You’ve decided to build a house. You’re ready, you’re excited, and you’ve already started on the design.
There’s just one more thing you need to do before you can start…find the perfect builder!
For those who already have a builder in mind because they know them, or have been recommended to them by family or friends, this can be a relatively quick and easy process.
But for those who aren’t sure, or don’t know who to contact, it can be a little more challenging.
Ultimately, you want the “right fit” builder who understands your needs, and will provide an enjoyable building experience that results in you getting the house you want at the price you can afford.
There’s no magic number of builders you need to speak to in order to find the right fit for you. We generally find that most people will speak to 2 or 3, though we’ve met people who have spoken to 7 or more. It really comes down to how many builders you feel comfortable dealing with, and being confident enough to whittle down your list until you end up with 2 or 3 that can tender for your project.
How to find builders
There are many ways to find builders, such as:
- Asking your designer, friends and family
- Online search
- Visiting display homes
- Driving around looking for building sites in your area
You may very quickly end up with a dozen potential builders on your list, but the goal then becomes eliminating the ones that don’t resonate with you, so you can end up with 1-3 serious contenders.
Pruning your list
Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions when you’re talking to different builders. Those who are open, honest and straight with you are also likely to do the same during the build.
Some of the questions you could ask include:
- When are you available to start?
- How long do you estimate for completion?
- Can you show me similar projects?
- Can I talk to some of your previous clients?
- Can you provide a ballpark figure?
- Do you think my expectations match my budget?
- Can I visit one of your jobs under construction?
Sometimes you may get a gut feeling that a builder is not right for you, and this a perfectly fine reason to take them off your list.
You can also find information about your prospective builders online, including verifying their Builder’s License and company history.
If you do end up talking to some of their previous clients, you may like to ask them about any hiccups during the build (which do happen) and how the builder dealt with them. Ask about how the builder communicated with them – did they have get the information and feedback they needed?
Once you have a few favourites, ask them to provide a tender proposal for your project. The tip here is to make sure that everyone is working with the same information – down to the specific inclusions you want in your new home (i.e.: you are comparing apples with apples).
This might result in three fairly similar quotes, but it will help to narrow down your options to that final “right fit”. A quote should be comprehensive, because what isn’t specified now will be up for interpretation later. A comprehensive tender proposal for the construction of a custom home will need to be 15+ pages in order to fully describe what will be installed in sufficient detail (you won’t necessarily know the information that needs to be provided, but a competent builder will).
If one builder is much cheaper than the others, it may not be a cause to yell “yippee!” and sign on the dotted line. They may have misinterpreted your requirements, left certain elements out of the price, or may be underquoting which leaves them at risk of going bankrupt during the build. Unfortunately, they may also be cutting corners which leaves you at risk of budget blow-out right in the middle of the build.
If one builder tender price is substantially more than the others, it could be that they don’t need the work as much, generally charge a higher margin, or have a different building process (i.e.: they use certain materials that cost more than the other builders).
Don’t be afraid to ask why, and talk through the costs so that you can understand where the dollars are going to be spent.
The final choice
You want a builder that makes you feel comfortable enough to sign a building contract. Whether that choice is immediate, or the result of a 6 month search, is irrelevant.
Any builder who is worth dealing with is one that is happy to answer your questions – and if you’ve had open communication throughout the discovery phase, it’s a good sign that you’ll get the same treatment during your build too.