Building Your Dream Home: Mortgage or Construction Loan?

Many aspire to create their ideal home or transform their existing one to match their vision perfectly. However, this process differs significantly from buying an already built property and often requires a specific type of financial support – a construction loan.

Male builder. Building Your Dream Home: Mortgage or Construction Loan?

If you’re familiar with the concept of a standard mortgage, you know that it involves borrowing money to purchase an existing property, repaying the loan along with interest over time. But when you’re embarking on a project to build a new home, purchase a house-and-land package, or undertake significant renovations, the financial landscape changes considerably, especially regarding the loan’s approval process and structure.

Instead of receiving a lump sum upfront, a construction loan typically employs a “progressive draw-down” or “progress payments” system. This means that your lender disburses funds at each stage of the construction or renovation as they become due. Let’s delve into the stages commonly associated with construction loans.

During the initial 12 months of many construction loans, you’ll usually be responsible for paying interest solely on the amount you’ve received up to that point. Following this initial period, your loan structure shifts, requiring you to pay both principal and any additional interest accrued.

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Setting the Foundation for Success

Applying for a construction loan is generally a more intricate process than seeking a traditional mortgage. One of the first steps that many lenders take is conducting an “as if complete” valuation of your property. In simpler terms, this is an estimate of your property’s market value, including the land and the value it will hold once your new home or renovation is complete.

Having a licensed builder on board before applying can be advantageous, unless you plan to undertake the construction work yourself as an owner-builder. If you choose to work with a builder, your lender will typically require documentation, such as their license and insurance policy, along with a copy of your building contract – which often mirrors the staged payments structure. It’s also common for lenders to inspect and reassess the project at each stage, particularly if you’re the one overseeing the construction.

It’s essential to keep a close eye on your expenses and strive to stay within your budget. Even if you have a fixed-cost contract, unforeseen expenses can arise, such as upgrading from a laminate kitchen countertop to marble. If costs exceed what your lender has approved for each stage, you may need to cover the additional expenditure before they release the next portion of the loan.

P.A.Y.G: Progress Payments Explained

Depending on your chosen lender’s process, construction loans typically involve five or six stages of draw-down progress payments:

  • Deposit: Some lenders may require you to pay the builder’s deposit upfront, while others provide this initial payment directly.
  • Base: During this stage, the land is prepared for construction, including laying foundations or slabs and performing initial plumbing work.
  • Frame: The skeleton of your new home takes shape during this stage, with basic brickwork, roofing, and window installation.
  • Lockup: External doors are installed, and remaining windows, brickwork, and roofing are completed, ensuring your house is secure.
  • Fixing: Walls and roofs are plastered, and finishing touches such as gutters, downpipes, cupboards, appliances, plumbing, and electrical work are added.
  • Completion: The final stage involves finishing touches, such as painting, fencing, site cleanup, and any remaining payments to the builder.

Do You Need a Construction Loan?

In short, not everyone requires a construction loan. However, most individuals pursuing new construction or extensive renovations will find it beneficial. In some cases, you might be able to access equity in your existing property or land block or redraw funds from an existing home loan to cover your project costs. This option is particularly attractive for owner-builders or those keen on completing some of the work themselves. Keep in mind that you’ll begin accruing interest on the entire amount as soon as you’re approved.

Certain lenders offer dedicated owner-builder mortgages, but these often involve a more rigorous application process with the property serving as security. Owner-builders might be considered higher-risk clients.

Ready to begin your journey? Please reach out to us today to discover how we can help.


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