Demolition & Subdivision: our project update

It’s been a busy few months since we kicked off our latest building project, with our time firmly focused on three key steps:

  1. Demolition and clearing of the site
  2. Getting the subdivision underway
  3. Designing and getting ready for Development Approval

Although all three parts of this dance can seem a little overwhelming at times, it really is amazing how some basic key steps are the secret to waltzing your way through this process. It comes down to:

  • Asking the right questions
  • Being organised and making lots of notes
  • Keeping your eye on the big picture

We’ve managed to demolish and clear the site of the existing house and structures, submit our application for subdivision with Council, and finalise our house plans for submission to Council for Development Approval.

So, let’s break it down to some of the key things to look out for and consider as you plan your project.

The Demolition Process

Let’s start with the demolition process. Sometimes you may only want to demolish part of the structure, but in our case, we needed to start from scratch, so everything had to go.

We started with finding a reputable and experienced demolition company that do this day in and day out. A formal quote confirmed all our discussions in writing, and our research showed that they had the right experience, licences, insurances, track record and reputation to give us comfort that the job would be done on time, on budget and to scope.

Like most things in life, it starts with a discussion and a plan!

Having already obtained a contour survey plan of our site, and with additional information from our “Dial before you dig” searches and the title plan, we sat down with our demo guys to plan things out.

We agreed on all the structures and trees we wanted to be removed and how the site needed to be cleared. In our case, it was easy in that everything had to go, but that still meant we had to tick all the boxes:

✅ Demolition permit and a building permit must be obtained before any works event start. The demolition company can take care of all the paperwork as they know the process well. What’s left for you is to double-check all the information they provide to Council is correct, pay any lodgement and approval fees and sign the forms as the owner/s of the property.

✅ Not all Councils are the same and there tend to be slight variations as to the paperwork they require. As a minimum, you will need to provide a copy of the title for the property, a site plan with all existing structures and trees, and the title plan. We also had to pay a “Verge Bond” to Council which covers any damage caused to the City verge infrastructure during construction or demolition works. Basically, you will need to restore the verge and driveways to pre-works conditions (or better).

✅ Prior to the demolition we had to disconnect all the services – think water, electricity, gas and NBN/internet. The tip here is that this can take a few weeks to get the services out as you are abolishing the services and not simply disconnecting them! Our lesson was that the NBN disconnection had the longest wait time and almost created a hiccup in the timeline.

✅ Check with your Council if you are planning on removing any trees. Some will require a permit and approval, whilst others leave you free reign for trees on your property.

✅ To comply with safety requirements and protect your property, the demo company will arrange temporary fencing. Make sure you ask that this is included in any quotes you get!

✅ Also ask whether the demo company will handle any asbestos removal should they find any onsite. If they do find any (usually in older homes or fencing) they will arrange for specialist asbestos removalists to come in and deal with it. If you suspect this may be the case with your property, make sure to ask what the estimated costs could be as this can run into thousands of dollars. It will also stop any demo works until the site has been cleared of all asbestos.

✅ The company we chose salvaged any recyclable or reusable materials from our site and removed them prior to the heavy machinery coming in. We had made sure to remove anything we wanted to keep before they started work.

✅ Once the bulldozer came in, things went very quickly. Within 72 hours the site was completely cleared – what a transformation!

What will it cost?

If you are wondering what it costs to demolish and clear a block, it all depends on the size, accessibility, type, materials and size of the structure, any hazardous materials on-site, and the distance to the recycling and disposal centre.

In Australia, you can typically expect to pay anywhere between $15K to $40K for demolishing and clearing a residential home.

The Subdivision Process

As we are splitting the block in half down the middle, we need to get approval to subdivide the parcel of land and create two new green titles. If you are not familiar with the idea of a green title, this simply means that you own the title of the land on which your property stands, including all the services to your home. There are no common areas that need to be shared with anyone else.

Again, it started with doing our research, speaking to a couple of different companies who are subdivision experts and getting comparison quotes. In our case, we ended up going for the surveying company that did our initial contour survey, so they were already familiar with the block of land.

We chose to go down the Owner Managed Subdivision which means we do a little more of the running around and organising, as opposed to a Complete Project Management Service where the subdivision experts do everything for you. The main difference is cost and time – how much time do you have to follow up on the paperwork and steps, versus what you are willing to pay for someone else to do all the heavy lifting.

The detailed subdivision process will vary depending on where you live and any specific Council rules in your area.

To think through the process, consider the following steps:

  1. Get in touch with your local Council to see what the rules around subdivision are. Most have this on their websites, or you can ring their planning division and speak to someone about your specific block.
  2. Your Council (or in some cases like in WA, the Planning Commission) will require certain forms to be lodged with supporting documents. Either body will consider and work with utility providers about any conditions they may impose on your subdivision. Parking, access, density and other infrastructure planning is taken into account. You may also find that your neighbours will be notified of the plan to subdivide as the Council will consider the views of third parties in making their decision.
  3. Be aware that review periods can be quite lengthy and usually take months. Your application will then either be approved, rejected or conditionally approved, requiring you to meet certain conditions or make changes.
  4. You cannot proceed until a formal clearance and approval have been granted.

What will it cost?

Unfortunately, without knowing the address of where your property is, it is impossible to answer this. Each Council has different requirements as to what they will require and you can find yourself paying for a licenced surveyor, water and power provider fees and land application fees, geotechnical reports, vegetation removal, drainage design and installation, site works, cross overs and more.

As a ballpark figure, you could be looking at anywhere from $30K to $60K+ for the entire process.

Key is doing your research, asking a tonne of questions, and getting solid quotes upfront from expert and reputable providers so that you know what you are in for before you kick-off!