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5 tips for choosing the right builder saving you from heartache later

November 1, 2017

You’ve finally decided that you want to build your dream property. You have your plans in hand and you are ready to go. Congratulations!

Of course, selecting which taps or paint colours are important decisions, but one of the most important decisions when you build a new property is selecting the builder. There is nothing worse than having a frustrating experience to build your dream - turning your dream into a nightmare.

In this blog post, we give you five tips to help you choose the right builder. Plus, download our checklist to help you choose the right builder.

Tip 1: Check Qualifications

It is critical that you check your builder holds a current license. This is pretty easy to do by visiting the Service NSW website and entering in the builder’s details.

This works well when your builder will be doing the actual work on your property. But what happens if the builder plans to farm out the entire project to sub-contractors? Or what if they plan on using an inexperienced project manager on site? Make sure your builder is willing to commit in writing to only using licenced and experienced trades on your project and that they will be supervised properly. This provides you peace of mind that work will be completed to comply with the Building Code.

You should also check that your builder is a current member of an industry association like Master Builders Association or HIA. These associations help ensure their members are kept up to date with changes in regulations, training and latest trends.

Tip 2: Check Experience and Quality

Once you have checked the builder is licenced, you then want to check that they have sufficient experience and have a high standard of quality.

Find out how long they have been in business. The ATO statistics show that only 47% of businesses will survive to the end of their first 3 years. So you want to make sure you pick a builder who can not only get past the planning stage for your project and the build but will also be there for any rectification works. The ATO also reports that only a third of businesses will make it past 10 years. This means you should look at builders many years in their business demonstrating they have good business sense and are in it for the long haul.

The next questions should be around what sort of work has the builder done in the past. For example, you want to build a set of townhouses but the builder only has experience in putting together granny flats kits that don’t need council approval. You really would need to question if they are able to undertake the project you want to do with their experience.

Then, check for the quality of their work. Look for online reviews and ask for testimonials from previous clients. Ask to see finished project examples. Does the builder seem professional? Are they dressed neatly? Do they have a website? These are all keys to understanding the level of standards the builder has and how they will deliver your project.

Tip 3: Check Insurance

Insurance will protect you and the builder if something goes wrong. There are many types of insurance. As a minimum, they must have Public Liability and Workers Compensationinsurance. While not compulsory, it is advisable that the builder also holds Contracts Insuranceto cover any damage or theft on your project site.

If the project value is over $20,000, Home Building Compensation Fund is required and covers you if the builder is unable to complete the work under certain circumstances. This insurance is issued in your name and is calculated based on your project’s value.

If you are renovating or extending a house you already have, make sure to contact your insurance provider to let them know in writing. Find out what changes you need to make to your home and contents policy.

Tip 4: Compare Quotes

Always provide your prospective builder a detailed scope and schedule of fixtures and finishes. This ensures you are both on the same page for what is to be delivered.

Often the advice is to get at least three quotes – but five quotes will help you get a better idea of the market pricing with usually a grouping of prices in the median range. Make sure all the quotes are for the same work – ie all the exclusions and inclusions are exactly the same and the scope detail matches what you asked for. The builder who quotes accurately will often be more expensive up front.

Beware of the really cheap “too good to be true” quotes. They are often hiding costly variations which will surprise you after you start the project with extras tacked on. Or maybe to reach the cheapest price, the builder will cut corners using unskilled labour, cheap materials or reduced scope detail. All of this results in poor quality work, faults, rectifications, extended timelines and frustrations. Just remember, what seems cheap can turn out to be more expensive with extra headaches you don’t need.

Ensure the warranty the builder is offering is long enough to make sure they will fix any defects found after a reasonable amount of time. Check the materials on the quote match your schedule of finishes as often cheap materials have shorter warranty periods, or even worse, no warranty at all.

Tip 5: Communication and Rapport

Lastly, you want to make sure you can work easily with the builder. It’s likely you will need to work with this person for around 12 months so it is important you feel you can trust them and you are comfortable around them.

Communication is usually a major downfall of projects. You need a builder who can communicate clearly not only with you, but also with their suppliers and their team.

Communication issues can cause delays and frustration. Does the quote look professional? Is it clearly laid out? Are email exchanges clear? You can also ask to see samples of project documentation, like meeting schedules, to see what level of detail the written documentation goes into. Remember, clear communication and high levels of detail leave less room for misinterpretation and leads to a smoother delivery.

What to do now

Building is expensive but having the wrong builder can really blow out your costs. You want to make sure the builder you select is trustworthy and easy to communicate with while also being able to run your project on time and within budget. Download our handy checklist to help you select the right builder for your project.