So you want to build a house. You've saved up, found some land, and are ready to make it happen. But somewhere along the way, your dream home became just another 'product' in a massive industry focused on the bottom line. Somewhere your vision of a place filled with memories to come got reduced to how big and a price per metre.

The big players in residential construction are all competing for your business by promising huge volumes of generic housing at ever lower prices. But is that really what you want? A house is not just another consumer good to be mass-produced as cheaply as possible. It's the framework for a life to be lived. Maybe it's time we demanded more from the companies we entrust with turning our home into a reality.

Maybe it's time we asked them not just to build a house, but to craft a home.

The Commodification of Housing Construction in Australia

The residential construction industry in Australia has increasingly become commodified, reducing housing to an economic good valued primarily for its exchange value in the market. Housing has become a means for accumulating wealth rather than providing shelter.

Competition over cooperation

Developers compete to build the most profitable houses quickly and cheaply. There is little incentive for cooperation or concern for community needs. The result is low-quality, poorly-designed houses in locations far from infrastructure and services.

Homebuyers likewise engage in bidding wars, concerned more with maximising resale value than finding a place to call home. People are priced out of suitable housing and pushed into “drive till you qualify” suburbs lacking public transport or amenities.

An alternative vision

But housing could be so much more. What if we focused on building community rather than maximising profits? Developers and governments could work with communities to design integrated, sustainable developments with a mix of affordable housing options and access to public transport, schools, healthcare and green spaces.

Homebuyers could consider not just price and resale value but whether a house and neighbourhood meet their needs and help build community connections. Perhaps it’s time to reimagine our approach to housing altogether, centring human wellbeing over commodification and competition. By cooperation and community-mindedness, we can create places people are proud to call home.

gray metal framed chalkboard with whatever it takes written
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

How "Builders" Became "Project Marketers"

Not too long ago, residential construction firms focused on building quality homes. Now, many have transitioned into “project marketers” concerned primarily with the bottom line.

As competition intensified, builders found their profit margins shrinking. To counter this, they slashed costs by using cheaper materials and streamlined construction processes. The human element of homebuilding was sidelined in favour of rapid production and sales.

Rather than customising homes for buyers, cookie-cutter designs were repeated ad nauseam. Buyers were sold on a lifestyle and an ‘ideal’ of homeownership. Once contracts were signed, many found their dream homes were poorly constructed, flawed imitations of what they were promised.

There is an alternative. Some builders are returning to a focus on craftsmanship over commodification. They spend time with clients to understand their needs and budget, then design a bespoke home using high-quality, sustainable materials and time-honoured techniques.

While these homes may cost more upfront, their superior construction means lower maintenance and energy costs for owners over the lifetime of the home. And the satisfaction of living in a home tailored to your needs? Priceless.

For buyers, choosing a builder dedicated to quality over quantity will result in a home to treasure for years to come. For builders, a return to human-centred values can set their business apart while doing right by clients and community. Focusing on long-term relationships over short-term gains may just be the remedy for an ailing industry.

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Photo by Daniel Páscoa / Unsplash

The Impact on Build Quality and Customer Experience

The commodification of residential construction has led to a 'race to the bottom' in build quality and customer experience. When price becomes the only factor, corners get cut.

Cheaper materials and lower standards

To maximise profits, cheaper materials are used and standards are lowered. This results in homes that may look flashy but lack substance. They’re not built to last and issues arise sooner. As a homeowner, you’re often left with exorbitant repair and maintenance costs down the line.

Homes are also built quicker to increase volume. This “cookie cutter” approach treats houses like products on an assembly line rather than the complex structures they are. Unique client needs get overlooked in the quest to build as fast as possible.

Poor workmanship and service

In the rush, poor workmanship slips through the cracks. Everything from wonky flooring to leaky roofs could be the norm. You may encounter rude, unhelpful staff who see you as just another number.

Customer service is lacking because volume is prioritised over quality. There is little care or accountability once contracts are signed and deposits paid. You’re left to deal with any issues, and may face difficulties getting them resolved.

A more human-centred approach

An alternative approach focuses on customisation, quality and service. Homes are built carefully by skilled craftspeople using high-quality, sustainable materials designed to endure. Client needs shape the design and build process.

Staff develop good relationships with homeowners and guide them through each step. They take pride in their work and stand by it, providing excellent after-sales support.

While costing a bit more upfront, this human-centred model results in homes that meet unique needs, last longer and provide greater satisfaction and wellbeing for occupants. In the long run, that is a worthwhile investment.

Rethinking Our Relationship With Residential Construction

Our relationship with residential construction has become purely transactional. We see homes as commodities to be bought and sold, valued only for their investment potential or ability to signal social status. But our homes are so much more than that. They are the places where we build our lives, raise our families, and form communities.

It's time to humanise residential construction again. We need to see our homes as more than just assets - they are the foundations of our lives. When we work with architects and builders, we should aim to create spaces that nourish us and support our wellbeing. Consider how the design and materials can boost your mood and ease of living. An open-plan kitchen where you can cook and entertain, large windows that flood rooms with natural light, air ventilation systems circulating fresh air inside the home, using sustainable and non-toxic materials that won't pollute the air you breathe or exacerbate allergies.

Beyond physical and mental health, we must also consider our social needs. Create spaces that bring people together and facilitate real human connections. A communal garden, a co-working space, a playroom for children, seating areas that spark spontaneous neighbourly conversations. Design homes and communities that reduce isolation and encourage a sense of belonging.

Of course, this is not to diminish the role of architects and builders as service providers. However, their goal should be to serve human and community needs, not just deliver a product for the highest profit margin or resale value. By working with specialists who share this ethos, we can transform residential construction into an act of care that enhances lives, not just an industry driven by competition. Our homes and communities deserve nothing less. Through more thoughtful design and placing greater value on human wellbeing, we can build houses into homes and turn neighbourhoods into communities again.

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Photo by John Cameron / Unsplash

Valuing Craft, Community and Connection in Home Building

The residential construction industry has increasingly become commodified, reducing homes to economic units and competition based primarily on price. However, valuing craft, community and human connection in home building offers an alternative approach that can help remedy this.

Valuing Craftsmanship

Employing skilled tradesmen and craftspeople who take pride in high-quality workmanship humanises the construction process. Homeowners can work closely with builders to create a home tailored to their needs, rather than settling for a generic 'product'.

Fostering Community

Developing relationships between homeowners, builders, architects and tradesmen cultivates a sense of community. Home construction then becomes a collaborative creative endeavour rather than a transactional process. Builders and homeowners who view each other as partners working together towards a shared goal will likely achieve greater satisfaction with the final result.

Connecting People and Place

A semi-custom home-building approach allows deep consideration of how people will connect with and use the space. The end result is a home that feels profoundly personal, reflecting the personalities and values of homeowners and the community in which it's situated. This connection between people and place is ultimately what gives a house its heart and soul.

While regulation and economic factors will always influence residential construction to some degree, a human-centred approach focused on craft, community and connection provides an opportunity to push back against commodification. Homes become not just physical shelters but places of meaning that nourish our humanity. And that is worth building for.


So there you have it. The residential construction industry doesn't have to be reduced to an economic numbers game at the expense of what really matters - people and community. When we stop seeing housing as just another commodity to be traded and start focusing on building homes, we open up the possibility for more human-centred practices that benefit both builders and residents. It may require a shift in mindset and mean slower growth and less profit in the short term. But by valuing craft, quality, and connection over speed and scale, we can create living spaces that uplift and inspire. Homes become places we want to invest in and take pride in, not just properties we occupy until the next best offer comes along. And that is a future for residential construction worth building.