work. It could also lead to faster wear and tear of your car, leading to recurring car maintenance expenses.
Availability of skilled manpower in the rural areas may also be an issue but can be solved by hiring a professional and competent contractor with a well-experienced team to build your house. However, the benefits that you will enjoy in living in a rural and secluded area will be well worth the time, money, and efforts you spend on building your dream home.
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