You’ve made the decision to build a new home and now you need to pick a builder. This is going to be your family home where you sleep, live and play and maybe even work – so you want to get it right. It’s critical that you take the time and do your research so that you pick the best builder and don’t end up hating every moment of your building experience.
Three vital steps are outlined below.
Learn about your choices. Visit display homes in your area, visit people’s homes that have just been built, Google building companies and ask everyone for their recommendations. Become that boring person that just talks building, building, building for the next few months – it’ll pay off from a research perspective and you’ll find out which of your friends really will put up with anything.
Whilst stalking other people’s homes and display homes, look at the quality of work, layout and plans, blocks of land, finishings, core materials used and locations. Don’t get dazzled by extravagant display homes. A recent display home we loved had a $100,000 pool and $40,000 entrance feature. If I was that rich I’d prefer to spend the money on a fabulous wardrobe. Actually no – I’d probably spend the rest of my life in a Balinese Villa not working and getting daily massages…
Seriously, display homes should give you an idea of what you might be able to do, not lure you into debt.
Start compiling a list of requirements. What do you like, what don’t you like. It’s just as important to create a NO list. Collect pictures on Instagram, take photos of things you like, read home magazines and put together a hard copy or electronic ‘look book’ covering what you like for facades, plans and interior décor. This helps you or your partner (or other investor) to be clear, visually, so that you are both on the same page and helps formulate your requirements to hand over to the builder you eventually choose.
Research what type of builder. Do you want to make every inch of the house reflect your personality so you are entirely unforgettable and woven throughout the house? If so, a custom builder might be for you.
Or are you time poor and simply want a reliable off the shelf home that you can tailor with furnishings? Then a project home builder may be a better choice for you.
Are you in between? If so, then look to modify existing builder’s plans to suit your lifestyle. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel and it might be cheaper to show it’s been done before. Check out builder’s websites and see what they’ve built before. Can you adapt the plans to suit you?
Compile a shortlist of 3 builders that you really like.
Take your shortlist and ask friends, family, and colleagues for their thoughts. Can you narrow it down to two builders based on community network knowledge and references?
Meet with them. Talking to the builder in person will give you an even better understanding of their approach. Make sure to note how you feel and how well the communication is between each other. You’ll be working with the team of this company or directly with this builder for many months, and having good communication is key in a successful building process. A good builder will ask you about your lifestyle and plans for the future. There’s no point in building a baby nursery with no window (by the way they’re awesome as baby doesn’t wake up with the natural light and actually sleeps in – yep, some of us are desperate parents), if it can’t be turned into a wine cellar or storage facility when baby has moved into a proper bedroom.
It’s vital you and the builder have a good rapport, and you feel confident that you could easily contact them if you need to ask questions during the building process. When you initially speak to them, take note of how easily the conversation goes, if they can answer your questions, and if you understand exactly what they’re talking about. Don’t be impressed by big words and complicated acronyms – we’re not talking neuroscience here!
Ask them a variety of questions such as who is my main point of contact during construction (and make sure you meet them too), how will we address concerns that arise, how do you ensure quality throughout the process, what’s the timeframe, what possible issues might emerge that could impact the timeline, and what’s your track record on keeping within the timeframe? What costs are involved and what type of unexpected costs should I be aware of that may occur e.g. gradient block.
Now you have to make a decision – go with the builder that you really feel you have the best rapport with. Even if they’re a bit more expensive than the other choice, you’ll find it will save you a lot of angst and issues if you go with your gut feeling.
Read features, prices, and contracts carefully. A clear, complete contract is important to protect you. If you have any questions about the features, prices, and contracts, don’t be afraid to ask! Now is the time! Be aware of what the warranty covers and make sure this is clear in the contract, check inclusions and document everything.
Most importantly – go build that pool if you can afford it. Just make sure you invite all those friends you annoyed over in the research phase to enjoy it with you!