Caravan VS Vanhomes - And everything you should be aware before purchasing one


I was recently approached by a customer requesting for Reg 126 for VanHomes as a permanent home. Due to the consecutive increases in interest rates and decrease in borrowing capacity, we have seen an increase of enquiries about tiny homes, prefab homes and portable homes for Reg 126. I think more and more people are turning in them as their permanent residence. So I thought I'd use this festive season to write a blog and explore a little more about this.

What is Caravan? And what is VanHomes?

I'm sure we are all aware what it is. According to Google, by definition, caravan is a vehicle equipped for living in, typically towed by a car and used for holidays.

So what is VanHomes?

VanHomes are a registrable caravan

VanHomes identify as a registrable caravan, which means the VanHome may not need to go through any council building approvals. However; legislation surrounding on-site caravans, caravans on private property or in a backyard will vary from state to state. For example in New South Wales, state-wide legislation allows a caravan to be used for permanent habitation, provided that the person using the caravan is a member of the owner's household. Local Government Regulation in NSW allowing caravans to be built without prior council building approval. Section 77 of Subdivision 3 the state-wide legislation relates to Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings which are given conditional exemptions where no council building approval is required.

As registrable caravans, VanHomes do not need to go through any council building approval. Please check out the exemptions below.

Read about the legislation here.

What about in VIC?

NSW is currently the only state that has a blanket exemption on caravans. If you are located outside of NSW, such as our client from VIC, it depends on the local council's legislation. Most councils allow the use of a caravan with a permit, and some even have adopted the same exemption as NSW Legislation. However, most council allows caravans to be used for accommodation for 3 months per year - any longer may require a permit. And that's going to be a problem if you intend to use it as a permanent home. Click here to see the VIC council's regulation requirement.

Can VanHome be used as a permanent home, or Airbnb?

If you intend to use VanHome as your permanent home, or if you are planning on renting your VanHome, or using it as an AirBnB style investment property, you will have to go through council building approvals. And this is where we come in. Looking from an structural engineering's perspective, a VanHome has been designed as a caravan, which means it can be towed anywhere or stay in a permanent location. However, you will require a Chartered Licensed Engineer to carry out some structural analysis and wind calculation in accordance with AS1170.2:2021 and check if the VanHome will still be structurally sound under that wind in that location. For example, the design for a VanHome in Vic, Region A2 non-cyclonic region will be different from the VanHome in a Cairns, Region C which is a cyclonic region. This extract below shows the different wind region in accordance with AS1170.2:2021.

In ArchiEng, we have carried out numerous structural analysis for VanHomes to be located in every region within Australia, including cyclonic regions. Speak to one of our engineers if you require a building permit and Regulation 126 for your application.

ArchiEng AS1170.2 wind region in Australia

Is this cheaper to build a VanHome, rather than conventional house and land package?

Let's explore the price for both. According to VanHome, there are 3 main types of VanHome on sale now - The Studio Suite, Single Expanding Suite and Double Expanding Suite. If I were to choose one, I will choose the largest size, which is the double expanding suite model 844D. This model is a 4 bedroom house, 8.4m wide x 7.0m in length and cost around $130,710. You can view the 3D interior view from here and the floor plan below. For such price, a 4 bedroom home sounds very good.

4-bedroom Vanhomes Archieng

Now, let's explore how much to build a 4 bedroom house on a piece of land. One of the biggest influences on the cost of any build is the location. Each state varies wildly when it comes to expected prices for a construction project. Remember, these are rough estimates and that building costs can change quickly, especially since the pandemic. It’s also worth keeping in mind most councils don’t have a set fee for permits and approvals, and tend to set them based on a percentage of the overall cost of the project. There are significant fines for building without the right approval or permits. By significant we’re talking thousands or even tens of thousands in fines. The key factors affecting the price as listed as below:

  • The location of the building site
  • The size of the house
  • The material quality used
  • The complexity of the design
  • The cost of labour

In accordance to Buili, the average cost of building a 4-bedroom house in Australia is as below. Note that these price exclude the price of the land, may have already subjected to inflation and can only be used as a guidance.

  • $1740-$3,800  /m2 in SA or total cost of $388,020-$1 million
  • $1,900 m2 to $3,900+ /m2 in QLD, or total cost of  $423,700-1,014,000
  • $2,100-$6,400 /m2 in NSW or a total cost of $468,300-$1.6million
  • $2,220-$4,100 /m2 in WA or a total cost of $495,060 to over a million
  • $2,000-$4,300  /m2 in VIC or $476,000-$1,118,000

Comparing these costs, it's no brainer why more and more Aussies are choosing VanHomes as their permanent home, or as an investment home or Airbnb.

What is VanHome made of?

This Youtube video shows the snapshot of construction.

Conclusion, in this high-interest rates era, if you're thinking or planning to get a VanHome as an investment property, Airbnb or as your permanent home, speak to us should you require any engineering design, certification or computation.

This is just some sample VanHome engineering calculation snapshot, from a 11 page computation report. For a customised engineering solution for your building permit application, speak to us and we will be able to assist.

Vanhome Engineering Calculation Reg 126 Building Permit

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