Before you decide on the home you want to build, you need to decide which builder is right for you.
Which builder is going to produce the best value home, matched closely to how you want to live?
Building a home can be one of the most enjoyable things you ever do – designing and planning out the ideas you have and watching them evolve into bricks and mortar, seeing your future take shape right in front of your eyes.
It’s a lot of fun.
But whether the dream turns into a nightmare depends heavily on choosing the right builder.
You’ll be working closely with them for several months. You want to have any issues dealt with quickly and painlessly – so getting the right builder from the start will make a big difference.
And not just while the property is being built — but for many years to come.
There are a few key indicators when you’re shopping around for a builder. Get these right, and you will be on the path to a fun and rewarding building experience.
Sales consultant – are they with you from A-Z?
So, you’ve been introduced to a bubbly and wonderfully friendly sales consultant who is more than happy to accommodate all of your requests during the quoting process.
That’s great — but don’t forget that their job is to get you to sign on the dotted line!
The important question is — who will I deal with once I sign up?
If this consultant will be with you every step of the way, great. But often, there’s someone else in charge of the process after the initial sign up.
In some cases, all enquiries are handled via a contact centre — so be sure to ask, and if possible — meet the person who will look after you during the build.
After sales service
What is the ‘after-sales service’ procedure for the building company, and who would you be dealing with if there’s a problem down the track?
Unfortunately, there are some builders who are more inclined to dispute all complaints rather than taking the extra step to keep their customers happy. The best way to find this out is to speak with previous clients.
This is where online reviews can be handy — chances are, the builder won’t send you to visit an unhappy camper if you ask to see their previous work.
Technically, the builder is only required to fix work that doesn’t comply with building standards and regulations. However, a good builder will fix any issues that are fair and reasonable because they understand that word of mouth is their best marketing tool.
When choosing a builder, you need to know what you are getting for your money. This is what is referred to as ‘inclusions’ — what is in the building contract that you are going to get.
You have to make sure you are comparing apples with apples. One of your biggest challenges when comparing builders is getting a clear picture of what is included in the building price and what isn’t. When you see a cheaper advertised price you might not realise it doesn’t include a lot of things that the other, higher quotes you have seen do include. The end result is you find out later you have less of a house than you expected, and you have to spend more to finish it to the level you want.
|Air conditioning||Light fittings|
|Colour choice||Outdoor lighting|
|Council approvals||Painting – internal and external|
|Double power points||Retaining walls|
|Driveway||Security screen doors|
|Ducted vacuum system||Smart wiring|
|Eaves||Soak wells and drainage|
|Flooring – carpets, wood Floors||TV points|
|Kitchen appliances||Wall and ceiling insulation|
Above is a starting list of just some of the things which may or may not be included in your building price. Even if they are all included in all the contracts you are comparing, it’s also very important to note that there are obviously wide differences in the type and quality of each of these items. Are you getting security screen doors or just flyscreen doors, is it a high end dishwasher or a cheap model?
Take the time to go through this and make sure you are getting value for money.
Delivery time guarantees
Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details and read some fine print. What sort of guarantee does the builder offer you regarding delivery times?
Most builders will allow a buffer for issues that invariably come up along the way, or bad weather — but make sure you don’t leave yourself exposed to long unexpected waits.
This is particularly important if you’re selling another home, or renting elsewhere.
Ensure that there is some compensation for you if the building schedule blows out — you might need to pay for alternative accommodation depending on your circumstances.
Design and sales consultant — are they good to work with? Are they listening to you and turning your ideas into what you were expecting?
This is your home, so you want to be able to choose certain features to make it your own. Does the design/sales consultant listen to what you ask for and propose suitable solutions?
Some building companies are very accommodating and allow you to make significant changes to their sample designs. Others require you to choose from a range of locked-in designs with little scope to negotiate or change things along the way. Of course, you only get what you pay for.
If the consultant is not bringing your ideas to life in a proposed design, it might be worth looking around before you get too far involved.
After all, there’s no point going to all the effort if you still end up with someone else’s idea of their dream home.
Policies – what will they be like to work with during the build?
A great way to understand what you’re building experience might be like is to ask the builder some direct questions about their policies.
A few examples are:
- $ Can I choose the fixtures and fittings from anywhere, or is there a special supplier you use?
- $ Can I make changes after the construction has started?
- $ Are there any fees to vary the design?
- $ How long will the whole process take until handover? What will it say in the contract?
- $ Can I have the phone number of the site supervisor?
- $ Can I visit the site during construction?
- $ Who will be in contact with me during construction?
- $ At what stage do I choose the fixtures and fittings and how does this work?
- $ Do I need to provide my own interior designer, or is this part of the quote?
Some of these questions might seem basic, but the way that the builder answers these questions should give you a feel for what lies ahead during the building process!
Warranties & Insurances
All licensed builders are required to comply with regulatory and licensing requirements, and usually you will be covered by a Builders Warranty for any major defects in the first 7 years after construction.
One important question is though — what sort of insurance do you carry for the construction of the building?
Again, it’s expected that the builder will be responsible for the site and materials, but it pays to ask — have they insured the materials and construction against unexpected events — storm, fire etc.? Construction insurance is a must — it covers the cost of materials and labour to get the building back to the stage it was at before the incident.
Reviews & construction quality
Take some time to visit — not just the display homes, but also some homes currently under construction by your builder. Look for signs of quality and workmanship, and check out the quality of the materials and fittings that they used.
Although you probably won’t be allowed to climb all over the building site, you can learn quite a lot by ‘walking the dog’ past a construction site during the day. You might come up with some additional questions for the builder.
Ask if you can visit some recently completed homes, and also meet the owners. Builders put a lot of time into making sure their display homes are perfect, but the best way to find out whether this dedication to quality and excellence is always the case is to meet people who have just been through the process. If their clients are proud of their new homes, they will likely be more than happy to show it off and share their experiences with someone about to go down the same path.
Ask questions like:
- Would you recommend this builder to a family member or a friend?
- Would you build another house with them?
- Did any issues come up along the way? How were they resolved?
- Were you allowed to visit the site during construction?
- Who did you deal with during the build? Did they respond well to your calls and messages?
- How long did your build take? Was it completed on time? If not, what did the builder do for you?