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What you need to know about site costs when buying land

site cost when building a new home build in oz


Site costs

Site costs are the costs of preparing your block of land for building and other site-dependant costs, such as slab upgrades. Some blocks require more work than others, and how much depends on three main factors.

1. Soil type

It may seem strange, but the type of soil is important as it determines the type of slab on which you can build your home. Far from being ‘just a slab of concrete’, the slab is highly engineered and the type of slab you need depends entirely on the environment in which it will sit. Things like rock, clay, sand and soil content can affect the type of slab required, and some are more expensive than others. On all accounts it will be necessary to have the soil tested to check on these factors, which will determine the nature of your concrete slab design.

2. Site preparation

Some of the site excavation work may have been done prior to the land being offered for sale. But if not, you or your builder can make your own enquiries about what the costs to level the site might be. It may be possible to negotiate these costs with the developer.

Excavation costs can be expensive, but if you get the right advice early on you needn’t blow your budget.

Land specialists work directly with site excavation contractors and developers. While rare, in some cases developers will agree to contribute to or even include site levelling in the purchase price. If site costs present a significant hurdle for you it might be a conversation worth having with your land specialist, who deals directly with the developer.

3. Slope of the land

A sloping block can increase your site costs to varying degrees. Don’t be put off from buying a sloping block of land for fear of site costs alone, as there can be some really exciting opportunities presented, with homes oriented towards the light and designed to capture beautiful views. Many two-storey houses can be adapted to make use of the fall of the land to create a unique home. Designing your home with a garage or separate living area on the ground floor could allow you to take full advantage of a sloping block.


Regardless of why you might choose a sloping block, you’ll need to consider the following levelling options.

  • Site fill: This is an area where caution is advised. Filling a sloping block requires a guarantee of stability and the quality of retainment must be exceptional. A filled block often experiences a certain degree of movement if strict and thorough procedures are not observed during the operation. Filling can also increase the site costs when the soil is tested for the slab upgrade. The stability needs to be guaranteed by drilling down into the natural ground level, not just the newly created soil level.
  • Site cut: The cost of this operation will vary depending on the amount of earth to be removed, as well as the ground quality. Obviously, removing rock is far more expensive than removing soft, fertile soil. You are strongly advised to seek the advice of a civil contractor, who will be able to give you a quote. If possible, you should try to negotiate the site levelling costs into the purchase price of the block to avoid budget blow-outs. Some developers won’t be open to this, but others might be open to negotiation, depending on their motivation to sell.

If you are working with an agent who specialises in land, they will usually have a close relationship with the developer who will in turn have a close relationship with site excavation contractors who can assist you with all your site levelling concerns.  I always like to get an independent quote on what it will cost me to level the site rather than rely solely on a builder to price it in as an inclusion.  That however is up to you.  Some people like the convenience of leaving it all up to the builder.

You can learn more about the safest way to purchase a block of land in the members section of Home Build In a Box.

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Thinking about building a home? Then this could be the most important thing you ever read. My name is Natalie Stevens.  I’m the founder of Build In Oz and I help Australian families avoid expensive mistakes and pitfalls of the building industry. Without the right plan, you could end up over-paying TENS of thousands of dollars for an inferior home.

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