Building Your Future: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Construction Business cover image
25 Jun 2024

Building Your Future: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Construction Business


In the world of investments, few sectors offer tangible growth and profitability quite like construction.


This industry stands as a testament to the power of building not just structures, but wealth.



With Australia's expanding population and the continuous push for modern infrastructure, the construction sector is ripe with opportunities for significant financial gains.


The demand for residential, commercial, and civil construction projects creates a steady stream of income opportunities, making it an attractive proposition for business buyers looking to build a future that's both profitable and impactful.



Stepping into the construction industry is not just about joining one of Australia's economic pillars; it's about tapping into a sector brimming with opportunities for robust profitability and growth.





Exploring the Landscape of Construction Businesses


Construction firms are at the forefront of developing infrastructure, constructing buildings, roads, railroads, harbour or river works, transmission lines, pipelines, and oil refineries.


They are also deeply involved in civil engineering and irrigation projects, and in constructing water, gas, electricity, and sewerage infrastructure.


Additionally, many firms undertake repairs and renovations, prepare mine sites, install utilities, and engage in demolitions and excavations.



The Construction division's performance has been influenced by divergent trends in the building and infrastructure sectors through the end of 2023-24, with revenue expected to decline by an annualised 2.0% to total $472.3 billion.


The residential building market has experienced rollercoaster trends, further exacerbated by supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have constrained the residential sector and many special construction services industries.


Despite these challenges, favourable trends in non-residential building construction and infrastructure projects have created buoyant conditions for some segments of the Construction division.



The surge in new house construction, which peaked in 2021-22 due to the Federal HomeBuilder stimulus and record low interest rates, benefitted many house construction and special trade contractors.


However, the recent slump in new house construction, accompanied by a rise in mortgage interest rates, is expected to contribute to a 5.1% decline in divisional revenue in 2023-24.


Apartment and townhouse construction, which had contracted sharply since its 2017-18 peak, has recently seen a resurgence due to mounting population pressures.



Large construction companies and specialist contractors have also benefitted from near-record investment in landmark road and rail developments, such as the WestConnex motorway in Sydney and the Inland and Cross River Rails in Brisbane.


Additionally, solid growth in non-residential building construction has been driven by the accelerated development of industrial warehouses and distribution facilities.



Looking ahead, favourable trends across building construction and construction services are expected to support the Construction division.


Revenue is forecast to grow at an annualised 2.0% over the five years through 2028-29, reaching $522.6 billion.


The upswing in constructing multi-unit dwellings and non-residential buildings will create stronger conditions for many prime building and special construction contractors. 


The gradual recovery in house construction and home renovation markets will stimulate work for many small-scale construction contractors.


However, the staged completion of several landmark road and rail projects will present a constraint.


Despite this, the division's profit performance is expected to strengthen, driven by improved trends across most building markets.


The construction sector is diverse, including general contracting, specialised trades like electrical and plumbing, civil engineering, demolition, and earth-moving. 



Each niche offers unique opportunities and challenges, catering to different skills, interests, and market demands.


Here is a brief overview of the types of building or construction businesses you might find for sale:


Building and Construction: At the heart of urban development and infrastructure growth, offering opportunities in residential, commercial, and industrial projects.


Attractiveness lies in the constant demand for new buildings and renovation projects.



Commercial Services: A broad category that includes B2B services essential for the operation of other businesses, from cleaning to consultancy.


Diversity of services and long-term contracts can make these businesses attractive.



Drilling: Specialised in creating boreholes for extracting resources or constructing foundations.


High-value contracts and the integral role in both construction and resource extraction sectors are key attractions.



Earth Moving: Involves heavy machinery for moving large amounts of earth, crucial in construction and mining.


Demand for infrastructure projects makes this a solid choice.



Earth Supplies: Provides materials like soil, gravel, and sand, essential for construction and landscaping.


The perpetual need for these materials in various projects adds to the appeal.



Excavation: Specialises in removing earth for construction foundations, utilities, and landscaping.


Critical early-stage work in construction projects ensures steady demand.



Fencing: Offers boundary solutions for residential, commercial, and agricultural properties.


The continuous need for security and privacy drives this market.



Building Supplies: Supplies a range of materials for construction and gardening, serving both professional contractors and DIY enthusiasts.


Diverse revenue streams enhance attractiveness.



Gates & Fencing: Focuses on the manufacture and installation of gates and fences.


Aesthetic and security enhancements for properties keep the demand steady.



Gazebo & Outdoor Structures: Specialises in creating outdoor living spaces, a growing trend.


The move towards enhancing outdoor living spaces boosts demand.



Hardware: Retailers providing tools, materials, and supplies for construction and home improvement.


Essential nature and broad customer base are pluses.



Kitchen and Bathroom: Focuses on renovation and fitting services for two of the most valuable areas in a home.


High-margin opportunities and constant demand for upgrades make this sector appealing.



Machinery: Involves sales and service of industrial and construction machinery.


Essential for a wide range of industries, ensuring steady business.



Maintenance & Repairs: Essential services for property upkeep, including electrical, HVAC, and plumbing.


Recurring revenue from regular need for repairs and maintenance is attractive.



Mining: Engages in the extraction of minerals and resources, a cornerstone of the Australian economy.


High potential returns from resource extraction are a significant draw.



Paint Shop: Retail and supply of paint and related materials.


Renovation and maintenance projects drive continuous demand.



Painting and Decorating: Provides aesthetic enhancements to buildings.


Regular need for property maintenance and upgrades supports steady business.



Plumbing: Essential services for water supply and waste removal in buildings.


Indispensable service with regular demand for installations and repairs.



Recycling: Focuses on the conversion of waste materials into new products.


Growing environmental concerns and regulations enhance its potential.



Renovations: Specialises in updating and improving existing buildings.


The desire for modernization and space optimization keeps this sector thriving.



Secondhand: Sells used goods, from furniture to electronics.


The increasing consumer interest in sustainability and value makes this an attractive market.


Timber Yard: Supplies wood and wood products, crucial for construction and manufacturing.


Steady demand from construction and the appeal of sustainable materials are key draws.





Where is the Construction Industry Headed?



Residential Building Performance: A Rollercoaster Ride


The Construction division has experienced significant fluctuations due to the residential building market.


Many home builders and construction service contractors enjoyed a surge in new house construction, peaking in 2021-22 due to the HomeBuilder scheme and record low mortgage interest rates.


However, house construction has since slumped with the end of housing subsidies and rising interest rates.


Apartment construction has plummeted since its 2017-18 peak due to excess supply, restrictions on foreign real estate investment, and the economic fallout from COVID-19.


However, mounting population pressures following the easing of pandemic restrictions support a recovery in apartment and townhouse construction.



Home Improvements: A Bright Spot


Favourable trends in population growth, household income, savings, and unemployment have supported spending on home improvements and repairs.


Small-scale homebuilders and special construction trades, like electricians and tilers, have been the main beneficiaries.


However, supply chain disruptions during COVID-19 delayed projects and drove up prices for building materials, equipment, and skilled labor.


Many small-scale contractors have struggled to pass on these rising costs to clients, resulting in squeezed profit margins.



Non-Residential Building Construction: A Rebound


Commercial building construction dipped following COVID-19 due to stay-at-home restrictions and border closures, which led developers to defer investments in office, hotel, and retail projects.


The easing of restrictions has boosted commercial building activity, driven by increased industrial building activity and growth in public healthcare and educational building construction.


The surge in warehouse and distribution centre construction is meeting the rapid expansion in merchandise trade and higher delivery volumes.



Landmark Infrastructure Projects: A Boon for Heavy Construction


Heavy and civil engineering construction contractors have benefitted from public investment aimed at countering the economic effects of COVID-19 and increased use of public-private partnerships (PPP) for transport infrastructure development.


Landmark projects like Sydney's WestConnex motorway, Melbourne's West Gate Tunnel, and Brisbane's Cross River Rail have dominated the sector.


Public funding for shovel-ready infrastructure projects and the acceleration of transport infrastructure projects have supported the Construction division's expansion.



Construction Services: A Mixed Bag


Firms providing site preparation services have thrived due to investment in non-residential building foundations and earthmoving for transport infrastructure projects.


However, subdued activity in high-rise apartment, office, and hotel projects has dampened demand for contractors specializing in elevator installation, commercial air conditioning systems, and structural steel components.


Property repairs following the East Coast floods in early 2022 have provided some stimulus for special construction contractors.



Supply Chain Disruptions: Rising Costs and Squeezed Margins


Supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic have inflated input prices, squeezing profit margins for the Construction division.


Fixed-price contracts have made it difficult for contractors to pass on these rising costs to clients, leading to additional costs due to construction delays. 


Competition among contractors has intensified, particularly in the residential building market, following the recent slump in new house construction.


Participation in the division is expected to climb marginally as new enterprises enter faster-growing segments of the non-residential building, home renovation, and infrastructure markets.



Future Outlook



Population Pressures: Accelerated Growth in Multi-Unit Dwellings


The Construction division's performance is set to strengthen with an upswing in apartment and townhouse construction driven by rising population pressures and net migration returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.


Higher house prices will drive residential building activity towards higher-density developments, providing opportunities for contractors specialising in building completion services.


The Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) will support investment in social and affordable rental housing construction.



New House Construction and Home Improvements: Moderate Upswing


Housebuilders will face subdued conditions in the short term due to climbing interest rates and tighter bank finance practices.


However, mounting population pressures and some stimulus from the HAFF initiative will eventually support a future upswing in new house construction.


High house and land prices will divert much of the new residential building towards higher-density alternatives.


Favourable household income trends will support increased spending on home renovations and repairs, stimulating work for special construction contractors.



Non-Residential Building Activity: Climbing with Economic Growth


Solid growth in non-residential building construction will present opportunities for many construction services contractors.


General economic growth will encourage property developers to invest in commercial buildings, while governments will invest in institutional buildings like schools and hospitals to meet the needs of an expanding population.


The shift towards remote working, studying, and shopping following the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact commercial property market dynamics.



Completion of Major Transport Projects: A Potential Slowdown


Heavy and civil engineering construction may experience a downturn following the completion of significant transport infrastructure projects like Sydney's WestConnex and Melbourne's West Gate Tunnel.


However, activity will remain above the long-term average with ongoing projects such as the North East Link in Victoria and the Western Harbour Tunnel & Beaches Link in Sydney.


Landmark rail projects, including the Sydney Metro City & Southwest and Brisbane's Cross River Rail, will continue to dominate the infrastructure landscape.



Profit Rebound: Robust Building Activity


Construction contractors' profit performance is set to improve with the upswing in apartment and non-residential building construction and favourable trends across construction service providers.


The restoration of global supply chains to pre-COVID-19 conditions will help ease input inflationary pressures.


Participation will strengthen across the Construction division, with new enterprises chasing work in faster-growing building and special construction services sectors.


Employment growth will match this expansion, contributing to the industry's overall recovery and growth.





Unlocking the Advantages of Buying in the Construction Industry



Investing in a construction business comes with several enticing advantages. 


High demand for construction services, especially in booming areas and sectors, promises steady work and revenue streams. 


Moreover, the satisfaction of bringing physical projects to life, contributing to community development, and the potential for scalable growth make this industry particularly appealing.



Here are some of the most common reasons that buyers look for businesses in the construction sector:


High Demand Across Diverse Sectors


The construction industry benefits from a wide-ranging demand that spans residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructural projects.


This diversity ensures a broader client base and opportunities for business regardless of economic fluctuations.


Cities expanding their infrastructure or regions experiencing population growth often have continuous construction projects, ensuring that businesses in this sector have a steady flow of work.



Steady Revenue Streams 


Construction businesses can establish multiple revenue streams, such as new builds, renovations, maintenance, and consultancy services.


This not only stabilises income but also opens doors to recurrent business with clients who require ongoing maintenance and updates to their properties.



Satisfaction in Tangible Outcomes


There's a unique fulfilment that comes from the construction industry—seeing projects evolve from blueprints to finished structures.


This tangible result of hard work and coordination not only serves as a constant motivation but also as a physical portfolio of a company's capabilities, boosting credibility and attracting future clients.



Community Development and Impact


Construction businesses play a pivotal role in community development.


Beyond just erecting buildings, they contribute to the improvement of local infrastructure, such as roads, parks, and public facilities, enhancing the quality of life within communities.


This direct impact fosters a sense of pride and responsibility, further driving the motivation to deliver quality work.



Scalable Growth Potential


The construction industry offers significant scalability.


Businesses can begin with small projects and, as they establish their reputation and financial base, gradually take on larger contracts.


Additionally, the expansion isn't limited to taking on bigger projects; construction businesses can diversify into specialised services or related sectors like property development, offering new avenues for growth.



Technological Advancements


The integration of technology into construction processes, from software for project management to advanced machinery for building, opens up efficiencies and innovations that can significantly enhance profitability.


Companies that adopt these technologies can gain competitive edges, improve project delivery times, and reduce costs, further boosting their market appeal.



Government Incentives and Support


Depending on the region, construction businesses may benefit from government incentives designed to stimulate infrastructure development, housing, and green building practices.


These can come in the form of grants, tax breaks, or preferential lending rates, providing a financial cushion and encouragement for new and existing businesses in the sector.



Investing in a construction business is not just about capitalising on a profitable opportunity; it's about building foundations—literal and metaphorical—that can support sustained growth, innovation, and community enhancement.


With strategic planning, a focus on quality, and a commitment to client satisfaction, entrepreneurs can construct a successful path in this dynamic industry.





A Snapshot of Market Values


A dive into the investment scene on unveils the dynamic and varied scale of investments available in the construction industry.


The wide range of investment opportunities provides a clear picture of the different entry levels and potential for expansion within this field.



For instance, one can enter the industry with an investment as low as $25,000 for a business specializing in shed construction, or opt for larger investments, such as a demolition business valued at $1,000,000, or even more significant operations worth $8,500,000.


This diversity highlights the array of opportunities available for investors with different financial capabilities and levels of ambition.



These examples highlight the extensive variety of investment opportunities within the construction sector, ranging from small, manageable projects to large, expansive ventures.


Investors have the chance to discover a niche that aligns with their hands-on involvement desires, financial resources, expertise, and business goals, ensuring they find the perfect match for their investment aspirations.





Franchise vs. Independent: Choosing Your Path


Deciding between a franchise and going independent in the construction industry depends on your preference for structure versus autonomy.


Franchises offer brand recognition, established business models, and support systems, making them a safer bet for newcomers.


However, they come with ongoing fees and less operational freedom. Independent businesses, while posing higher initial challenges, grant more control and the potential for unique market positioning.


Franchise Construction Business



  • Established brand recognition, which can attract customers and build trust more easily.

  • Access to a proven business model, reducing the risk and learning curve associated with starting from scratch.

  • Comprehensive training and ongoing support from the franchisor.

  • Potential for easier financing due to the established brand and support system.



  • Initial franchise fees and ongoing royalties can be significant, impacting overall profitability.

  • Less autonomy in decision-making, with franchisees often required to adhere to strict operational guidelines.

  • Limited flexibility in services offered, constrained by the franchisor's offerings.


Independent Construction Business




  • Complete control over business decisions, allowing for unique market positioning and the ability to quickly adapt to changes or opportunities.

  • No franchise fees or royalties, potentially leading to higher profit margins.

  • Freedom to innovate and offer services tailored to local market demands.




  • Greater responsibility for the business's success or failure, with no established playbook or support system to lean on.

  • Potentially more challenging to build brand recognition and trust without the backing of a known brand.

  • The need to develop all systems, processes, and marketing strategies independently, which can be time-consuming and costly.





Breaking Down the Costs: Navigating Expenses in the Construction Industry



Rent: Climbing with Inflationary Pressures


Rental costs have edged upwards due to inflationary pressures as the economy rebounds from COVID-19 restrictions and rising yields for industrial premises.


Construction contractors often rely on equipment dry hire for projects, including power units, low-level scaffold systems, and hoists.


These rental expenses have risen in response to higher prices for imported equipment and increased activity in the non-residential building and infrastructure markets.


While building rental costs remain low for small-scale special trade contractors who typically operate from home, larger contractors may incur higher expenses for office and storage facilities.



Wages: Rising Employment and Wage Costs


Wage costs are expected to climb as a share of Construction division revenue through 2023-24, reflecting the growth in total employment driven by new contractors entering the non-residential building and construction services markets.


Skill shortages, exacerbated by international border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, have put upward pressure on wages in the commercial building and infrastructure sectors.


According to industry reports, the construction sector has seen a 10% increase in average wage costs over the past year.



Purchases: Inflated by Global Supply Chain Disruptions


Purchase costs have expanded slightly as a share of the Construction division's revenue due to rising prices for timber, steel, glass, and other building materials, driven by global supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Some special construction service contractors provide building materials like plasterboard, structural timber, and glass panels as part of their contracts.


However, property developers and homeowners often procure inputs for smaller projects.


For large building and infrastructure projects, prime contractors are typically responsible for material procurement, guided by project developers, architects, or engineers.



Profit: Squeezed by Rising Input Prices


Profit margins across the Construction division are expected to narrow due to rising input prices caused by supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Variable trends in residential building construction have further squeezed profitability for some sectors.


Contractors in the house construction market experienced high profitability when dwelling investment was strong, but intensified price competition following the recent slump in new house construction has put additional pressure on margins.





Potholes on the Road to Construction Business Success



Skilled Labour Shortage


The construction industry frequently grapples with a shortage of skilled labour, which can delay projects and drive up labour costs.


Finding, training, and retaining qualified workers is a persistent challenge that affects project timelines and profitability.


According to the Australian Industry Group, 75% of construction businesses report difficulty in finding skilled workers.



Supply Chain Disruptions


The availability and cost of materials can fluctuate due to factors like trade policies, global demand, and supply chain disruptions.


This unpredictability can lead to budget overruns and project delays.


For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted global supply chains, causing material costs to skyrocket by over 20% in some cases.



Project Management and Delays


Efficient project management is crucial for keeping projects on schedule and within budget.


Poor project planning, unforeseen site conditions, and delays in obtaining permits or materials can significantly impact timelines and profitability.


A study by McKinsey found that large construction projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget.



Cash Flow Management


Construction projects often have long timelines and uneven payment structures, leading to cash flow challenges.


Managing expenses while waiting for payments can be difficult, especially for businesses without a robust financial cushion.


This issue is particularly prevalent among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which constitute over 90% of the construction sector.



Environmental Concerns and Sustainability


Increasing environmental regulations and a growing emphasis on sustainable construction practices add complexity to projects.


Adapting to these trends requires additional investments in technology, materials, and training.


In Australia, the Green Building Council reports that green building practices can add up to 10% to the initial project costs but yield long-term savings and benefits.



Safety Risks


The construction sector has higher safety risks than many other industries, leading to potential legal and financial liabilities.


Ensuring worker safety requires ongoing attention, training, and investment in safety protocols and equipment.


According to Safe Work Australia, the construction industry accounted for 16% of all worker fatalities in 2020.



Technological Adaptation


Keeping up with technological advancements, such as building information modelling (BIM), drones for site surveys, and project management software, is necessary to stay competitive.


However, integrating new technologies can be costly and require significant training.


The Australian Construction Industry Forum notes that tech adoption can improve efficiency by up to 15%, but the initial setup costs can be a barrier.



Economic Fluctuations


The construction industry is highly sensitive to economic cycles.


Economic downturns can lead to reduced demand for construction services, while booms can exacerbate labour shortages and increase material costs.


The 2008 financial crisis, for example, saw a significant contraction in construction activity worldwide.



Client Acquisition and Retention


Building a stable client base in a competitive market requires effective marketing, reputation management, and the ability to consistently deliver quality work on time and within budget.


Client retention is vital, as acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one.





Vital Questions for Potential Construction Business Owners


Before diving in, aspiring construction business owners should enquire about financial records, reasons for sale, lease terms, supplier and client relationships, and the current team's structure.

Understanding the business's daily operations, potential for growth, and the state of equipment and inventory is crucial to evaluating the opportunity correctly.


  1. "What detailed financial records from the last three years are available for review?"
    Analysing financial records, including profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, provides insight into the business's financial health, profitability trends, and any potential financial risks.


  1. "How does your company adjust its operations to meet seasonal variations in cashflow?"
    Understanding how the business manages cash flow during different seasons can provide insight into its financial resilience and operational flexibility.
    Review cash flow statements and ask for strategies the company employs during lean periods.


  1. "What initiatives has your business taken to improve its profitability?"
    Knowing the steps taken to enhance profitability, such as cost-cutting measures, operational improvements, or strategic investments, can indicate the business's potential for sustainable growth.
    Request documentation or examples of these initiatives.


  1. "How easily can your business expand and curtail its operations in response to changing market conditions?"
    Assessing the flexibility of the business to scale operations up or down in response to market fluctuations helps determine its adaptability and resilience.
    Discuss past instances where the business adjusted its scale and the outcomes.


  1. "How can your business compete for contracts without relying solely on price competition?"
    Understanding the competitive strategies beyond pricing, such as unique services, quality standards, or customer relationships, can highlight the business's strengths.
    Ask for examples of how these strategies have been successfully implemented.


  1. "What is the reason for selling the business?"
    Understanding why the current owner is selling can reveal potential challenges within the business or the industry.
    It might also indicate if the sale is due to personal reasons, which could mean the business is still a viable opportunity.


  1. "Could the terms of the current lease, including duration, costs, and conditions, be detailed?"
    The lease terms affect the business's future operational costs and stability.
    Knowing the duration, costs, and any restrictions is crucial for long-term planning and financial forecasting.


  1. "Are there existing supplier and client relationships, and can details be provided?"
    Supplier and client relationships are critical to a construction business's smooth operation and reputation.
    Strong, established relationships can provide a competitive advantage and ensure steady work and supply chains.


  1. "What is the structure of the current staff, including their roles and any existing employment contracts?"
    The team's composition, experience, and morale are pivotal to the business's success.
    Understanding staff roles and any contractual obligations helps assess the business's operational efficiency and potential staff costs or issues.

  2. "Who makes up the business's customer base, and what is known about their loyalty?"
    A loyal and diverse customer base reduces business risks and enhances growth prospects.
    This question aims to gauge market penetration, customer satisfaction, and repeat business potential.


  1. "What does a typical day of operations look like, including peak times?"
    Insight into daily operations helps assess the business's complexity, efficiency, and potential bottlenecks.
    It's also indicative of the workload, staffing requirements, and operational challenges.


  1. "What growth potential does the business have, and are there any expansion plans?"
    Understanding the business's growth potential and any existing expansion plans can help evaluate its future profitability and investment needs.
    It indicates the business's market position and potential for scalability.

  2. "How are the condition and ownership of the equipment and inventory managed?"
    The state of equipment and inventory affects the immediate operational capacity and potential additional investments.
    Knowing the age, condition, and ownership of these assets can influence the valuation and operation start-up smoothness.




Navigating the construction industry opens up a realm of opportunity, not just for financial gain but for playing a pivotal role in shaping Australia's future. 


This sector offers more than just the chance to build; it's about crafting legacies, driving growth, and making tangible contributions to the community and the country's infrastructure. 


Ready to explore the possibilities that await in the construction industry?

Dive into the world of construction businesses and uncover the opportunity that resonates with your vision for success.

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