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Top 6 things to be on the lookout for in your home builder


When it comes to choosing the right home builder for your project, there are a few things that are essential to consider. You will want someone you can trust, who can partner with you to bring your vision for your new home to life, just as you want it.


Make the wrong choice in your new home builder and you will be likely to regret it for years to come – you could be stuck with major structural issues and costly repairs down the track. And every time you see the elements you are not happy with – which will likely be several times a day – you will be reminded that you wish you had chosen differently.


Here is our list of top 6 things to look out for when you are interviewing builders:


1. Do your due diligence

Make a list of your local builders, take a look at their online portfolio and tour some of the projects they have completed. Don’t forget to check their references, it will give you a good idea of the durability of their builds and the reliability of their approach. Then winnow your list down to the three top custom builders that meet your requirements best.


2. Don’t be surprised if the builder cannot start building your home straight away

Good custom builders are busy. They probably don’t need to advertise their services – you are more likely to find the best ones through your local HIA (Housing Industry Association), Licensed Trades or word of mouth.

Another option is to go online and research which professionals are currently winning industry awards.

You need to understand that the preliminary process of obtaining required plans, reports and permits takes time, anywhere from 3 to 6 months, depending on your chosen draftsman and your local council. That is why it is crucial to involve your builder in this process as early as possible, ideally before you start developing plans. Your builder should be able to suggest a draftsman/architect, that they already have a working relationship with, and would be able to facilitate the preparation of plans and guide you to make sure that you end up with the plans that will fit your dream and most importantly your budget.

You can expect to wait six months to a year before your build begins but it will be worth the wait.


3. Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions

Excellent builders should be happy to answer all your questions clearly from the first interview. You are making one of the most significant investments of your life, so you will want them to be transparent at every stage of the build. Things to ask include their building philosophy, relationships with previous clients and with their contractors likely to work on your build. What is their communication process during the build and will they respond to your queries promptly?

Make sure that you feel comfortable with your builder and their team, as you are building a long-term relationship. You want to feel happy through the whole process while they are working on the home of your dreams. Be wary of any builder who uses industry jargon to confuse you and to avoid answering your questions directly.


4. Be wary of builders who provide free quotes

Any builder can give you a free quote or estimate, however it takes a very long time to cost a build project properly, based on the client’s chosen materials, fittings and finishes. In most cases free quotes almost always end up costing the client more in Variations and Permit Amendment fees through the build.

An experienced custom home builder will never offer a general quote or estimate but will work with the client to ensure that every aspect of the build has been discussed and chosen prior the cost analysis begins so it has been costed accordingly to avoid any unpleasant surprises aka Variations.

A proper cost analysis takes on average 50 to 70 hours to prepare and involves a team of people like builder, estimator and subcontractors working together to create a detailed job schedule and Cost Analysis & Specification document.

That is why it is crucial that your builder works closely with you and guides you through the process to ensure that your dream of owning your home is achievable on your budget.


5. Show them exactly what you want

Once you have settled on a builder, it's time to share your vision with them. Give them detailed visuals that inspire you, being specific about what you like about them. Pinterest or scrapbook of your ideas is a great tool to help your builder understand your vision of your dream home. Every single visual will help to ensure that you and your builder are working towards the same end result. An experienced custom home builder will make suggestions of materials and products to ensure that you end up not just with pretty colors on the wall but with sound and visually pleasant structure also.


6. Make sure you understand what you are signing

Once you have received your Cost Analysis & Specifications document you would need to sign a building Contract. Remember that your bank would prefer an industry standard contract like the one provided by HIA. Always read all terms and conditions and ask your builder any questions that you might have. Any good custom home builder would be able to address any of your questions or concerns without using industry jargon.


A final reminder: when choosing a custom builder who you can trust, you should be looking for a partner that can realise your vision and work with you and your budget over an extended period with minimal fuss – if warning bells go off or you feel your outlook and personality don't match theirs, steer clear.