What regional builders are facing after a stack of big city construction company liquidations
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When Oracle Homes crashed into liquidation last week, Queenslanders building homes across the state watched on and wondered if their dream homes could also be left in limbo.
But while Oracle has operated almost entirely across Greater Brisbane, experts say the pressure facing builders across regional Queensland is the same and so are the risks.
Andrew Middleton knows how lucky he has been with his new home built on the Sunshine Coast.
He and his wife Leanne bought their Pelican Waters plot before COVID then spent the pandemic thinking about their new build.
In mid-2021 they had largely settled on a builder who had given an early indication on price, but it would be months before the details were hammered out and they signed the dotted line.
By then the numbers had changed.
"As we went through the process and made some changes, where we ended up was significantly higher than where we’d started," he said.
"We had to accept the reality that price rises were happening and the builder [was] honest and open with us about that.
"We didn't feel like they were ripping us off."
Mr Middleton said he felt for those caught up in delays and larger price changes.
"We have people near us building and their journey is going to be more than twice [the length of] ours," he said.
"We were built in six months and [theirs] looks like 18 [months].
"As I've talked to others [and] I hear stories of [it being] 500 days since [the] start of construction and they're probably not going to be in by Christmas."
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Master Builders' Sunshine Coast regional manager Nicola Scott said builders were under tremendous pressure.
"For anybody entering a new contract in this current time, we're probably a little bit more aware of what's going on around us," she said.
"And we're probably a little bit more vigilant."
More builders are tipped to collapse over the next 18 months, due to speculation in the recent boom.
Ms Scott said a builder might quote on a house for $300,000 but, if there were delays, the cost may be much higher before the first brick could even be even laid.
"Over a six-month period, the price of that house has escalated quite significantly, whether that be by $15,000 or $40,000," she said.
"If the consumer isn't able to assist in meeting those unforeseen costs, the builders are absorbing that, and that's certainly impacting the industry.
"But if I'm somebody doing 150 houses a year, it's inevitable that it's going to affect me."
Metricon started building more than 900 new homes in regional Queensland last financial year — more than any other builder.
In May, it was forced to deny reports that it was facing financial strife after the death of its founder.
The company struck a new deal with the Commonwealth Bank as shareholders pumped an extra $30 million into the company.
Director Jason Biasin says the challenges facing Metricon are "affecting the entire industry".
"We can work to minimise the impacts for the hundreds of regional Queensland families currently building a Metricon home," he said.
Peter Fry represents the housing industry in North Queensland and says it is unlikely that Oracle-style failures will occur so far from Brisbane.
The Housing Industry Australia director says some regions may build fewer new homes in a year than construction giants start in a month — but they still feel the ripples.
"It puts very big concerns across the industry," he said.
"The consumer starts asking questions: 'Is my builder going to be there?'
"And then the builders see the problem – they know that as soon as something like that happened, everybody is hit with the same blanket.
"There are challenges in the industry, but the other side of it is the industry is doing very well to maintain the workload that's required."
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