By: Murray Johnson
At a time when the average house price in Melbourne has hit $313,000, one young woman has built herself a mudbrick home in the city for $20,000.

The owner was inspired to become an owner-builder after visiting friends in country New South Wales who rented a small and primitive cottage in the bush.

This 27 year-old is not alone.

The Vicorian Building Commission says the value of domestic building in Victoria is now running at around $5.7billion a year and 28 per cent of that is done by "owner builders"... for a total economic value to the state of $1.59billion a year.

Owner-builders do not necessarily do the work themselves, but they co-ordinate the tradesmen and take responsibility for the job.

Under Victorian laws owner-builders must take out insurance to protect buyers if they sell their homes within 6.5 years of building.

This picture-perfect house was built as a dual occupancy development in the back yard of an existing house.
The owner spent $2000 on foundations.
A friend with carpentry skills helped build theframe, she had roof trusses made to her specifications, then she bought mud bricks from Eltham and laid them herself in five weeks.

It cost her about $7000 to reach "lock-up'' stage.
Her 6 metre x 4 metre house has an open-plan kitchen and living area downstairs, with a bedroom and bathroom in the roof space.

The loft ceiling was lined with papier mache, which was time-consuming but cheap, environmentally friendly and offered great insulation.

Polished floorboards and old church windows, picked up for $90 each from newspaper classifieds, are features of the cottage.

It has a corrugated iron roof housing solar hotwater and solar electricity panels.
The bulider wanted her house to be self-sufficient inas many ways as possible.
She bought a gas fridge and calculated that if she went without a hairdryer and toaster she could generate enough solar power with a small $2500 system.

Some people had trouble coping with a female owner-builder.
When this owner biulder was designing and building her kitchen benches and cupboards, one salesman told her to send her father in with the measurements.

"The only time I got respect was when I walked in with my workclothes completely covered in mud,'' she said.
"I love living in a small house.
I never lose anything and it's easy to clean.
I just have to learn to keep my junk to a minimum.'' 

Email: Murray Johnson (

Snail Mail: 106 Liberty Parade, Bellfield 3081 Victoriai Australia

Phone: 0417 339 203