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Ask the expert: How do I choose a builder?

Finding a builder is like searching for The One; you need to make sure you’re compatible, communicate well and share a vision for the future.

It’s one of the toughest and most important decisions you’ll make in your build or renovation, so we called in Neil Hipwell, founding director of leading Australian design and construction company Futureflip, as well as two homeowners who recently undertook new builds, to share their best tips. Plus, you can streamline the process with our choosing a builder checklist (scroll down), and start putting your home dreams into action.

Do your research

A quick Google search will serve up a long list of builders in your area, but you’ll want to research them thoroughly and seek out recommendations and reviews.

“Besides traditional word of mouth, James Hardie’s online Find a Builder tool is a great resource, with its local search functionality,” says Neil. “In addition, tapping into the amazing content and direct lines of communication with builders via their social media accounts can help you find a potential builder and see if their previous projects align with your vision.”

Ask the right questions

Once you have a list of potential builder candidates, ask about their experience, project cost and licences. “It’s important to set and communicate a firm budget with your builder, while also keeping in mind the potential difference between the budgeted and final costs of the project,” notes Neil. Also chat about timelines – great builders often book up in advance, so exercise caution if they say they can start tomorrow.

Know your look

Before you choose a builder, nail down your desired aesthetic. For homeowner Wendy, this proved a deciding factor when selecting the team for her build.

“We knew the look we wanted for our home, which narrowed down the choice of builders considerably,” she explains. “At our first meeting we showed our builder a picture of the American home we loved and they knew exactly what style we were after. This might sound simple, but not a lot of builders understood the aesthetic we were trying to achieve.”

When meeting a builder for the first time, come equipped with images to convey your vision – create a digital mood board with Style Sourcebook, and see more ideas on refining your home’s aesthetic here.

Check out the builder’s past work

Sometimes words can only go so far and viewing a builder’s work is the best way to assess the quality of their craftsmanship and eye for detail.

“Gravitate towards builders who are happy to provide addresses of past projects and contact details of former customers,” advises Neil. “Their transparency in this area – as well as licence and insurance details, specifically Public Liability Insurance and Home Building Compensation – provides great peace of mind.”

“You should also check if they’ve worked with the building materials that you’re considering using, and confirm previous projects were delivered on time and on budget.”

Ask if the builder has installed Hardie™ Fine Texture Cladding, or other Hardie™ exterior cladding products, on previous projects and view the results if you can.

Shop for quotes

“Get several quotes,” advises homeowner Di. “If a quote seems unrealistically low, it’s usually a cause for concern. The same applies if it’s really expensive. Do research online and talk to people who are currently building or have built in the past. Ask lots of questions and compare notes. You will quickly get an idea about whether your quotes are accurate.”

Find that click

Your relationship with your builder can make or break a project. Go with your gut on this, as you need to have a solid rapport. “If you don’t quite click with a builder, they are probably not the one for you,” says Di.

Finalise the details

Think you’ve found The One? Don’t sign on the dotted line just yet. “Ask about the builder’s tender process, check their standard inclusions list, request their timelines and handover procedure, and triple check the contract,” says Neil. “Finally, review the head contract to check the build speed and liquidated damages, and run the costs again.”

Choosing A Builder Checklist

  1. Do your research and ask for references.

  2. Check the fine print. Ask your builder if they are fully licensed and fully insured.

  3. Find out how long the builder has been in business. How many projects of this type have they completed?

  4. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve so that builders can provide accurate quotes and plan the process accordingly.

  5. What’s your final budget? There’s often a difference between the budgeted cost and the total cost of the project.

  6. Discuss how the builder will communicate with you during the project. What’s their standard turnaround time for communication?

  7. Ask how many projects they are currently working on, and how many they will be working on during your build.

  8. Find out how often you, the homeowner, will be able to access your home during the build.

  9. Ascertain the latest date you’ll be able to make changes to your plans, without incurring extra charges.

  10. Ask your builder to outline exactly what is included in the contract and any items that could vary in price.

Ready to find a builder to kickstart your renovation project? As well as following our handy checklist, check out our Find a Builder tool, which lets you search for builders by location and project type.

Find a Builder

Whether you are building your new dream home or renovating your existing, finding the right builder who can achieve the look you want is critical. We created our Find a Builder tool to help homeowners like you choose the right builder to help you bring your vision to reality.

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