The value of specialists in getting planning approval
Even though we were just moving the house from one location to the other on what was essentially the same block of land, we had to meet requirements designed to make sure that the process is well considered and the end result will be safe.
By this time, we understood there is usually a raft of paperwork required to get residential building work approved. My view is that it’s a good idea to get experts to help with the paperwork both to speed up the process and increase the chance of a good result. It’s a bit like defending charges in a court of law. I would recommend using specialists. You can save money by doing it yourself, but you may end up with a less favourable outcome!
Convincing the authorities requires detailed plans
The names of processes differ a bit from state to state on Australia, but the fundamentals are common across the states. In most cases, there are two parts to a building approval. I’ll use NSW terms here, and if you are in another state, you will just need to substitute different terms.
The first process is to get a Development Approval (DA) which a fancy way of describing get approval for a thorough concept plan of your intention. At a high level, it shows how the project will meet Council guidelines. Your approval, when it arrives, will contain a host of council-imposed conditions that you must meet. In the council area we were working in north of Sydney, DA approvals took approximately 12 weeks.
When that’s approved, you go back to council to get a Construction Certificate (CC), which contains even more detail as to how everything will go together, including how you comply with council’s DA conditions. In our council area, CC approvals took approximately 12 weeks. So there’s a fair bit of waiting.
Convincing the Council requires a few important documents, outlined here:
|Statement of Environmental Effects||A description of how the proposed development meets Council guidelines||Independent town planner|
|Geotechnical report||Analysis of the soil and geology to inform decisions about the type and depth of piers that you need||Geotechnical engineer|
|Arborist report||Shows location, type and health of trees on the land and your intention to keep or remove them||Arborist|
|Architectural plans||Plan of internal and external features of the house in its new location, from all directions, including any new decks, stairs, and ancillary features such as garages||Draftsperson (cheaper) or architect|
|Engineering plans for civil works||Engineering plans showing where power, water, sewer and driveways will be located and proving they meet council requirements||Civil Engineer|
|Engineering plans for house||Shows the number and type of footings you plan to use. Note: We already had an engineer helping us with the civil works for our subdivision, but at the suggestion of the house mover, we used their engineer to prepare the plans for moving the house. Both engineers were aware of what the other was proposing so our plans were integrated.||Civil Engineer|
The costs of the approval process
I think you could get away with spending about $20,000 Australian dollars, but it could easily be more – that is, at least $10,000 per application. That covers the costs reports provided by the specialists and the consideration fees that had to be paid to council. Council required payment of fees to consider the proposals and documentation for both the DA and CC. At the DA stage, they also charged a compulsory advertising fee, because they wrote to the neighbours and put an ad in the local paper about the proposed development, so that everyone was informed.
Wow, you might say, that’s a lot! But the cost of making safe plans requires specialists, and that requires money. There are other costs associated with moving houses, especially related to finance, which I’ll cover in a later article.
You might be able to reduce some of that by preparing some of the documentation yourself. But, as I’ve mentioned, there can be risks with that – it may slow down your process, or even result in your plans being refused.