Putting quality homes within reach



It needn’t be a choice between quality and affordability when it comes to buying a home, thanks to some industry innovators.

In the pursuit of the Great Australian Dream, it seems home owners have a stark choice: Save cash by opting for a cookie-cutter design that lacks individuality or dig deep for a bespoke, architect-led customisation – and a hefty price tag. But a new breed of developers is saying buyers can now have both. Filling a long-standing market gap, clients are being offered a level of high-end style and sophistication with prices tailored to the lower end of the market. It’s a comfortable middle ground where many builders and architects are keen to position themselves, as traditional residential building models are redefined by a blend of architectural excellence and cost-effective building practices.

Shifting the goal posts

At the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Arli Homes partnered with DKO Architecture with the ambition of doing just that – creating a designer market accessible to anyone.

“When we started this business we had to pitch this idea to architects and developers,” says Arli Homes co-founder Sharon Calleja.

“We wanted to disrupt the industry – we wanted to change the landscape of Melbourne and show what opportunity there was and maybe the other builders would become more innovative.”

Under the strategy, homes are designed with all fixtures, fittings and inclusions – and floor plan – set in stone.

Calleja says the building company is then able to buy from suppliers on a volume basis at a better price and pass the savings on.

“We are giving clients the opportunity to afford something that has been designed by experts but at an affordable price,” she says.

They have stumbled on a market niche, says Michael Drescher, the design director of DKO Architecture, which has extensive experience driving multiresidential, commercial and high-end projects, including hotels.

“When we first sat down, we went out and looked at what everybody else was doing in the market,” he says.

“What we saw was a real gap. All the other homes were, we thought, trying too hard.

“We blend the world of practicality and aesthetics and bring it together so spaces flow [and] are beautiful to touch and live in. That’s what the benefit of using an interior designer is.”

Looking for alternatives

Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute managing director Michael Fotheringham says the collaboration is among a string of examples where firms are reimagining the construction process and adopting creative solutions to reshape the market.

“Another thing we are seeing a lot more of is off-site construction and welldesigned buildings constructed under a factory roof and then moved to regional or remote areas where construction costs can be really prohibitive,” Fotheringham says. “But we have seen all sorts of different approaches. With the lack of workforce and supply across the market, anything that looks at alternatives can be really beneficial.

“Smaller builders are a lot more nimble and are able to look at different partnerships and listen to their clients with a bit more flexibility.

“It means the idea of an architecturally designed house is not an exclusive thing like it was a generation ago.”

Disruptive building firms are also harnessing the power of digital technology to streamline the design and construction process.

Advanced 3D modelling, virtual reality and other digital tools mean home owners can visualise their future homes and make informed decisions.

Being prepared for market volatility and having the capacity to address it is just as important, says Hillbrook project director Campbell McLeod.

“There is a di cult gap that we have all been trying to meet,” he says. “With inflationary measures across the board, you end up going from one to the other really quickly.

“We have been able to bridge this by being clever with logistics, innovation research and development and technology that is available to us.”

McLeod says communication is also key to helping clients find the sweet spot between high volume and high end.

“It’s important to be clear about market shifts and working with clients to mitigate the cost,” he says. “A modern construction company is actually a logistics and finance business.

“What you should be doing is meeting the market and working on what you can do to save money.

“That might mean bulk-purchasing material and ensuring you always have stock on hand to beat inflation then finding a compromise and working with clients to establish that middle ground.”