One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when it comes to building a new house is choosing a builder. This is literally the team that will be putting your home together, so it’s not a step you want to take any shortcuts with. While there’s no such thing as a completely hassle-free project, the right builder makes all the difference in your build, whether it is an investment property or your forever home. With all that in mind, let’s have a look at our Choosing a Builder Checklist, and run through all the things you should consider before choosing someone to build your dream home.
Review the Builder’s Reputation
Not everyone in the building industry is equal. Some questions to ask a potential builder includes:
- Do they have a valid Builders Licence?
- How many years have they been in business?
- Do they have an Australian Credit Licence Number?
We also recommend checking their record through the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC). By performing a license search, you can see if your builder has any infractions or infringement notices and whether they’ve been legally required to rectify any shoddy work. To find out more about using the QBCC website and how the system works, click here. Another way to find out about a builder’s history is to chat with a building broker like Buildi. We have our finger on the pulse of the building industry, and know which builders are on the up and up, and which have a few skeletons in their closet.
You can also check the websites of the Housing industry association or Master Builders association to investigate builders in your area.
It’s also essential to research what a home builder specialises in. For example, Joe Blow Homes may build the best acreage houses in the state, but is that really going to help you if you’re after a split-level home? While a builder may be willing to work outside their comfort zone, we’d ask why would you choose this over a builder who does specialise in your ideal home design. Do you really want your forever home to be their first attempt? Like the first pancake you make in a batch, their first attempt at a home design probably won’t be their best.
Get clear on the fees & inclusions
When visiting a display home, it’s natural to assume that what you see is what you’ll get when you purchase a house. Unfortunately, this isn’t actually the case, or more precisely, not everything on display will be a standard inclusion. It’s not surprising then that so many people are confused about what is and isn’t included. Add on top of that the fact the quality of your inclusions won’t be immediately apparent, and you’ll need to lie down on the couch that isn’t included with the house.
Keep in mind that advertised prices are often the bare minimum and don’t include things like soil tests, landscaping and many inclusions. For the purposes of financial planning, you need to have an accurate idea of what is included in your contract and what additional costs you’re likely to incur.
There’s nothing wrong with being straight, upfront and open with your builder when it comes to talking about money. This is all part of the process and they should expect this from their customers. The biggest speedbumps people face during the building of their house tend to be finance related, so make sure you do your due diligence.
Ask for references
Good builders and contractors will have no qualms about sharing references for you to contact. When you meet or talk to the reference, it’s time to bust out the interviewing skills. Ask what they liked or didn’t like about the builder. If they love the builder, ask them to elaborate on their experience and their completed new home.
Don’t be afraid to do your own research and look up impartial reviews, or speak to other advisors. A good starting point is looking up impartial sources like Buildi, to see what they have to say about a builder.
When it comes to reading online reviews, try to read between the lines and find detailed summaries. Studies have also shown that we tend to take overly negative reviews more seriously than overly positive ones, despite neither extreme necessarily being more reliable. With that in mind, try to gauge how reliable a reviewer is and read multiple sources. Look for re-occurring patterns. For example, if multiple people are saying a builder constantly has delays, it is worth making a note of.
Building a house is a huge project and things will go wrong from time to time. A review that talk about how a builder dealt with a problem honestly and effectively is probably worth more than a glowing review where everything goes perfectly.
While we don’t want to rain on your parade, we recommend to keep that old saying in mind: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
Verify qualifications & memberships
Building a house is one of the biggest projects you’ll ever undertake, so the last thing you want to sign up to a dodgy builder, or worse, someone who isn’t qualified at all. There’s nothing wrong with asking to see a builder’s qualifications, and any reputable builder will be happy to provide these details. If they’re reluctant, consider it a red flag.
Be sure to make sure your builder is registered by checking with the Housing Industry Association, or the Master Builders of Australia. While it may sound paranoid, it’s simply you performing your due diligence. Wouldn’t you rather check and find out you were worried about nothing than not check and later find out you signed up with a crook?
It’s also worth checking if all subcontractors the builder offer to use are also licensed and reliable as well.
Get multiple quotes & compare prices
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to builders, so it is definitely worth investigating the difference in regards to price, service and quality materials.
When comparing builders, make sure you’re comparing apples with apples. Make sure both potential deals are both entry-level, or both luxury to get an accurate read on the builder’s value. Also, keep in mind a cheaper price isn’t necessarily the same as value for money. It’s worth paying more initially if it means a more durable, quality product.
Visit previous home builds
Have your potential builder provide you with a portfolio of their previous projects, but you may be able to visit a display home to get an idea of what their houses look like up close. No matter how nice a portfolio or display home is, though, keep in mind the builder will be putting their best foot forward, so it may not provide a full picture. Nevertheless, it can still be useful as a means of gauging a builder’s style and how their layout’s look off the page.
Ask about their handover process
The handover process often includes a variation of the following checklist:
- A House Clean
- Practical Completion Inspection (or PCI)
- Site Clean
- Practical Completion Inspection 2 (or PCI2)
The best way to find out what a home builder does during the handover process is to ask.
Ask about their construction timeline and willingness to commit to a timetable
Most builders will have some sort of estimated timeframe in which they can build your home. When talking to the builder, ask how long they expect the build to take, and if they have other jobs that will interfere with your deadline. Furthermore, how many extra costs will go up with an extended deadline (any delay will cost you)? Also, find out when they can really start your build. Especially post-pandemic, there has been a knock-on effect from the last two years that may influence the building of your home.
Ask about Insurance, Guarantees & Warranties
Every building contract should at the very least define:
- Upgrade to be made
- date of completion
- payment terms
- recourse for both parties
It is your builder or principal contractor’s responsibility to take out home warranty insurance on behalf of their clients. This makes sure the home owner is protected against any defective or incomplete building work.
Ask about the Payment Structure
Having an idea of your budget and finances is critical to ensuring everything runs smoothly during your build. This includes discussing the payment structures and understanding when each payment will be due.
To provide you with an idea of what to expect with progress payments, here is an example of a standard payment structure:
- The initial deposit: 5%
- The slab stage: 15%
- Frame Stage: 20%
- Lock-up Stage: 20%
- Fit-out or fixing stage: 30%
- Practical completion stage: 10%
Your builder should run down their specific payment plan with you. It’s important to know exactly what the plan is for both home loan reasons and to avoid a massive headache down the line.
Choosing a builder is a daunting task for anyone. At Buildi we take your project to the builders and have them compete for your business. We’ll then bring back the best options for your building project, allowing you to choose. We understand industry jargon and help with any communication To discuss how we can help you with everything from soil tests to attending site meetings to seeing your finished project house and land packages.
We vet & pick the best builder for your project – free of charge!
How We Can Help You
Building a home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life. At Buildi, we’ll be there throughout the entire building process, guiding you step by step so you can avoid any pitfalls. We will help you by following these steps.
- Free Consultation – We will sit with you to understand what you are looking to accomplish.
- Due Diligence – We work with you to ensure you’re buying the right block of land at the right price without hidden problems.
- Builders tender – We will take your requirements out to the market of builders and they will bid to win your business.
- Present solutions – We will compile the top 3 options and present you with a comprehensive proposal on builders’ strengths & weaknesses along with prices and specifications.
- Contract Signing – We will work with you and your selected builder to ensure there is full transparency in what you are entering into.
- Building your home – We work closely with the builder to ensure all service levels are met and your project is on schedule.