Building and renovating is not something that we do very often, so it goes without saying that choosing a builder can be a tricky decision with significant consequences if you get it wrong.

Building your new home may be one of the biggest investments you make in a lifetime, so you are right in doing your research first so that you can do it right. The Waterfront Homes team have compiled the seven top mistakes to avoid when choosing you builder, to ensure that your build is stress free build and eliminate budget blow outs.

1. Not doing your research

Don’t be shy about asking. In Australia, builders must be registered with the Building Practitioners Board to carry out work worth more than $5000, all states have a search capability on their website so you can check the builder’s registration.

Ask for references and then talk to them.  Ask questions like:

  • Did the builder stay on budget?
  • Was the builder helpful with materials, finishes, recommendations?
  • Did the builder stay within the projected completion time range?
  • Did the builder return calls quickly?
  • When problems arose, how quickly was the builder able to respond to them satisfactorily?

 2. Choosing the wrong kind of builder

Quite simply, if you are extending or renovating you should only be talking to builders who are experienced in extensions and renovations, and, if you are building a new home you should only be talking to builders who are experienced in new homes.

For instance, some builders are expert craftsmen.  Everything they do is on the custom level.   If you are looking for a lot of detailed woodwork, you might be better suited to a builder who either, 1) does it himself and stakes his reputation on it, or 2) has his own skilled people doing the work, rather than subbing the work out to (possibly) the lowest bidder.

Some builders offer a much more streamlined approach to building your home, which will save you time and may save you money.  Of course you may not have the full ‘custom’ approach to every detail in the house, but do you really want to be picking out every last little thing on your house?

 3. Not getting comprehensive quotes

Far too many people choose a builder based on quotes that have a lot of important items missing and that are not transparent. No matter how detailed and exhaustive the drawings may appear, there will generally be a lot of things missing from the drawings that the builder needs to prepare a comprehensive quote.

If the builders have only been provided with plans to prepare their quote there is a high likelihood that there will be a lot of important items missing from the quote and a very high likelihood that will lead to additional costs and potential conflict with the builder. To avoid this you should always issue the builders with a comprehensive Inclusions Schedule as well as the drawings, this guarantees that the quotes you receive will be far more thorough and transparent, making it much easier for everyone involved to compare ‘apples with apples’

4. Assuming that the cheapest quote is the right price

It is only natural to be drawn to the quote that will save you some money, but if that quote is significantly cheaper than the other quotes then you should be very careful before you select that builder. A grouping of similar quotes should be giving you some clues as to what the right price is to complete the project. Selecting a builder that has given a quote that is significantly less than other quotes may lead to future issues if in fact the builder has made an error with the quote. The last thing you want is for the builder to take shortcuts and charge for variations down the track.

5. Not understanding jargon in the quote

There are a couple of terms that you absolutely must understand when assessing quotes. If you don’t, you will be exposed to a higher risk of additional costs during construction and your budget blowing out. There are two key terms that will be critical in your assessment of quotes.

For example, when you see ‘Prime Cost’ items and ‘Provisional Sums’ noted you need to understand that they are allowances only and whilst the builder has a responsibility to include figures that are realistic, there is also a huge range in the cost of many items that could be considered realistic.

You should be particularly alert if a quote has a lot of Provisional Sums in it, as Provisional Sums are sometimes used to make a quote look competitive when in fact it may actually be very deceptive.

6. Not knowing what is excluded from the quote

One of the best ways to clarify what is included in the quote is to ask the builder to confirm what is excluded from the quote. A bit like reverse engineering, it is a great way to unearth any of those items that may have been assumed by either party are either included or excluded. Lighting, for example, often creates confusion and ends in disagreement if it is not made clear at the outset. A builder may quote for lights, however that will often only include the batten fitting (globe holder) and no light fittings, whereas the client is probably expecting that light fittings are included.

7. Not choosing a builder you like and trust

Signing with a builder is a big commitment.  If you discover halfway through the construction of your new home that you don’t like your builder, or he is too busy to ever get back to you, it is a difficult mistake to undo.  If everything else checks out with the builder, go with your instincts.  Do you feel you can trust him?  Do you think you will enjoy working with this builder/firm for the next 6 months or so?

If not, find someone else before it’s too late.  Don’t cheat yourself of the fun and excitement that comes with building a home by making a poor choice of builder.

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