Either way, there are many ways to make the right and wrong decisions when choosing a builder. We set out to provide you with 8 hot tips to ensure you choose the right builder.
1. Ask around
When choosing a builder, a good place to start is by asking any family and friends that have hired a builder to construct their home or renovation.
Be wary of going through friends of friends, these builders may feel like they’re “doing a favour” and, because of that, they may place a lower priority on your job and the build may take longer.
Listening to your architect’s suggestions is usually a great place to start. Building designers and architects work with the same trusted contractors who will do justice to their design.
2. Is the builder legit
No matter your project, it’s important that you choose a builder that is registered, licenced and insured.
Some builders’ licences or registrations may have simply expired. However, there are builders out there that have had their licences revoked and continue to operate in the building industry.
Regulators are historically slow at catching these dodgy builders so you have to be one step ahead. To get started, you can check to see if your builder is registered by asking the Housing Industry of Australia (HIA) or the Master Builders of Australia (MBA) for their list of members.
3. Do they have the Experience and skills required
Be wary if they only have experience in renovations and extensions, they may not be the right choice to build your home from start to finish and vice versa if they have only built residential properties in the past they may not necessarily have a good grasp of the complexities of extensions and renovations.
4. Portfolio and references
First of all, check out their previous jobs and, if possible, have a physical walk-through of a home they’ve built. Even consulting an engineer to walk through the property may be worth the cost if you’re serious about choosing the right builder.
Builders may be quick to offer you the contact details of a handful of selected clients but they may just offer a biased opinion.
It’s best to ask to speak with their most current clients, particularly those in the middle of the building stage.
You’ll likely get a more balanced opinion of the builder, specifically when it comes to communication and how efficient they are in the construction process.
5. How do I make sure I don’t get ripped off?
When you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on building or extending a property, you’ll want to do your homework.
First of all, building plans can provide a good overview of the construction job but they don’t provide a complete breakdown. We suggest putting together a detailed ‘tender package’ which should clearly outline:
- The scope of the work: This is typically an outline of the work required by the builder. Remember to make clear if you’ll be contracting to a third-party tradesman for parts of the build or if you are planning to do some of the work yourself.
- The building plan: This should include engineering documents and soil tests. Your builder needs to know exactly what’s involved and what you actually want to see in your completed home. This will also help them to figure out the total costs of material and labour as well as the timeframe for completion.
- The building schedule: The materials, fittings and fixtures you want for the house. Be as detailed as possible to avoid a cost blowout.
With a tender package, the builder knows exactly what the job entails and your expectations of the finished product.
When they come back to you with a quote, make sure it’s clearly itemised with the materials and labour involved in all stages of construction.
Once you have an itemised quote, you can then compare quotes with other licenced builders by going through the same process. In this way, you’re comparing apples with apples. We suggest getting 3-5 different quotes to compare but remember that you don’t want a builder to cut corners and sacrifice quality just so you can get a cheaper price.
6. Do you have any idea what they’re talking about?
It’s a fair question, especially if you’re not a handyman or tradesman.
Builders tend to use a lot of industry jargon and abbreviations that you may not understand so it’s important to clarify what they’re talking about or look it up yourself.
The last thing you want to do is say yes to something expensive that you didn’t ask for! Or on the flipside not have something included that you thought would be.
The following items are often excluded from the initial construction costs. Therefore, it’s important to clarify this early on before you sign the building contract:
- Garage doors.
- Fencing and landscaping.
- Hot water and gas supply.
- Light fittings.
- The number and location of power points.
- Window locks.
- Roof insulation.
7. Do you know who you’re dealing with?
So you’ve done your due diligence on choosing a builder, they’ve given you a fair quote and you’re ready to proceed.
By this point, you’ve probably built a good rapport with them but keep in mind that they may not necessarily be the person constructing your home or extension.
A building company may have a number of different contractors on their books so you may want to make it a condition of the contract that you select the builder.
8. Don’t sign the building contract until you’re ready
It’s important to get legal advice whenever signing a building contract to ensure that the contract is in your best interests.
Any small changes to the contract can actually cause you major headaches when it comes to getting approved for a construction loan and drawing down your progress payments for the build.
Consider the following:
- What warranties can they offer you?
- Do they offer termite prevention? It may cost you in the short-term but it’ll likely save you thousands over the long-term
- The contract should include the fully itemised list of quotes that you agreed upon initially.
- Make it clear that you should be made aware of any changes to the building schedule that may need to be made during construction. It may be that certain materials will need to be substituted in order to stay within your budget. If you haven’t made this clear, the builder may use fixtures and fittings that will cost you more than you can afford.
- It should include the construction start date, key construction stages (where you’ll need to make progress payments on your construction loan) and the completion date.
You can check out the NSW Fair Trading website for information on building contracts.