Characteristics of new residential dwellings - A 15 year summary

Released
15/04/2020

​​​​​​​Introduction

This article presents information regarding the cost and floor area of new residential dwellings across a 15 year period between the 2004-05 financial year and the 2018-19 financial year. It provides an update to the previous article released in the December 2018 issue of this publication. The data presented in this article are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) quarterly publication 'Building Activity, Australia'. These data are available in the 'Building Activity: Average Floor Area' and 'Building Activity: Average Cost' data cubes located in the Data downloads section.

The cost of building a house, townhouse or apartment in Australia has increased over the course of the past 15 years by 59.5%, 70.9% and 49.1% respectively. Most of the growth in the cost of building a house occurred in the 2004-05 to 2011-12 period (average annual change of 5.2%), with increases in costs remaining more subdued since then (rising just 2.1% in the 2018-19 financial year). The costs of building a townhouse or apartment have increased more in the most recent financial year, with rises of 12.1% and 10.6% respectively in 2018-19.

Over the same period, the floor area of residential dwellings has remained relatively unchanged. There has been a small increase in the average size of townhouses (+2.7%), a small decrease in the average size of houses (-2.8%), and a more substantial decrease in the average size of apartments (-14.9%). Between 2004-05 and 2018-19, the size of houses in New South Wales has decreased by 10.5%, whilst in Victoria this figure has moved in the opposite direction, increasing by 4.4%.

Characteristics of new houses

Average cost of building a new house

The average cost of building a house in Australia has increased by 59.5% over the past 15 years, rising from $200,802 in 2004-05 to $320,238 in 2018-19. Across this period, the average annual cost increase was 3.4%. The highest rate of growth in new house construction costs over this period can be observed in Western Australia, increasing from $167,140 in 2004-05 to $298,272 in 2018-19, an average annual increase of 4.5%. The lowest rate of growth can be observed in Queensland, increasing from $208,290 in 2004-05 to $289,769 in 2018-19, an average annual increase of 2.5%.

The highest average cost to build a house in 2018-19 was recorded in the Australian Capital Territory at $440,772. The lowest average cost to build a house in 2018-19 was recorded in South Australia at $275,367. The average cost of building a house has increased in all states and territories over the 15 year period being examined in this article.

Table 1 - Average cost to build a new house, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
State$ ('000)$ ('000)Total changeAnnual change
NSW
228.4
349.9
53.2%
3.2%
Vic.
200.3
327.7
63.6%
3.6%
Qld
208.3
289.8
39.1%
2.5%
SA
168.9
275.4
63.1%
3.6%
WA
167.1
298.3
78.5%
4.5%
Tas.
182.3
285.2
56.5%
3.3%
NT
239.7
365.4
52.4%
3.2%
ACT
252.7
440.8
74.4%
4.3%
Australia
200.8
320.2
59.5%
3.4%
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Average floor area of new houses

The average floor area of new houses in Australia has remained largely unchanged over the past 15 years, ranging between 229m² and 245m², with an average annual change of -0.2%. The highest national average floor area was recorded in 2008-09 at 245.9m², whilst the lowest was recorded in 2018-19 at 229.8m².

Over the 15 year period, the average floor area of new houses decreased in six states and territories; the Northern Territory (-13.8%), New South Wales (-10.5%), Queensland (-7.6%), Tasmania (-3.4%), Western Australia (-2.8%), and South Australia (-1.7%). The average floor area of new houses increased in only two states and territories; Victoria (4.4%) and the Australian Capital Territory (1.8%).

The largest average floor area of new houses in 2018-19 was observed in the Australian Capital Territory at 253.8m², whilst the smallest average floor area was observed in Tasmania at 181.5m².

Table 2 - Average floor area of a new house, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
State$ ('000)$ ('000)Total changeAnnual change
NSW
247.8
221.8
-10.5%
-0.7%
Vic.
236.0
246.4
4.4%
0.3%
Qld
242.2
223.9
-7.6%
-0.5%
SA
202.0
198.5
-1.7%
-0.1%
WA
234.1
227.5
-2.8%
-0.2%
Tas.
187.9
181.5
-3.4%
-0.2%
NT
241.2
207.8
-13.8%
-0.9%
ACT
249.4
253.8
1.8%
0.3%
Australia
236.3
229.8
-2.8%
-0.2%
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Characteristics of townhouses

Average cost of building a new townhouse

The average cost of building a townhouse in Australia increased by 70.9% over the past 15 years, rising from $163,999 in 2004-05 to $280,228 in 2018-19, with an average annual increase of 4.0%. Over this period Tasmania experienced the highest rate of growth in new townhouse costs, increasing from $116,169 in 2004-05 to $248,928 in 2018-19, with an average annual increase of 6.1%. The lowest rate of growth in new townhouse costs was observed in the Northern Territory, with an increase from $216,576 in 2004-05 to $248,819 in 2018-19, and an average annual change of 3.0%.

The highest cost of building a townhouse in 2018-19 was recorded in New South Wales at $312,230. The lowest cost in 2018-19 was recorded in Western Australia at $219,332. The average cost of building a townhouse has increased in all states and territories between 2004-05 and 2018-19.

Table 3 - Average cost to build a new townhouse, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
State$ ('000)$ ('000)Total changeAnnual change
NSW
182.3
312.2
71.3%
4.2%
Vic.
156.4
292.0
86.7%
4.9%
Qld
156.2
238.6
52.7%
3.6%
SA
150.1
228.0
51.9%
3.2%
WA
132.2
219.3
65.9%
4.8%
Tas.
116.2
248.9
114.3%
6.1%
NT
216.6
248.8
14.9%
3.0%
ACT
218.7
283.7
29.7%
2.5%
Australia
164.0
280.2
70.9%
4.0%
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Average floor area of new townhouses

The average floor area of new townhouses in Australia has increased slightly over the past 15 years by 2.7% and ranges from 146m² to 159m². The highest national average floor area for new townhouses was recorded in the 2009-10 financial year, at 158.5m². The lowest national average floor area was observed in 2013-14 at 146.3m².

Over the past 15 years, the average floor area of new townhouses shrank the most in the Australian Capital Territory, falling by 43.7%. The average floor area of new townhouses grew the most in Tasmania, rising by 56.3%.

Between 2004-05 and 2018-19, five states and territories have experienced an increase in the average floor area of new townhouses; Tasmania (56.3%), Western Australia (5.5%), Victoria (4.0%), South Australia (2.4%), and New South Wales (1.4%). A decrease in the average floor area of new townhouses could be observed in three states and territories; the Australian Capital Territory (43.7%), the Northern Territory (15.1%), and Queensland (0.1%).

Table 4 - Average floor area of a new townhouse, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
State$ ('000)$ ('000)Total changeAnnual change
NSW
157.1
159.3
1.4%
0.5%
Vic.
157.7
164.0
4.0%
0.5%
Qld
142.9
142.8
-0.1%
0.1%
SA
155.5
159.2
2.4%
0.4%
WA
152.8
161.1
5.5%
0.6%
Tas.
92.1
143.9
56.3%
3.9%
NT
191.7
162.8
-15.1%
0.3%
ACT
214.8
120.9
-43.7%
-2.4%
Australia
152.7
156.9
2.7%
0.3%
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Characteristics of new apartments

Average cost of building a new apartment

The average cost of building a new apartment in Australia has increased by 49.1% over the past 15 years, rising from $240,450 in 2004-05 to $358,448 in 2018-19. The average annual increase over this period was 3.1%.

Over the past 15 years, the cost of building a new apartment increased in New South Wales (52.6%), Victoria (40.9%) and Queensland (58.5%), especially over the past financial year. In the 2018-19 financial year, the rate of growth in apartment costs was +9.7% in New South Wales, +13.3% in Victoria, and +17.1% in Queensland.

In New South Wales, the cost of building a new apartment in 2018-19 was 4.6% higher than the national average. In Victoria, the cost of building a new apartment in 2018-19 was 2.1% lower than the national average.

Table 5 - Average cost to build a new apartment, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
State$ ('000)$ ('000)Total changeAnnual change
NSW
245.8
375.1
52.6%
3.2%
Vic.
249.0
350.9
40.9%
3.1%
Qld
230.3
364.9
58.5%
4.1%
Australia
240.5
358.4
49.1%
3.1%
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Average floor area of new apartments

The average floor area of a new apartment in Australia has decreased by 14.9% over the past 15 years from 127.2m² in 2004-05 to 108.2m² in 2018-19, with an average annual decrease of 1.1%.

The average floor area of new apartments in New South Wales has decreased 19.2%, an average annual decrease of 1.3%. Queensland experienced a decrease of 12.3% with an average annual decrease of 0.8%. The average floor area of new apartments in Victoria has remained more stable, with just a 1.6% decrease over the past 15 years and an average annual increase of 0.6%.

Table 6 - Average floor area of a new apartment, by state and territory

 2004-052018-192004-05 to 2018-19
StateTotal changeAnnual change
NSW
123.1
99.4
-19.2%
-1.3%
Vic.
120.5
118.6
-1.6%
0.6%
Qld
138.9
121.8
-12.3%
-0.8%
Australia
127.2
108.2
-14.9%
-1.1%
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Method

The cost of a building is defined as the total value of the dwelling at its completion, as reported by the respondent at the final stage of construction. This value is measured in Australian dollars (AUD) and includes direct costs associated with materials, labour, engineering, architectural services, and in-built fixtures and fittings. Costs associated with land purchase and landscaping are excluded.

The floor area of a building is defined as the quantity of useable space within the dwelling (including attachments) at its completion. This figure is measured in meters squared () as reported by the respondent at the final stage of construction. The boundary of the recorded floor area of a dwelling is delineated by the external perimeter of the dwelling's exterior walls. This excludes non-enclosed structures attached outside the floor area boundary such as verandahs and carports. The floor area of apartments is the total floor area of the building (including common areas and hallways) divided by the number of dwellings contained within the building.

Data are presented for the following types of dwellings:

  • 'Houses' - defined as detached buildings used for long term residential purposes, consisting of only one dwelling unit and are not a result of alterations or additions to a pre-existing building.
  • 'Townhouses' - defined as semi-detached row or terrace houses attached in some structural way to one or more dwellings, with their own private grounds and no separate dwelling above or below.
  • 'Flats, units or apartments' - defined as blocks of dwellings that don't have their own private grounds and usually share a common entrance, foyer or stairwell.


For further information refer to Functional Classification of Buildings, 1999 (Revision 2011) (cat. no. 1268.0.55.001).

The proportion of survey records with floor area data that was not stated has varied annually between 9% and 25% of all residential dwellings and these have been excluded from the analyses. Whilst fluctuating from year to year, the proportion of stated floor area has increased in recent years. Survey records with the following floor area data have been excluded from the analysis due to the unreliability of the data:

  • Less than 25m² and greater than 1,800m² per dwelling for houses,
  • Less than 25m² and greater than 800m² per dwelling for townhouses,
  • Less than 25m² and greater than 300m² per dwelling for flats, units, and apartments.
     

All dwellings under $50,000 have been excluded from the calculation of average cost.

Only private sector dwellings have been included in this analysis.

Upwards bias continues to persist in the size of apartments and their construction costs due to the difficulty in adjusting for non-residential floor space in large apartment buildings. This non-residential space includes areas such as hallways, lifts, foyers, and other residential amenities but can also include commercial spaces such as retail, office or mixed use areas. As a result, apartment floor area and costs recorded in ABS surveys are likely to be increased.