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Unraveling Construction Loans: How Do They Work & What Are They For?

Construction plans.
Photo by Sven Mieke.

A construction loan is tailored for those looking to build their own homes, as opposed to purchasing a pre-built property. Unlike a standard mortgage, it offers the flexibility to incrementally draw funds throughout the building process, incurring interest only on the amount drawn.

How does a construction loan work?

Rather than paying out a lump sum at the outset, your bank will make funds available to you in instalments as your home is being built. These instalments are known as ‘progress payments’ or ‘progressive drawdowns.’

As your builder moves through each stage of construction, they will provide you with an invoice which must be signed and forwarded to your bank or broker. Once processed, the bank will release funds to pay the builder for the work that has been completed.

Throughout this period, interest will only be calculated against the amount of money that has been drawn down so far. So if you’ve drawn $100,000 on a $300,000 loan, interest will only be charged on that $100,000.

Once construction of your home is complete and the final progress payment has been made, you will switch from making interest only repayments to principal and interest repayments. Your contracted loan term (e.g. 25 years) will also commence at this point.

Construction Loan providers in Australia

Construction loans are a more specialised type of loan, so you'll find that not every lender in Australia offers them. 

Other lenders that offer construction loans include:

  • AMP Bank
  • Bank Australia
  • BankSA
  • Commonwealth Bank
  • NAB
  • St.George
  • Westpac

How can I apply for a construction loan?

Before you can apply for a construction loan, the plans for your new property will need to be approved by your local council (or an authorised agent acting on your council’s behalf). This is usually handled by your builder or architect.

The council permit must then be submitted to your bank, along with a few other documents (detailed below). These include the builder’s contract, building plans, the schedule of finishes and specifications, and all relevant insurance policies.

Just as with a traditional mortgage, your bank will comb through your finances to make sure you can comfortably service a loan. That means your credit score, income, expenses and any other debts you might have will all come under scrutiny.

A property appraiser will then estimate the value of the property - including land - as if the build was complete. This will help your bank determine how much to lend you. Further valuations will likely take place as your home is being built.

Don’t forget to include any quotes for any out of contract items you plan to purchase, such as fencing, bathroom tiles and landscaping, otherwise the appraiser will not include them in the valuation. 

If your application is successful, your bank will then give you a loan offer and hand over any other documents that might be required as part of your loan agreement.

How often are progress payments made?

The construction process is typically divided into five stages. Upon completion of each, you’ll have to submit all the relevant claims, invoices and receipts to your lender. The five stages are:

1. Slab

Slab: This is the first stage of the construction process. Here, the concrete slab which will make up the foundation of your home is measured and poured. Once the slab has had time to cure, builders will also connect the plumbing and drains. 

Funds required: Approximately 15-20%

2. Frame

With the slab laid, the builder will now focus on erecting the skeleton of your home. This will take approximately one day for an average, single storey property and between two to five days for a two storey property.

Funds required: Approximately 20%

3. Lock-up

The lock-up stage is when the exterior of your home begins to take shape. As you might have guessed from the name, it involves putting up the external walls, doors, roofing, windows and other components that will allow you to ‘lock up’ your property.

Funds required: Approximately 20%

4. Fit out

Now that your house is properly secured, the builder will be able to install the internal fittings and fixtures, such as lights and plumbing. They will also begin work on things like benchtops and cupboards.

Funds required: Approximately 30%

5. Completion 

In the final fix, loose ends on things like plumbing and electricity will be tied up and painting and detailing will be completed. Site clean-up also takes place during this stage, leaving the building and its surroundings looking presentable. 

Funds required: Approximately 10%

What are owner builder construction loans?

If you are capable of building your new home without engaging a licensed builder, you might be able to apply for an owner builder construction loan. Not all lenders offer these, and the ones that do tend to be quite conservative in their dealings.

For example, unless you have a building licence, your lender might only offer 60% of the end market value of your home, meaning you’ll need a deposit of 40%. Some lenders will also tack on an additional amount to your construction quote in case of any cost overruns. 

At the end of the day, if you have no experience in the construction industry, it’s probably best to hire a professional and opt for a regular construction loan.

Which documents do I need?

If you’ve chosen a registered builder to complete the construction, you might be asked to provide the following documents:

  • Copy of signed Industry Standard Fixed Price Contract
  • Copy of buildings plans and council permits
  • Copy of the builder’s licence
  • The builder’s bank account details
  • Copies of insurance policies, including Builders All Risk/Public Liability Insurance, Domestic/Home Warranty Insurance, and Public Liability Insurance

If, however, you’ve decided to build your new home yourself, you should have the following documents ready:

  • Copies of building plans and permits
  • Copy of Quantity Surveyor report outlining the expected costs
  • Detailed outline of construction costs
  • Detailed timing schedule
  • Copies of all quotations, invoices and estimates
  • Copy of soil test and Quantity Surveyor’s comments

Construction loans can be complicated, but they might be just what you need to build the home you’ve always wanted to live in. For more information, visit our home loans hub. And if you’re on the market for a home loan, browse the selection below.

Newly launched construction loan Solar Construction Loan 90
  • Only 10% deposit required
  • Max loan $1 million
Find out more

Including solar with your new build? The new Solar Construction home loan from Award-winning^ lender offers owner-occupiers a low interest only rate of 6.19% (6.43% comparison) during the construction period. Available for loans up to a max $1 million and with as little as a 10% deposit. There are no application or ongoing fees but you’ll need to cover a $230 valuation and $300 settlement fee.  ^Mozo Experts Choice Home Loan Awards 2023.  

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Niko Iliakis
Niko Iliakis
Money writer

Niko Iliakis is a finance journalist at Mozo specialising in home loans, property and interest rate movements. With an eye for facts and figures, Niko deep-dives into topics to help readers understand key info and make more informed financial decisions. He is ASIC RG146 (Tier 2) certified for general advice.

* WARNING: This comparison rate applies only to the example or examples given. Different amounts and terms will result in different comparison rates. Costs such as redraw fees or early repayment fees, and cost savings such as fee waivers, are not included in the comparison rate but may influence the cost of the loan. The comparison rate displayed is for a secured loan with monthly principal and interest repayments for $150,000 over 25 years.

** Initial monthly repayment figures are estimates only, based on the advertised rate. You can change the loan amount and term in the input boxes at the top of this table. Rates, fees and charges and therefore the total cost of the loan may vary depending on your loan amount, loan term, and credit history. Actual repayments will depend on your individual circumstances and interest rate changes.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Home Loan Awards

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