The answer will depend on a few factors, from the scale of your project to where you are in your process, but as with any new endeavour, the more information you have, the better. Here’s what to consider.
It’s a competitive market out there. Don’t assume that builders will be falling over themselves to sign on to your project – it can be quite the opposite. In order to nab yourself a great builder, Rebeka Morgan of BuildHer Collective suggests you first turn your gaze on yourself. What can you offer house builders in Australia?
“They’re looking for clients who are easy to work with, and good communicators,” she says. “Builders get emails every day asking them to quote on projects. So the first thing you should do is have a conversation, to ensure your project fits into the type of work they want to do.”
You might find that your builder has had just about enough of small bathrooms, but is keen to consider an extension or new build. They’re only going to take on a few projects a year and will generally work on referrals. You need to present yourself in the best light to get your project quoted and looked at next.
What you intend to do with the property will be a key factor in a builder agreeing to quote. The location, size and scale of the project may all factor into your attractiveness as a client.
“They’ll need to know if you plan to live in the front half of the house while you’re renovating the back. That might be a deal breaker for some builders,” says Rebeka.
Other factors that may affect a builder’s decision are whether you’re planning to flip the property, make it your ‘forever home’ or take on the role of project manager. Be upfront about your plans and expectations.
In order to provide a quote, the builder will need to know where you’re up to with the project. How much work has already been done? Do you have firm plans from an architect? Have you begun the council approval process or do you need help with that? Also, are you looking for a rough price guide or a firm quote?
“They can’t quote unless they have a full suite of information, but in the early stages it’s more about having a conversation,” explains Rebeka. It’s important to share any specifications you have so they can understand what level of build you’re looking at.
Some builders will do the design and build and some will simply quote off what is provided, but be wary of sending a blind email with a bunch of attachments; Rebeka makes it clear that talking to a builder makes it more likely that they’ll respond.
Keep in mind that builders may only take on one or two projects a year – particularly larger-scale ones – so the timeline is a very important factor for them, too. If you have a firm end date in mind, you might find it difficult to pin down a builder. Flexibility will be key, because timelines do blow out. They might take longer than expected finishing up current works, meaning a client who is open to potentially moving their start date is more attractive.
Sharing your project’s mood board, flatlay and 3D renders is a great way to communicate the look and feel you want to achieve, but it’s not always necessary. “A good builder can read plans and understand what the project will look like from the materials specified,” says Rebeka.
Having said that, these are great resources if you haven’t reached that stage of the build and are still at the ‘meet and greet’ stage with builders. It can help them understand your vision as a client and decide if they are interested in working with you.
If your instinct is to be coy about your budget, try to overcome this as you and your builder will both benefit from talking this through in your initial meeting. “Conversations around budget are really helpful to have upfront, so no one’s wasting anyone’s time,” says Rebeka.
Generally, when budget is discussed, it will be in square-metre rates, with broad terms and values being used where the builder is trying to find alignment with the client and their expectations. “A budget project might be somewhere around $2000/sqm, but a high-end build could be more like $5000/sqm,” says Rebeka.
It’s important to understand where your project fits on that scale and where the builder feels it falls, before asking them to formally tender. And, no matter the size of your budget, always allow for a 10–20% contingency.
Here’s what you need to have ready before you pick up the phone:
1. Your ‘client’ resume
2. Mood board and style assets - the Style Sourcebook platform is an interactive way to create your own mood boards using products from a huge range of retailers, including James Hardie.
3. How you plan to live in the home
4. Sketches and plans
5. Approvals and permits
6. Confirmed budget
Ready to chat to house builders in Australia? Or still looking for house exterior ideas? Use the James Hardie Find a Builder hub to track down the right builder for you.
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.