Highwater Homes is a Camden-based, family-run business, specialising in the design and construction of quality custom-built homes. After completing his carpentry apprenticeship and building qualifications, founder and Director Toby Searle began working towards his goal of opening a residential building company, establishing Highwater Homes in 2011 with his wife, Elizabeth. “The market area that we’re in is one of the biggest areas at the moment for growth, so it’s a good place to start,” he says. “I grew up in Camden, so I’ve been here all my life. It’s ideal to be able to still be here and make a living, and provide something to the community that I grew up in.”
While the business initially offered a broad range of services, from extensions and renovations to project management and outdoor structures, Toby soon found the construction of new homes to be the niche market he was both the most comfortable working within, and the most capable of providing excellent service to, with Highwater Homes thorough design and build service standing as its key point of difference. “A client will call us up, and all they’ve got is a block of land, and they want to know where to start,” Mr Searle says. “It can be quite a daunting thing.” Providing ongoing advice and assistance from a variety of industry professionals, from Toby himself to architectural draftsmen and design consultants, Highwater Homes ensures client satisfaction from day one through to the completion of the home and beyond.
While the suburban residential area surrounding Camden is Highwater Homes primary area of operation, the business has also been known to take on a number of rural projects, from 1-acre plots to 10-acre farmland properties. One such home, in the Burradoo suburb, uniquely marries federation style with a number of different aesthetics, in keeping with the surrounding area. In order to efficiently counteract the colder temperatures in the region, several uncommon systems have been included in the home’s design, such as an insulated concrete smart slab and hydronic heating. The project, which commenced recently, is expected to be ready to showcase within 9 months.
The HIA GreenSmart Professional Course has helped Highwater Homes establish a point of difference for clients with sustainability in mind. “We’ve got a lot of information and suggestions for clients on what they can do at the design phase,” says Toby. “Sustainability is not something that you can just attach to any house; it really has to be worked out from the home’s early stages.”
A long-time member of the HIA, Toby has been able to make use of the organisation’s numerous support systems, services, and up-to-date information. The HIA also offers labour supply, providing apprentices to businesses on a temporary basis. As well, the Home Building Business Centre provides Highwater Homes with new training courses for its builders. “As a builder, you have to keep up with all of the relevant information and updates within the industry,” Toby says. “To renew your builder’s licence, you have to accrue Continual Professional Development points by attending seminars and courses, and the Home Building Business Centre helps to keep businesses up to date with the industry’s changing nature.”
As a local builder in the Southwestern Sydney area, Mr Searle worries that the region’s rapid growth will result in a lack of skilled trades and new labour in the coming years, pointing out that if certain sectors of the trade industry become short staffed and unable to keep up with the workload, prices will quickly be driven up. “In this area, there’s another 10 to 15 years ahead of a lot of builders,” he says. “We’ve got an ageing workforce with particular trades, including bricklayers and concreters, painting, and tiling. A lot of the guys are getting older, and they’re still working, but in a few years’ time, once they go, we haven’t got any youngsters coming through; not many people want to take up a 4 year apprenticeship for bricklaying.” Toby also views the lack of proper training of apprentices as a growing issue throughout the industry. “A lot of them are encouraged to complete their apprenticeship, and then go and start their own business, but I don’t think they’re ready for it. They need 2 or 3 more years of guidance once they’ve completed their apprenticeship,” he explains. “A lot of young guys are encouraged because they think there’s more money in starting your own business, which there is, if you do things right. If you get it wrong, though, you’ll be spat out the other end within six months.”
Toby Searle has a skilled background in carpentry and joinery, establishing his own business at an early age, shortly after completing his apprenticeship. He has since worked with a variety of quality building firms, spending 8 years as a Project Manager before the founding of Highwater Homes in 2011. Looking to the future, Toby aims to achieve further growth within the business, employing key staff in order to offer a wider range of expertise to his clients. “I can start offering products and services that are not the norm in the building game, trying to create more points of difference in such a heavy marketing game,” he explains. “The more points of difference we’ve got, the better the business.”