The common mistakes that can cause heartache
Do you plan to build your own home? Perhaps you’re looking to renovate or extend your existing home.
Either way, there are many ways to make the right and wrong decisions when choosing a builder.
Get some advice
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 renovate.
Chances are you probably would have heard the stories, whether the experience was amazing or a nightmare.
Be wary of going through friends of friends because they may not necessarily be builders you can put a lot of faith in.
The builder may feel like they’re “doing someone a favor” and, because of that, they may place a lower priority on the job and take longer to start work.
Should I listen to my architect’s recommendations?
Building designers and architects often work with the same trusted contractors who they know will do justice to their designs. Their recommendation is usually a great place to start.
Is the builder legit?
Licenses and insurance
Whether you’re going through a home builder or you’re designing your own home or renovation works with help from an architect, it’s important that you choose a builder that is licensed, registered and insured.
You should be wary of builders that either refuse or don’t make it clear upfront that they are legally permitted to be involved in building and construction.
Some builders’ licenses or registrations may have simply expired or some may have had their licences revoked but are still involved in the building industry.
Regulators are historically slow at catching these dodgy builders so you have to be one step ahead.
As a minimum, they should have Public Liability Insurance and Home Building Compensation (HBC), formerly known as Home Warranty Insurance (HWI).
It is known as Domestic Building Insurance in Victoria.
Bear in mind that Home Building Compensation isn’t a requirement in Tasmania.
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.
You’ll also be able to find a list of builders that are licensed and insured from your state or territory’s relevant department of fair trading or consumer affairs.
Experience and skills
Really question whether they have the skills you need.
If they only have experience in renovations and extensions, they’re not the right choice for your home.
It’s also important to note that builders who have only built residential properties in the past may not necessarily have a good grasp of the complexities of extensions and renovations.
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.
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.
Put together a ‘tender package’ with help from your architect or building designer. In it, you should clearly detail:
The scope of the work: This is typically an outline of the work required by the builder. Make it clear if you’ll be contracting to a third-party tradesman for parts of the construction or if you have the skills, where you’ll be doing the work yourself.
The building plan: This should include engineering documents and soil tests. The builder needs to know exactly what’s involved and what you actually want to see in the completed home. It will also help them to figure out the total costs of material and labor 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 what you expect to see in the finished project.
When they come back to you with a quote, make sure it’s clearly itemized with the materials and labor involved in all stages of construction.
Once you have an itemized quote, you can then compare quotes with other licensed builders by going through the same tender process. In this way, you’re comparing apples with apples.
You’re likely to find massive price differences in the quotes you get but It may be that one builder is doing something extra that the other isn’t. If you’re in doubt, it’s good to check quotes with your architect.
Getting 3-5 different quotes is a good general rule but remember that you don’t want a builder to cut corners and sacrifice workmanship just so you can get a cheaper price.