What is Construction Financing?
So, what is a construction loan? Simply put, it’s a tailored lending solution for borrowers who want to buy land and build a new home. It can also be used to buy and substantially renovate an existing house. The key difference between a standard home loan and a construction finance loan is found in the way the loan is structured.
With a typical mortgage, you borrow the total amount of the loan, in full, on the day of property settlement. From that date, you are then paying interest on the total balance of the loan. In contrast, most construction finance loans will be structured with progressive drawdowns. This means that the lender will release the money in instalments (which have been agreed on in advance) throughout the construction project. This ensures that you aren’t paying interest on the entire loan until your new home is completed.
Is Construction Financing More Complicated Than a
Typical Home Loan?
How does a construction loan work?
Construction financing can be more complicated than buying an existing house with a typical home loan. Why? Because when you’re building a new house, there are a lot of different parties involved in the process. This includes:
Who are contracted to handle the bulk of the work
Who may care for specialised works such as electrical or plumbing connections
Who issue the permit and ensure the house is built to comply with current housing standards
Who may be involved in planning approvals
Who are paying for the whole project
Other Qualified Experts
Such as solicitors or accountants
Each of these parties may have a significant role to play in the construction of a new home. But with so many stakeholders, it’s easy for complications to arise. To prevent issues from happening once the project is already underway, many lenders will require extra documentation before approving a home construction loan.
STANDARD HOME LOAN
One example is if you already own your own home and you have sufficient equity in the property. So, if you only owe $200,000 on your current property, but it has been valued at $600,000, then you have $400,000 in equity.
In this scenario, you may be able to refinance your existing home loan to pay for the construction of your new home. Keep in mind that you can’t use your not-yet-built house as security for a home loan. Alternatively, if you already own the block of land and the land value on its own has sufficient equity, then you could potentially borrow against this instead.
The problem with financing a new home build with a typical mortgage is that you are being charged interest on the full balance of the loan from the very first day. This can be a substantial added cost if you’re already paying off a mortgage or you’re renting until the new home is built.
In the example scenario where you already own a property with sufficient equity, you could refinance your existing home loan to pay for the construction of your new home.
However, if you were to finance the construction of your new home with a standard home loan, you would be paying interest on the entire loan amount from the start, resulting in higher interest charges.
With a construction loan:
What Paperwork Will I Need When Applying for a
Construction Loan Australia?
So you’ve decided that a construction loan may be more financially viable for you. The next question is how to get a construction loan?
When you’re applying for construction loans, you’ll (first of all) need the standard documents required for a home loan application. These include things like proof of income and evidence of savings. Additionally, you’ll also be asked to supply:
These plans don’t need to be approved by Council or a building surveyor, but they should be detailed enough that a valuer can determine the layout, size and design of your proposed new home.
The specifications should include what type of materials are going to be used to build the house (e.g., steel or timber frame? Colourbond or tiled roof?). They should also include a detailed list of what finishes you’ve chosen for the interior (e.g., tiles, appliances, bathroom fixtures, etc.). The project specifications help a lender to determine how much the property is likely to be worth once it has been completed.
Under Queensland law, this doesn’t have to be a signed contract (so you aren’t being asked to commit to a project before you have finance approval). But the contract will need to show the overall cost of the project, the various stages of construction, any exclusions and the estimated build time.
Solar panels, extensive landscaping, pool installations or the construction of an outdoor entertaining area or BBQ won’t typically be included in a building contract. If you want these additions to be covered by your construction finance, then you’ll need to include detailed quotes for these additional works.
How Does Construction Loan Financing Work?
Most borrowers ask us this question: how are construction loans structured?
As previously stated, a construction loan is structured with progressive drawdowns. These drawdowns are used to make progress payments to the builder when certain predetermined milestones are achieved. The progress payment schedule will be included in your building contract and the costs associated with each stage are typically calculated based on the percentage of works completed.
The 5 Stages of Building a New House
While progress payment schedules may vary between builders, there are typically five key stages when it comes to building a new house. These include:
This progress payment will be invoiced when the initial foundation for your home has been completed. It may include some excavation and levelling works, footings, pre-plumbing pipework and the pouring of a concrete slab.
The next stage of construction involves putting up the frame for your new home. The frame stage will usually include framing for the external and internal walls, the installation of roof trusses, necessary bracing and the framing out of door and window cavities.
Once the frame is finished the builders will start closing up the building (getting it ready to ‘lock up’). This will include building the external walls, installing the roof cladding and fitting doors and windows into the frame. Once the building is secured (so no one can access it without a key), then lockup is complete.
The fixing stage refers to the internal carpentry (such as fitting door jambs, skirting boards and architraves) plus the installation of fixtures and finishes. This is the stage where you’ll see plastering, painting, cabinetry, tiling, carpet laying and other interior design elements. The fixing stage will also involve licensed trades such as plumbers and electricians.
The completion payment will be invoiced once the house is completely finished. It covers any finishing touch-ups and the final clean of the building.
How are Construction Loans Payments Made?
As your builder completes each stage of the building project, they will issue you with a progress payment invoice. This invoice should be forwarded to your lender with a request for a drawdown on the construction loan. Your lender can then arrange for each progress payment to be transferred directly to the builder (typically within 5 business days of the request being received).
However, some lenders will want to verify that the works have been completed to the satisfaction of an independent valuer before they’re willing to make payment. This acts as a protection for you, as it ensures you’re not paying for works that haven’t yet been completed. But it can also create minor delays in the project.
How is Interest Calculated on Construction Finance Loans?
With an interest-only construction finance loan, your lender will only charge you interest on the progress payments that have already been paid.
For example, although the total cost of the loan may be $275,000, you’ll only be charged interest on $13,750 (or 5%) after the deposit has been paid (if using the HIA recommended progress payment schedule). After the base stage is complete, you’d be charged interest on $55,000, or 20% of the total loan (5% deposit + 15% base stage progress payment).
With this kind of loan structure, the amount of interest charged will gradually increase with time. This minimises the amount of interest that you will have to pay throughout the build.
Once the construction is completed you may have the option to continue with an interest-only loan for a period of time. But more likely, your construction finance loan will change to a principal and interest repayment structure (where you’ll start paying back the balance of the money borrowed, not just the interest).
It’s a good idea to be familiar with your loan structure (and any scheduled changes) from the very beginning so you don’t end up with any unexpected surprises once you’re ready to move into your brand-new home. An experienced construction finance mortgage broker will be able to talk you through the various pros and cons of different loan structures and answer any lingering questions that you may have.
Does All Major Lenders Offer Construction Loans?
Construction loans are available from most of the big banks. However, just like with any loan, it’s important to carefully consider all of the relevant details (including fees, charges, interest rates, conditions and loan features) prior to making a final decision. A construction finance mortgage broker will be able to compare lenders and construction finance products to determine which construction loan is going to best suit your personal situation.
Currently, not all of the smaller lenders are offering construction finance options, likely because they come with a higher level of risk and are more labour-intensive for the lender to process and manage.
Tips for Getting Approved for Construction Financing
Lenders will often assess your creditworthiness when considering a construction loan application. Check your credit score and take steps to improve it if necessary, such as paying off outstanding debts and correcting any errors on your credit report.
Provide a detailed building contract that includes a fixed price for the construction, a clear timeline for completion, and any other relevant details. This will help to demonstrate to lenders that you have a clear plan for the project and are working with reputable builders.
Consider obtaining pre-approval for a construction loan before finalising your plans. This will give you a better idea of your borrowing capacity and can help to speed up the application process.
Provide accurate cost estimates for the project, including all associated costs such as council fees, permits, and professional fees. This will help to ensure that you have sufficient funds to complete the project and can help to avoid any delays in funding.
Work with a reputable builder with a track record of successful projects. This can help to reassure lenders that the project is likely to be completed on time and within budget.
Consider seeking professional advice from a mortgage broker or financial advisor who can help you navigate the construction financing process and ensure that you have the best chance of getting approved.
How Can I Get a Construction Loan in Brisbane?
If you’re interested in applying for a construction loan in Brisbane, then start by talking to a Brisbane mortgage broker. A mortgage broker can explain what options you have available to you when it comes to financing the construction of your new home and which loan products will offer the best solution. Additionally, when you talk to a construction finance broker you’re covered by ‘Best Interests Duty’. This legislation (which doesn’t apply to banks) ensures that a broker is always working in your best interests, giving you total peace of mind that you can trust their advice.
If you’ve been thinking of building a home with a construction loan, but don’t know where to start and want someone who knows the market well enough, North Brisbane Home Loans experts can help.
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FAQs on Construction Financing
How do I qualify for a home renovation loan?
You’ll need to have a good credit rating and sufficient income in order to qualify for a home renovation loan. Provide evidence that the renovation work will add value onto your property before submitting your application with the lender of choice. If approved then the bank will send out assessors/valuers. They will check that the proposed works are feasible and make sure that any borrowed funds are going directly towards meaningful improvement projects on your house or land.
What types of construction loans are available in Australia?
The most common types of construction loans in Australia are variable rate, fixed rate, and split loans.
What is a variable rate construction loan?
A variable rate construction loan has a variable interest rate, which means that the interest rate can change over time. This type of loan can offer more flexibility but may be subject to interest rate fluctuations.
What is a fixed rate construction loan?
A fixed rate construction loan has a fixed interest rate, which means that the interest rate remains the same for a set period. This type of loan can offer more certainty but may be less flexible than a variable rate loan.
How long does it take to get approved for construction financing in Australia?
The timeframe for approval can vary depending on the lender and the complexity of the project. It is important to allow sufficient time for the application process.
What is a progress payment in construction financing?
A progress payment is a payment made to the builder by the lender at certain milestones during the construction process, such as completion of the foundation or the roof.
Can I use the equity in my existing home to fund a new construction project?
Yes, if you have sufficient equity in your existing home, you may be able to use this to fund a new construction project. This can be done through a refinance or by using the equity as security for a construction loan.
Can I get construction financing for a renovation project?
Yes, you can get construction financing for a renovation project. Renovation construction financing can be used to fund substantial home renovations, such as adding an extension or a second storey, updating the kitchen or bathroom, or repairing or replacing the roof. This type of financing typically requires a detailed building contract and a fixed-price quote from a licensed builder. The lender may also require you to provide plans, permits, and other documentation to assess the feasibility and value of the renovation project.
Do I need to have a builder lined up before applying for construction financing?
Yes, most lenders will require you to have a builder lined up and a detailed building contract in place before approving a construction loan.
How is the progress of the construction project monitored?
The progress of the construction project is typically monitored by the lender or an independent valuer who will inspect the property at each stage of construction before releasing funds.
Can I change the plans during the construction process?
Changes to the plans during the construction process may be possible, but typically require approval from the lender and may result in additional fees. Any changes to the plans must also comply with local building regulations and may require additional permits or inspections. It’s important to communicate any proposed changes with your builder and lender as early as possible to minimise delays and costs. Some lenders may also require you to obtain written consent before making any changes to the plans, and may charge a fee for reviewing and approving the changes. Before making any changes to the plans, consult with your builder and lender to understand the implications for the construction timeline, budget, and financing.
What happens if the project takes longer than expected?
If the project takes longer than expected, you may need to apply for an extension of the loan or may be required to make additional payments to cover the extra interest charges.
Can I use a construction loan to build a duplex or multi-unit development?
Yes, a construction loan can be used to build a duplex or multi-unit development, but may be subject to additional requirements and fees.
What happens if I sell the property before the construction loan is paid off?
If you sell the property before the construction loan is paid off, the loan will need to be repaid in full at the time of sale.
What happens if the builder goes bankrupt during the construction process?
If the builder goes bankrupt, the lender may require you to find a new builder to complete the project, or may appoint a new builder themselves.