Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start the process of renovating my home?

Renovating a home can be daunting. There are a number of steps you’ll need to take before you are ready to request a quote from a builder. Fortunately, North Star Projects are experts in guiding our clients through the key stages of the building process, from initial planning, right through to construction. Visit Our Process for more information on the key stages and to get an idea of where you are in the building process and the next steps toward your goal.

Do I need expensive plans drawn by an architect to make the changes I want to make?

Not always. If you engage an architect early on in the process, it is important to ensure that the plans and fees presented include the fees of all other consultants you’ll need to engage throughout the planning process, such as town planners and engineers, and not only the architect’s fees for architectural services. 

It is also important to be aware that plans and drawings whether prepared by architects or other building practitioners can be carried through to a level of detail that may not be required to obtain a Building Permit for your project.

The cost of architectural plans should be assessed in the context of your total available budget for the project and the essential requirements to achieve your desired outcomes. You will not be living in a set of plans and sufficient funds need to be available to cover the costs of the construction and other important items as well.

Nonetheless, good plans and detailed specifications are essential to ensure a smooth building experience.

By contacting North Star Projects early, we can direct you to the right people to give you the information you need to get your project ready to build.

What professionals do I need to engage to make changes to my home?

This will depend on the scope and complexity of your proposed building project and will vary for each project.

As a minimum you will need plans prepared by an architect or draftsperson, consultation with, and possibly the consent of, your local planning authority, several technical specialists such as geo-technical and energy consultants, a registered builder and a building surveyor. Possibly many others.

North Star Projects are experts in guiding our clients through the planning process. We can help you connect with all the people you’ll need to complete your project. Our preferred suppliers are some of the best in the industry.

When do I need a building permit in Victoria?

The building permit process ensures that building work complies with the relevant building legislation, regulations and standards and that the building is safe and suitable to occupy or use.

Most building projects will require a building permit, particularly if the building work involves the construction, repair or removal of structural building components that may adversely affect the safety of the public or occupiers of the building.

This requirement applies to both the construction process and the finished building.

Some building works are of a minor nature and are exempt from the requirements of a building permit. Common exemptions include works related to the repair, renewal or maintenance of an existing building, fences, pergolas and sheds. Municipal planning requirements that apply to these items must still be complied with in each instance.

Undertaking building works without the required building permit can incur substantial financial penalties and directions to remove illegal build structures. North Star Project can guide clients through this process.

How do I get a building permit?

A property owner proposing to undertake a building project that requires a building permit must select and appoint a relevant building surveyor (RBS). The appointment of a building surveyor can not be undertaken by the builder on behalf of the owner. However, once the RBS is appointed, the builder can transact the required processes directly with the RBS with the client’s agreement.

The role of the building surveyor is to ensure that the project documentation and the ensuing construction are completed in compliance with the relevant building legislation, regulations and associated national building standards. 

A building permit is obtained by making an application to the RBS and submitting with the application all plans, reports and building insurance pertaining to the project and any other documents requested by the RBS and paying the required fee to the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

The RBS will issue the building permit and the stamped documentation pertaining to the building permit and will undertake mandatory inspections of the work at each stage and additional inspection as they deem necessary.

At the conclusion of the building project the RBS will issue either a Certificate of Occupancy or a Certificate of Final Inspection. Owners may not occupy the premises until either of these certificates is issued by the RBS.

Who needs to approve my plans to renovate my home?

Local Council

If you are undertaking any building work on your property, you will need to find out whether your project requires a planning permit issued by your local council.

You may require a planning permit for a new home, extension, renovation or an additional dwelling on the land.

Planning permit applications submitted to local council may need to include the proposed design, planning report, shadow diagrams and other relevant documentation.

The local council is responsible for issuing a planning permit.

Relevant Building Surveyor

Most domestic buildings, particularly those involving the construction, demolition or repair of structural components of a building, require a building permit to be issued before the works can proceed.

A building permit is obtained by making an application to the relevant building surveyor (RBS).

Local and State Utilities

The building surveyor cannot issue a building permit for your project until any consent of a reporting authority is received. For example, consent from a local council or water authority may be required if the project intends to connect to or modify services owned by that authority.

Registered Builder

Any building works valued over $10,000 must be undertaken by a Registered Builder. Building works over $10,000 requires a building contract to be signed by each party before the project can proceed. Building projects valued over $16,000 must be covered by compulsory building insurance that can only be applied for by a registered builder.

Adjoining Property Owners

At the direction of the relevant building surveyor, the property owner may be required to issue a Notice of Protection works and plans to any neighbours seeking their agreement with the owner’s plans to protect their properties and persons from any potential damage or harm arising from the building works to be undertaken.

Can I afford to renovate?

All clients, from those wanting to get the most from a limited budget through to clients with an uncompromising approach to achieving the quality of the finish they desire, want to achieve value for money.

The cost of your building project is determined by the range, type and quality of items you include in the basket for your project.

Setting priorities and making difficult choices can be a challenging process for some clients and North Star Projects has supported many clients through the process successfully.

Are there ways to cut costs if I have a limited budget?

Clients are encouraged to practice due diligence and seek a price from a minimum of two reputable registered builders to establish that they are being offered a fair and reasonable price. 

Builders operate in a competitive market and this process ensures the client receives the best price where the builders have quoted to provide the same outcomes based on the same information, plans, specifications and timelines.

Further cost reductions are only possible by reducing the scope of the works (leaving items out) and/or by replacing the items included (windows, doors, tiles) with lower cost options, where possible.

Owners undertaking parts of the work themselves and/or supplying materials directly outside the provisions of the building contract can be negotiated in some limited circumstances. Care must be taken regarding the impact of such arrangements on the builder’s warranties and the cost of delays caused by such arrangements.

Often works completed under such arrangements are more difficult than they appear and the quality of the whole project can be diminished as a consequence.

Can I borrow the money I need to make the changes I want to my home?

There are a few basic factors that are likely to be considered by all lenders including, the assessed market value of your existing asset, the added market value of the improved asset, the borrower’s equity in the project and the borrower’s capacity to service the agreed repayment terms of the loan after deducting usual day-to day living expenses.

Terms and conditions vary between lenders and you should consult with a financial adviser or broker for further information and secure the best deal.

Refer to a financial advisor or broker for further information.

How do I know if I’m getting a fair quote?

Registered builders and building companies operate in a competitive market and owners are advised to seek comparative quotations from at least 2 qualified building practitioners. Quotes sought for such comparisons must be comparable item for item, based on the same plans, for delivery the same scope and quality of works, over a similar timeframe. While one builder’s quote might be cheaper, if completion of the works takes 12 months more than a higher quote, the cost of this might not be immediately apparent.

Building trusting relationships with our clients and delivering on what we promise is very important to us. We pride ourselves on being fully transparent in the calculation of our costs and margins when determining a price. North Star Projects offers clients a fixed price (to the greatest extent possible) based on the finished plans and specifications. If required, North Star Projects will assist clients to finalise their project documentation to enable a fixed price for their project to be determined. North Star Projects guarantee no price escalation for items contained in the plans and specifications that our price was based on.

To hear what others have said about working with NorthStar Projects, see our testimonials

North Star Projects always seeks to deliver prices that are competitive and represent excellent value for the scope and quality of the work requested by our clients. We will never cut corners or settle for inferior outcomes or fail to deliver on our promise to our clients – that’s guaranteed.

Should I always go with the cheapest price?

Not necessarily. A cheaper price might indicate that there are exclusions in your contract. It’s also important to understand that not all quotes and contracts are fixed or guaranteed. Quotes that are based on provisional sums to be determined at some future point, often after the building has commenced are most likely to increase. Provisional prices are based on incomplete plans and specifications and may use low cheaper substitutes or broad industry benchmarks that are unlikely to be relevant to the particulars of your project.

The risk with the “ballpark” estimates is that projects can be significantly under-quoted leading to recurring “price shocks” and cost escalation for customers during the building process. That’s why we recommend comprehensive planning at the beginning of a project, to ensure all costs are visible and that you’re comfortable with your investment from the outset.  

Why do I have to pay for a quote?

North Star Projects provides quotes for a fee, otherwise known as a Pre-Construction Planning (PCP) report.

The saying, “you get what you pay for” is true in respect to free quotes for your building project. It sounds great, but does it add any real value to aid decision-making? 

The PCP process is not a ‘ballpark’ estimate, but is a fixed price based on the final plans and specifications without hidden costs and not subject to change down the track once included in the building contract. 

The PCP report involves reviewing the documentation to ensure it is complete, distribution of the plans and specifications to trades, coordination of site visits and preparation of a price schedule and a draft construction schedule based on a notional start date for your project. The fee for a PCP represents a modest contribution toward the cost of preparing the PCP report. The PCP fee will be remitted back to the client if you sign a building contract with North Star Projects to undertake the project.

How do I request a quote?

To request a quote, please answer the questionnaire on our Process page that will determine where you are currently located in the building process and if you’re ready to engage a builder. Once the questionnaire is submitted our team will be in touch. For all other enquiries, drop us a line.

Do I need to leave my home during the build?

For health and safety reasons, we ask our clients to vacate their premises for the duration of the building works, unless the alterations are minor and can be safely isolated from the rest of the house while works are on-going. For larger renovations, ask a member of our team about any assistance that might be available to help with costs associated with temporary accommodation, moving and storage. Get in touch to find out more.