If it were as simple as walking into a shop and choosing a new home design and builder just by looking at what is on the shelf, our lives would be much simpler wouldn’t they!
But unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.
If, like me, you’ve walked through dozens of display homes you’re probably a little mystified at how to choose the right home builder for you.
When I launched Your Building Broker I was determined to make things easier for clients by selecting a smaller pool of home builders to choose from. Too much choice often leads to analysis paralysis (which is probably another blog post in and of itself).
These builders would all meet certain performance criteria which I broke into 3 parts;
1. Building and Construction Quality
First of all, I couldn’t bring myself to endorse a home builder who I knew only builds to the bare minimum standards required by the BCA (Building Code of Australia). Now the closer we come to getting a competitive price, the closer to the minimum standard we come.
For a first home buyer looking to get a roof over their heads – price is everything. Building to that minimum standard is reasonably expected. However, the majority of our clients are spending over half a million dollars. We want to use builders who go that little bit further to ensure their work is fantastic.
I personally inspect homes under construction, completed display homes and many others just to stay abreast of what is going on in the market. So much so I started a blog here much to the angst of many builders 🙂
So, the first requirement to be a builder nominated by Your Building Broker is to build excellent quality homes.
2. The Builder Must Be Service-Centric
I’ve worked with many builders over my career and I often relay this story to customers;
In the case when a client was unhappy, ABC builder would argue with them that the work met with the minimum requirements of the BCA – and would go to the building disputes tribunal to fight them on the issue and to avoid any rectification work. Another however (XYZ builder), would instead weigh up the importance of the complaint to the home owner. If they thought the complaint was fair and reasonable, they would fix the work – regardless of whether it met the BCA standard.
That’s right – XYZ builder would redo the work, even when it complied to the required building standards.
What I realised over the years is, both builders are probably spending the same amount of money. ABC builder is spending the money to fight the owner but XYZ builder is spending the money to make the client happy.
I know which builder I would prefer to work with. And so those builders who are XYZ builders, get added to our shortlist.
3. The Builder Must Be Reasonably Priced (Price isn’t everything – but it’s an important factor)
Within the first 6 months of me launching this company I met with a lot of builders. Some large and some small. But I had one meeting with a General Manager that I had known for years. It was a good meeting and in fact, it seemed like he was still mentoring me as he had done early on in my career. I have a lot of respect for his ability as a GM and his philosophy on building.
However, I left that meeting severely disappointed. He asked if he were to be included in our tender process, who he might be quoting against. I willingly gave him a few names of builders who would be in the mix.
At that point he declared “We just won’t win any work. There’s no way we can come close to competing with them on price.”
It was a shame, because even though that company met the above two minimum conditions, he was right. It would be rare for a client to choose them because of their price.
It’s definitely easier for me, being in the industry to know which builders meet the above criteria. As an outsider looking in? It’s much more difficult.
But here are my tips on you choosing the right builder for your new home;
- Visit their display home, but more importantly visit a couple of homes under construction. Builders who build displays put a lot of effort into making that home amazing. Some however, let the standards slip a little when it comes to their non-display homes.
- Get testimonials of past clients. Nothing quite beats this. Part of our qualification process (#2 above) is to call past clients and really discuss things in more detail. What was their service like? Did they give you any advice during the build process that saved you money? If something did go wrong, what was their approach to fix it? Were they flexible enough for you? Could you inspect the site often and did they mind? Did you get to meet the ceramic tiler on site before they started to clarify your tiling layout?
- Ask the builder about their policies. Here’s a few suggestions;
- Can you make changes while the home is under construction and would they refuse some variation requests?
- Are you limited in where you can select your fixtures and finishes? (Some builders have standard suppliers, which might be too restrictive for some clients).
- Do you charge variation fees? If so, how much?
- How long will it take to build my home from slab down to key handover? Will the building contract be reasonable close to that figure? Meaning – if they think your new 2 storey home will take 10-11 months to build, will the building contract say 12-13 months or will it still say 18 months?
- Am I given a construction key so I can inspect the home after lockup? Now, not many builders allow this, but when choosing a builder it’s a bonus if they do.
- Can I get the site supervisors phone number? Some companies won’t let you have it no matter what.
- Who will be our main point of contact?
- Do you provide an interior design service or do I need to source my own interior designer? A good interior designer can cost anywhere between $5,000 – $15,000. If a builder provides you with this service, it’s a great inclusion.
- Can I use your trades to finish my home, particularly the painter to paint the internal walls?
The above questions are just samples of the kinds of questions you should think about asking. We have builders on our list that allow all of these favourably, but some don’t allow everything.
So when it comes to choosing a builder – it’s important to note that price isn’t everything. If they’re cheap but they take a long time to build and give you nothing but heartache all the way through, you would have been far better off choosing a different builder.
That’s where we can help. We’ve done (and keep doing) the hard yards for you to make sure you can make the best building decision.