Choosing a builder

I am often asked how to choose a builder. It seems that the principal cause of confusion stems from the 'buy one, get one free' or self-promotional style of advertising. My response invariably begins with “you always get exactly what you pay for.”

The first piece of advice that I give is to ignore the attention grabbing advertising which promises to include the extraordinary, in the end it is going to be included in the price of the build in some shape or form.

Next, depending on the type and value of the home that is proposed, seek out builders who are experienced in the segment. For example there are project home builders who specialise in the first home owner segment, while others are custom builders who are more in tune with the second/third home owner market segment, or the luxury and aspirational end. 

Be sure that you gather images that reflect the look and feel that you want your home to have. This prepares you for your eventual meeting with your chosen builder and designer.

When you have narrowed the search and commence discussions with a building company representative, arrange to meet with the builder to see if you 'click'. If you do, ascertain the number of years of experience that the builder has had, and their day-to-day responsibilities in the business (check LinkedIn or other social media to glean more about the builders background, also check with the Building Commission ). It also is reasonable to ask to visit current or recently completed homes and speak to the owners. This is better than relying on display or show homes or online product review sites.

Building a new home is a very personal experience and in my opinion, similar to selecting your doctor, dentist or hairdresser. You must feel like you are in experienced hands.

From there, I would suggest the following steps:

1.    If you do not have a design, discuss with the builder who they use to design and review some examples of their work  to ensure that the aesthetic that you have in mind fits with the designers style. For luxury builds,  architects are sometimes preferred by clients. You should also note that if a builder produces a design that the ownership of the copyright remains the property of the builder.

2.    Once you are 100% happy with the design, specification and price, ensure that the contract documentation that is being proposed is a standard form (e.g. published by the Master Builders Association or the Housing Industry Association). Also, ensure that you are happy with the time allowed by the builder to construct your home. Be wary of rash promises.

3.    Before signing anything, ask to meet with the builder's supervisor to make sure that you are happy with their experience and approach. Check on how the supervisor intends to communicate the progress of the build to ensure that it meets with your expectations. 

4.    Enjoy the experience and do compliment your builder when you spot something that makes you happy.

Dario Amara FIEAust, CPEng, NER, APEC Engineer, IntPE(Aus) is a second-generation builder, experienced construction and engineering executive and chartered professional engineer with some 40 years' of industry experience.

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