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Atlas Paving

Atlas Paving

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The smart way to find your Tradie

How To Choose A Builder - Finding The Right One

  • How do you find the right builder for your home?
  • What questions do you need to ask?
  • Is one builder better than another?

You first stop is to ensure that the builder you are considering is a registered builder.

Click here to check if your Builder is registered with the BRB

Questions to ask

When considering Builders ask questions about:

  • Access
  • Owner Supplied Items
  • Prestart
  • Variation Fees
  • Communication

Access

Some Builders will provide you with a construction key so that you can access the house anytime before it is finished and see how the construction is progressing. Others will only allow limited access prior to handover

Owner Supplied Items

Some Builders will allow you to delete pretty much anything you like from the building contract and supply your own goods….i.e. you may choose to supply your own appliances, tiles and tiler and cabinetry. Others will limit the amount of owner supplied items to one or two. (Always be aware that Owner supplied goods are NOT covered by the Builders Insurance). Some Builders offer a 'turn key' package where wall painting, landscaping, flooring, window dressings and light fittings are added to the package and all you need to do is pay the bill and arrive with your furniture after the builder has finished.

Prestart

Ask the Builder how much time they allow for your prestart meeting. This meeting is where you choose all the finishes for your home. In a budget build many items will not be open to change, however even in this type of build you don’t want to feel like you are being rushed. If you are the kind of person who takes a while to make up their mind a 2 hours prestart might be the death of you. If you've already chosen every last detail before the meeting, or you are a laid back easily pleased client 2 hours might be just fine. The more expensive the build the more time the builder will allow to explain all items and make changes to selection. Prestarts have been known on occassion to go for 2 days!

Variation fees

A Variation Fee is the administrative fee that is charged to change a selection or design/construction issue after the prestart meeting has been completed. This fee is added to the cost of the actual change itself. The fee is to cover the cost of the Builder documenting the change, informing the relevant trades of the change, canceling the original order and placing the order for the new specification. Variation fees range from $200 upwards, they are applied for each documented change. The amount charged will be noted on your contract. The golden rule is 'don't change anything after prestart' if you want to save money.

Communication

Like all relationships communication is the key to a good one. Think about what level of communication you expect from your Builder.
Does your Builder have a standard contact method during construction? i.e. Weekly email or phone call, monthly site visit, site visit prior to each payment?
Do you want to be kept informed on a regular/scheduled basis or do you only want to be called if there’s a problem.

 

Builders Checklist

  • How long have you been a registered building company?
  • Do you use a standard HIA or MBA contract
  • What is your variation fee and how does it work
  • What items can I supply myself
  • Do I get a construction key
  • Can my trades have access to the site prior to handover- i.e. air conditioning contractor
  • How long will full working drawings take
  • What date do you consider the ‘Start Date’ to be
  • Who will be my contact person once building has commenced?
  • Can I contact the site supervisor directly
  • How will I be updated about progress on site
  • How often will I be updated
  • What is your disputes resolution process
  • How many disputes have you had with the BRB in the last 12 months
  • How many homes do you build a year.
  • How many houses does any one supervisor deal with at one time
  • What other building companies do you own (buying power)

Time

  • What is your standard construction time for single or double storey home
  • How long will my preparation of plans take
  • Site works- Is this in addition to the construction time and how long will it take

Construction

  • How many homes are you building in…………(your area)
  • Have you entered or won any awards for service, design or construction

Council

Call the local Council where you are building and ask

  • How long planning approval will take
  • Do I need pre planning approval

Think about what you want

You need to think a little about what type of person you are and what you want from your building experience………. Are you expecting a laid back relaxed, change things along the way type of build or would you prefer everything documented upfront, not to be changed, with a scheduled regular update program? Whilst you may be comparing two builders with similar products the way they will go about the administrative side of the building process might be very different.

At its most basic level you need a Builder who will not only build your home for you but one that will allow as little or as much input and discussion as you require. Your ideal build might be a turn key type of build….this is where the builder finishes pretty much everything for you and you just arrive with the removalist truck and move in. Alternatively you might prefer a really hands on approach where the builder is required to build the house to lock up stage (this is where the house is locked and secure but the interior has not been fitted out) and then you want to contract your own trades to do the cabinetry, tiling, lighting, painting, paving etc and finish off the house with the builder as a joint project.

It is best to choose a builder who will fit the type of build you are looking for. Looking at display homes is a great place to narrow down what type of house you want however falling in love with a display home will not guarantee a smooth build. You need to find a plan that you like and a builder who can accommodate your organisational style rather than choosing a display home you like and seeing if the builder can change how he does things to fit your expectations. You cannot ask a Builder to copy another Builders floor plan as it breaches copyright. You can see if they have an existing design they can adjust to your liking.

 

If you feel like a good read.....read this (fictional) story about one builder and two very different clients

Two couples have signed up for the $460 000 Parkrange 2 storey display home with No Worries Builders. They are both building in the same street.

Angie and Steve's Story

Angie and Steve Build the Parkrange

Angie and Steve are building this house as an investment. They plan to either sell the house or rent it out upon completion. They have bought a 500m2 green titled block with a landscaping package from the developer, not far from the beach in the Northern suburbs. They have now chosen the display home they wish to build on it. This is the third investment property they have built and they know the process fairly well. The couple pay their deposit and agree to a preparation of plan for their site. They like the display home just as it is and the only change they wish to make is to enlarge a window on the northern side of the house to help with their solar passive rating.

At their prestart meeting they choose all of their fixtures and finishes. The builder also has a pre designed range of tile and cabinetry selections and they choose the white and cream option. They really want the house as finished as possible when they make their final payment so they include in their contract wall painting, main floor tiling, soak wells, a washing line, the TV antenna, smart wiring, fitting of light fixtures and carpeting to the bedrooms

The plans go through council in 8 weeks and ground is broken the following week.

Angie and Steve receive no phone calls throughout the building process, this suits them just fine as they work very long hours and they know the Supervisor will call them if he has any problems. They do not visit the site until the handover meeting with their Site Supervisor

The house takes 18 months to build, is finished on time and looks just as they had wished. They are very happy with the house and the Builder and would have no problem recommending them to their friends and family.

Mary and Bill's story

Mary and Bill and their 4 kids build the Parkrange

Mary and Bill have never built a house before. They have just sold their home and will be renting until their new home is finished. They have looked at many display homes and have lots of great ideas they want to incorporate into their dream home. The Parkrange looks like it might be the closest fit but they will need to change it quite a lot for the look that they want. Mary and Bill have a 280m2 Cottage Lot just down the street from Angie and Steve. Mary and Bill spend hours with the Display Home Sales Manager making all the changes that they require. They flip the plan so that the living area is on the Northern side of the block (easy) but that means the garage is now on the wrong side so that needs to be moved to the other side. This then changes the roof line but the Building Company is happy to draw up the plans at no extra cost. Mary has managed a fabulous deal with a retailer and has bought an enormous new fridge, oven, hotplate and rangehood, top loading washer and matching dryer and an integrated dishwasher and coffee machine. She will need the fridge recess brickwork to be bigger than the display home. This then changes the layout of the cupboards in the kitchen and Mary loses her Pot Drawers as a result.

After moving numerous walls and doors, the plans are ready to start a preparation of plans agreement. However due to the small size of their block preliminary plans must be submitted to council for pre planning approval in order to address any overlooking and percentage of land to home issues. Their shire council are currently overworked due to a large land release and these plans take 12 weeks to get through council. Only then can full working drawings be created by the builder. These drawings take another 4 weeks and then must be resubmitted to council for planning approval.

Bill and Mary have now been renting for 6 months, they only planned to rent for a year but their home is only just going to site. Eventually Mary and Bill’s build begins.

Once the earthworks get started Mary gets a phone call to advise her that the contractors have hit a limestone outcrop on her block and that there will be an additional charge of $8000 to complete the earthworks.

Earthworks are finally completed and the concrete slab is poured. The weather then turns nasty and it rains for 2 weeks. This delays the drying out of the slab and consequently the Brickies cannot start on the anticipated date.

Ground floor brick work is completed and the pour for the suspended slab is scheduled.

Once the reo is in place Mary notices that where she moved the garage there is a small area of suspended slab that could possibly be used as a balcony off the main bedroom. She calls the office and asks if this can be changed into a balcony. While the office try everything to get this change signed off for Mary, the paperwork cannot be completed before the pour the next day and Mary doesn't get her balcony.

Once the house is at lock-up stage Mary cannot access the building as No Worries Builder do not give construction keys to their clients. She is not happy about this at all.

Marys brother has just bought a cabinetmaking company and Mary would like him to manufacture her kitchen, bathroom and laundry cupboards. She calls the builder to advise of that she is going to delete the cabinetry. She is surprised that the credit for this is only $12 000 plus she has been charged a $500 variation fee. (The Builder will only credit back what they were going to pay for the kitchen- not the mark up built into the contract as well.)

 

When her brother starts on the cabinets Mary needs to get the dishwasher and coffee machine to his factory. This means she has to pay the balance for her white goods and pay for a dual delivery to both the factory and her house. On the day the kitchen is installed Mary goes to site and is appalled to see that the coffee machine has a dent on the front panel. Mary's brother insists it was not damaged when he left the house and none of the trades believe they are responsible for the damage. The coffee machine is not covered by the Builders insurance as it is an Owner supplied item. Mary is left with a damaged coffee machine for which no one will claim responsibility.

Progress limps along on the site with Mary continuing to make minor changes on a weekly basis and an ever increasing papertrail that the Supervisor must consult before he progresses on site. Occasionally the paperwork fails and the wrong goods arrive on site or the trades are working from old plans not the most recent ones reflecting Mary's continual changes. This slows progress all the more.

Finally the house is finished. It doesn't flow very well due to all the changes Mary made and no longer resembles the display home that they liked so much. Upon moving in they realise they gave the exact measurement of the fridge to the builder where it asked.....size of brick opening for fridge, once the walls were plastered the fridge doesn't fit in the recess, they also forgot to tell the builder to install a water outlet in the fridge recess so the cold water dispenser can't be connected and Mary is forced to buy another fridge. The laundry overheads don't leave enough room for Mary's enormous clothes dryer and it can't be wall mounted. Mary has to ask her brother to make the cupboards over again.

Mary and Bill have ended up with a house with damaged appliances, a fridge which doesn't fit and in which the chilled water dispenser is not connected. Reduced laundry overhead cupboards as the dryer had to be fitted there and less Kitchen cupboards than the display home. They are over budget as Mary's variation fees alone total well over $8000. They are also well over the anticipated construction time.

They have an upcoming dispute resolution session with the BRB in order to discuss the time overruns and their displeasure with the entire process and the finished product.

Whilst Mary and Bill may have been very demanding clients the Builder has actually done his best to accommodate them. All of the stress and strain could have been vastly reduced if Mary had chosen a builder more suited to her style of building. Perhaps one that built the house only to lockup so they could coordinate all the remaining trades themselves but with the builders assistance.