How to choose the right builder
When building a new home or undertaking a renovation, the most important decision you’ll make is picking the right builder. Choose well and the builder will bring your dream home to life, settle for less and you may regret it for years to come.
Where to start
Brian Seidler, Master Builders Association NSW executive director, stresses how important it is to spend time doing research when selecting the right builder for a home building or renovation project.
“We recommend you go to three builders to get quotes, either through a formal tender process or engaging a reputable building broker who will do this for you,” he recommends.
Seidler says the best way to find the right builder is to have a clear and succinct scope of works, including specification of materials.
“What builders want is detailed information about what has to be done. This is the most important thing for them to be able to accurately quote work and price. For example, engineering details and specifications for the concrete slab or footings are needed. An extra centimetre or two in thickness, or a different type of waterproofing product and process can add a significant chunk to the bottom line.”
Seidler also suggests going to the NSW Fair Trading website to see what information it has about your preferred builder. “See whether your builder has a licence to do home warranty work, that’s anything over $20,000. And whether they have any black marks, or a pattern of disputes with clients.”
Homeowner Robert Pietsch backs this advice. “Do your searches and check that they haven’t had any financial issues or that there have been any problems with sub-contractors.”
What to look for
David Bare, Housing Industry Association NSW executive director, agrees due diligence is imperative and starts with researching a builder’s past work.
“Experience makes all the difference. Renovators should find out how and when the contractor got into business and how long the company has been around.”
Also, get a clear picture of the services the builder offers. “Every contractor will provide a specific range of services. Some will include design and engineering services, while others will work with independent designers and engineers. A clear understanding of what services the contractor can provide and how they interact is essential,” says Bare.
Additionally, ask for evidence the builder has done similar jobs in the past. Some contractors specialise in certain areas such as roof repairs or kitchen renovations. Others offer more general renovation services and can handle a wide range of projects.
“There’s a big difference between new house constructions and renovations to existing structures, they’re two completely different projects. It is important to know that a contractor has experience with projects similar to the one you want to embark on – ask what sort of projects they have completed in the last year or two and how similar they are to yours,” says Bare.
Homeowners should ask for a list of past customers and make sure to conduct thorough due diligence. Pietsch says: “Do a lot of research. Make sure you are able to talk to the people who have used the builder before, don’t just look at the projects they’ve completed,”.
Be clear on the details
Bare says what’s included and what’s not are the main points renovators should check in building contracts.
“It’s really important to understand what’s excluded to avoid surprises down the track. Check the written quote and the plans match and they also match the contract, because sometimes there can be discrepancies,” he says.
Ensure there is a written contract in place and a written warranty that spells out what is covered and for how long. It’s essential the builder holds workers’ compensation and liability insurance and professional contractors should be able to provide proof of these insurances.
Seidler says: “As a compulsory insurance policy that is only accessible to eligible builders, it’s another safeguard to add to your checklist to help you make your decision.”
Resolving a dispute
While it’s important to check the fine print, he says if renovators are relying on the fine print in a contract, something has gone very wrong.
If a dispute does arise, open and early communication is essential. “Try talking it over with the builder and seeing if a resolution can be achieved. If that avenue doesn’t work, then involving a third party to help mediate the process might be necessary.”
Bare explains it’s important to have mechanisms in the job’s contract to deal with disputes. “If a dispute arises it should be dealt with quickly to make sure it doesn’t lead to delays, which would cause further frustration. The parties should record the outcome of any dispute in writing.”
The message to those with aspirations to begin a building project is to do your homework, check references and ensure a solid contract is in place to protect both parties and ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible.
Source: SMH.COM.AU | How to choose the right builder