Choosing the right builder can be the difference of having a fantastic experience and getting the result you want, or ripping your hair out the whole time or being disappointed with the finished project. It pays to know what to check and what to ask to make sure you get the right builder at the right time for your project.
You don't necessarily need an answer to every question on this list, but it may help you guide a conversation to the point where you have the knowledge and confidence you need to make a decision.
About their business
Do they have a valid Builders Licence?
Do they have a legitimate website / social profiles that show the business is solid?
Are they a member of any building associations such as the Housing Industry Association (HIA) or Master Builder Association (MBA)?
Do they have online reviews or testimonials, or can they put you in touch with past clients to discuss their experience?
How many years have they been in business?
What is the size of their team, do they have a balance of apprentices through to qualified carpenters and site foremen?
What is their sub-contractor network like? Will they fully manage the build process including sub-contractors and warranty their work? How long have they been working together?
How many projects do they typically run at once?
Do they work in partnership with other allied businesses such as pool builders or landscapers? Can they assist with overseeing this part of your project too if required?
What kind of warranty does the builder offer on their work?
Effective Management and Communication
Where are your team / most of your projects based? Not a deal-breaker by any means, but a local team can be an advantage so they can swing by and respond quickly to any issues or concerns that might arise on your job.
How can I monitor budget and keep track of out-of-scope changes? What is the approval process for changes or incurring additional expenses?
How do you communicate with clients throughout the project? Weekly meetings on-site? A project management app? Ad-hoc?
How detailed and accurate is your quoting process? Is there any cost involved? Sought-after or high quality builders will often charge a nominal fee for a detailed quote as there is a significant amount of work involved in preparing this to the level of accuracy you need to make an informed decision.
What are your payment schedules like?
What is the process for making changes to the agreed scope of work?
About Your Project
Will you have a dedicated Site Manager / Foreman and will they be on site for most of the project to ensure quality, or are they split between multiple jobs?
When can they realistically start your project? Particularly in a post-COVID world, you can expect this to be an estimated range, but it helps to understand the scale of projects in their pipeline that need to be finished first.
What would my project team look like? Size and qualifications / experience of team?
Once approving a budget, what risks do you see for increased expenses? What could happen that the builder needs more budget? Which costs are fixed vs which are allowances and subject to change?
Is there anything in your project that would not be covered by warranty?
Will they provide a detailed handover with all warranties and documentation for appliances etc?
Post-Covid Building conditions
The building industry has changed dramatically during the COVID Pandemic. The delays and costs associated with acquiring materials have been a constant battle over the last 2 years and may take some more time to settle down. COVID has had a massive knock-on effect to the cost of the project and the time it takes to complete a build. There may be delays in certain products, or complete lines cancelled. The labour force has also been disrupted with Government imposed rules restricting staff and contractors from working which also compounds on the timeline of projects. We will all have to work together and be understanding of the impacts living in this new world moving forward.