How to choose the right builder for your custom home


If you’ve heard any building horror stories from friends, family or the media, and are worried about how to choose the right builder, please read on. The list of things that can go wrong is endless, so naturally you may be extremely wary about who to trust for your building work. If this decision is keeping you awake at night please read on for a bit of inside information on how to choose the right builder and minimise the risk of putting your family through unnecessary stress.


The absolute worst way to select a builder

I hear this so often: potential clients come to me with a pre-calculated budget. It is often an opinion from their designer/architect, or even just what they think they can afford, but if the numbers don’t add up, what can often happen is just to get the project off the ground; the homeowner is forced to look for the cheapest builder they can find. This typically involves getting large numbers of builders to quote (as many as 10-20), and if the prices don’t come in low enough, the homeowners go for Round 2 of quoting, where they select another batch of builders that they challenge to submit even lower quotes. This is the worst way to select a builder, as you are risking your family finances and home by ending up with a building nightmare. There will always be a cheaper builder, always! And when you find him, it’s your guess how it will end up. We have seen workmanship so shoddy that it makes us feel physically ill, we have had homeowners beg us to step in and fix defects, we have even witnessed family break-ups caused by the stress of dealing with a bad builder. If you can’t afford the building work to be done by a reputable builder, my advice is ‘Don’t do it!’ That’s right. It’s better to wait until you can afford to have it done properly, rather than getting caught up in a situation where the only choice you have is to take legal action. So read on for things to look out for.


The importance of a professional image

There are some clues that will help you with how to choose the right builder. You should consider the overall professionalism and experience of the builder and also the caliber of his tradesmen. If your builder was referred to you by a happy customer, exploreprofessional builder what made them refer the builder to you. A word of warning here: consider what may happen if you select a builder who is either a friend or family member and you have problems with the quality of work. We have seen family relationships strained if complaints arise, and we have also been involved with repairing poor quality work when it was just too difficult for the homeowner to complain without offending family members.If you have found a builder on the internet or business listing, it is often ‘gut instinct’ which will tell you which builder feels right. Things to look out for include;

-Professionally sign-written vehicles and uniforms with the company logo
-The presentation of the quote on company letterhead and a company website and email address
-Ensure the builder has experience with jobs similar to yours
-Does the builder appear confident and knowledgeable about his industry?
-Does this builder ask lots of questions make suggestions and show a genuine interest in your work?


Registration and associations

Don’t consider any builder who is not registered. If a builder isn’t registered, work may be stopped by the authorities at any time, leaving you with a partially completed home. A non-registered builder is not able to protect your home with the necessary insurance cover and therefore you will be liable for anything that goes wrong. Ensure that your builder is registered with the Building Practitioners Board. Ask for a copy of the registration certificate. You can also check the Victorian Building Authority website to see if there are any claims against the builder. Also check that they are members of either the Housing Industry Association or Master Builders Association, as these organisations concentrate on skill development of their members.


Know the facts about Builders’ Warranty Insurance

This warranty is not like a warranty for an appliance. Builders’ Warranty insurance will only come into affect if your builder refuses to fix inferior work, if he dies or becomes bankrupt. This insurance will not ‘save’ the situation if you have chosen a cheap builder and you are unhappy with their work. In fact our law currently states that a homeowner must give the original builder the right to repair any defects. When relationships turn sour between a builder and homeowner, often the last thing you want is to allow the builder into your home. That is why it is crucial to select the right builder at the beginning.


For your peace of mind, make sure you are insured

Does your chosen building company have Public Liability, Construction insurance and Workcover? It may end up costing you money if they don’t have, or aren’t eligible, for insurance and something doesn’t go to plan.


Knowing who you will be dealing with

You are going to be involved with this builder for many months, so make sure you feel comfortable with the builder. Ask if you will be dealing directly with the builder during the building period, or will you be assigned a Site Supervisor? Be clear on this, as with large building companies you may only deal with the builder initially, but once work commences you may never see him again. If personal contact and building a strong rapport is important to you, you may want to consider a builder who offers this as part of his service


Check out the builders’ team and customers

Does the builder have a professional team of experts to ensure a good quality job in a reasonable timeframe? Does this company have a proven track record for producing high quality work and if so, can you speak to past customers?


Clean site, happy site

Does the builder operate in a clean and environmentally responsible manner? Will your site be kept clean and safe during the building period? Regular site clean ups will cost your builder in labour and rubbish removal fees, and cheaper or inexperienced builders will often cut corners in this area, meaning your safety and comfort are usually compromised by an untidy site.

I hope these tips provide valuable information on how to choose the right builder, but if you would like to discuss any of these areas further, I would love to hear from you. Please call Colette on 03 9776 7101.

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