Aspiring homeowners facing $120k price hike after builder pulls out

When Victorian nurse Jillian Edelsten signed on the dotted line to buy her first property two years ago she was ecstatic.

Photos show the 45-year-old grinning and holding a bottle of champagne on the block of land where her townhouse was to be built in a residential estate in the regional town of Huntly, northern Bendigo.

The last thing Edelsten expected was to be living with her parents two years later.

The townhouse was due to be finished last May, but the lot is still sitting empty. 

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Edelsten, celebrating the prospect of finally owning her own home.

Edelsten is one of 20 aspiring homeowners who bought a $270,000 house-and-land package in the Provenance Estate and say their dreams have now been shattered.

After a year of delays, the construction firm the landowners signed a contract with to build their homes – Vita Building Group – has pulled out of the project.

It's an increasingly common occurrence happening across the country as the construction industry faces a crisis fuelled by surging costs for raw materials, worker shortages, supply chain delays and looming interest rate rises.

A glass of bubbly sits next to a marker showing Jillian Edelsten's lot number.

Construction giants like Probuild and Condev are two of the largest firms to fold so far, while Privium Group, Dyldam Developments, Hotondo Homes franchise Tasmanian Constructions, ABD Group, BA Murphy, Pindan and Inside Out Construction have all gone bust in recent months.

In a legal letter, developer Huntly Property Holdings proposed three options to Edelsten and the other landowners going forward.

The landowners could sell their plots – either back to Huntly or on the open market. 

The third option was to proceed with a new builder, but with the increased cost of materials, the cheapest amount quoted would add an extra $120,000 to the price of each townhouse, the letter stated.

'I'll be renting forever'

Edelsten said she had just scraped together enough money to buy the house-and-land package as it was, so there was little to no chance her bank would agree to increase her loan by $120,000.

Jillian Edelsten pictured on the empty lot where her townhouse should be standing.

"It's crazy, it's just absolutely insane," she said.

"Are we just supposed to pull $120,000 out of thin air?"

The extra $120,000 represented a 70 per cent increase on the original price of the townhouse quoted by Vita Building Group, which seemed "excessive" even considering the hike in material costs, Edelsten said.

Having moved from Melbourne to Bendigo during the pandemic 18 months ago, Edelsten said she jumped at the chance to finally own her own place when the $25,000 Federal HomeBuilder grant was announced.

That grant, combined with the $20,000 First Home Owner grant for new homes in regional Victoria, was a huge incentive, she said.   

"As a 45-year-old single person, finally getting my first home was awesome because most of my other friends have done that already. It's been a bit harder for me," she said.

Edelsten said she and the other landowners were yet to hear from Vita Building Group directly, and had been left devastated after receiving the letter from Huntly last week.

"All my dreams of owning my first home have gone down the drain," she said. 

"I don't even know if I can afford to buy a house now. I feel like I think I'll be renting forever."

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A group of 20 landowners in the Provenance Estate have been told it will cost them around $120,000 more to engage a new construction company to build their townhouses. has contacted Vita Building Group for comment but has not yet received a response.

A public notice from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) showed an application had been lodged by a creditor in October last year to wind-up the company.

However, the Bendigo Advertiser reports the application was dismissed in January this year. 

ASIC records show Vita Building Group is still a registered company.

In a statement issued through its lawyers, Huntly said: "Our client and our office have (on an urgent basis) been endeavouring to seek further updates from Vita and its solicitor, and have also been requesting that Vita directly provide clarity to lot owners in respect of the refund of deposits and timing for such payments, as well as clarifying Vita's intentions in respect of any lots where construction has actually commenced.

"It is our client's intention to continue to assist and work with lot owners to achieve the best possible outcome given the circumstances."

'I don't think it's going to happen for me'

Like Edelsten, aged care worker and single mum Nicole Doggett also bought a house-and-land package in the estate.

After renting in Bendigo for eight years, Doggett took the plunge to buy her own property after accessing $20,000 of her superannuation during the pandemic.

An image showing what the planned townhouses would look like when built.

"The rent I have been paying just keeps on rising so I thought it would be cheaper in the long run to buy this townhouse," she said.

Now, Doggett said she is stuck paying her rent, as well as land rates and the interest-only mortgage payments for her land.

"It's just exhausting, I'm devastated to be honest," she said.

Expecting to move into her new home in May last year, Doggett said she had sold all the large pieces of furniture that wouldn't fit into her new place and was now living in a half-empty house.

"I feel like my dream has just been shattered," she said. 

"I was going to be starting a new chapter in my life and this was going to be something that I had worked for and was mine."

"I don't think it's going to happen for me anymore because I can't afford to go with another builder."

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at

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