If you’re planning to build or renovate a property, a great builder is crucial. In addition to delivering high quality work, the best builders will guide you through the whole process. They should also help take some of the stress out the situation by setting clear expectations and updating you regularly. So how do you choose a builder for a renovation? What should you be looking for and what questions should you ask? And, once you believe you’ve found the right one, how do you formalise that arrangement?
Tip 1: Start by seeking recommendations
If you’re looking for a builder, it’s best to start close to home. Chances are that you know someone that’s recently built or renovated – ask them about who they used and how the project went. Also ask friends and family if they know of anyone that’s had a great experience with a builder.
If you’re working with a professional designer (e.g. an architect), they should also be able to recommend someone suitable. In fact, many design firms have a stable of builders they work with regularly. These companies have an established relationship with your designer, which could make things easier down the track, if issues arise.
Online reviews can also provide a wealth of information when choosing a builder. Obviously, some will need to be taken with a grain of salt, but consistent comments are usually a good indication of performance. Previous client reviews can be particularly useful if you’re struggling to chose between a couple of shortlisted companies.
One final word of caution – beware of choosing friends of friends. Often this ends badly, and it can negatively impact both your project and your friendships. If you insist on working with someone you know, make sure everything is agreed and documented upfront (more on that below).
Tip 2: Make sure they are suitably qualified and experienced
When picking a builder, it’s important to do your homework. You should look into the builder’s previous work and make sure they are able to deliver the results you’re after. You should also look into the history and stability of the company itself.
Most importantly, you should make sure that they are properly licensed and accredited. Building companies need to meet certain requirements to be legally allowed to take on building and construction work. You can usually check if a builder is licensed online – like via Service NSW if you’re in NSW.
You should also make sure that any builder you’re considering working with is appropriately insured. At a minimum, they should have Public Liability coverage and certify the job with the Home Building Compensation Fund. This will help make sure you are adequately covered if any major issues arise.
Some companies offer further detailed searches for your builder at a cost – we recently discovered Always Check Your Builder.
With regard to their practical skills, try to find a builder with experience in projects similar to yours. To confirm this, ask to see a portfolio of their previous work. This is particularly important if you are planning to use any unique or unusual design features, techniques, or materials.
Tip 3: Focus on value for money, not cost
Generally speaking, you largely get what you pay for with a builder. While some companies offer cheaper services, these generally come at the cost of quality and experience. As such, when picking a builder, it’s best to focus on what you get for the price, rather than the price itself.
Exactly what the best value for money looks like will depend on the nature of your project. You should also consider what’s important to you, as there may be things you can compromise on to save money. For example, if you’re not on a tight timeline, being a little flexible with your schedule could bring the cost down.
When reviewing any quote, pay close attention to what’s included. While most builders will include all expected costs, some may quote based on the minimum requirements. This will make them appear more affordable initially, but could end up costing you more in the long run.
You should also take a careful look at the financial situation of any builder you’re considering. Specifically, you want to know that they have more than enough cash on hand to make it through your build. If not, you could be left high and dry when the company goes bust part way through the project.
Tip 4: Make sure all expectations are clearly documented
Once you’ve chosen your builder, it’s time to formalise the arrangement. It’s critical that this is done before work begins and that the contract clearly outlines what’s been agreed.
As part of this, you should consider providing the builder with a tender package. This explains exactly what the project involves and helps them put together a detailed proposal and quote. It also allows you to clearly explain your vision and outline your expectations.
Generally speaking, a tender package usually includes three key things:
- A scope of work: This defines exactly what it is you need the builder to do. It also details any other tradespeople that will be working on the project and how everyone will work together.
- Building plans: These are the documents that describe how work needs to be completed. Depending on the project, it could include everything from engineering documents to soil test and land management reports.
- A schedule of materials: This outlines everything that’s required to complete the work. This should be as detailed as possible and include information on the finishings and fixtures you want.
Providing all of these details upfront will give your builder a clear picture of the end result you’re after. It will also allow them to provide as accurate a quote as possible and should help you avoid unexpected costs. And, once you proceed to contract, all of this detail can be built into the legal documents.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of builders will have their own contracts. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it’s always worth having it looked over by a legal professional. After all, there’s a lot of money on the line, so you want to know what you’re signing up for.
Want more information?
If you’re planning to build or renovate, and are worried about picking a builder, give Local Agency Co. a call. Over decades in the real estate industry, we’ve worked with many clients undertaking such projects. Through this we’ve learnt many lessons about what to do and what to look out for and are happy to discuss this further with you.