What Questions Should I Ask A New Home Builder?

For many people, a new home build is likely to be the biggest investment they will have made in their lives thus far. Before you financially – and emotionally – commit to such a huge endeavour, it is important to ask as many pertinent questions as you can so you can have a better understanding of the process involved and be more confident in the decisions you make. 

The questions you put to your new residential home builder in Perth and the responses they give will also have a strong bearing on whether or not you decide to hire them for the project. Here are some of the questions you can ask to clear up any confusion on the build process and help decide if the builder you are considering is the right person for the job. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are no wrong questions, so feel free to query even further. 

  1. Can I see examples of your completed builds?

This is a good way to verify the quality of work that the builder is capable of. Ideally, these should be projects they completed within the last two years and are somewhat similar to the type of home design you intend to undertake. It is always best to use a builder that has good experience working on building projects that are similar to what you intend. 

If some of the projects are within the same locality as your build site, then this can indicate their familiarity with local building regulations and an established relationship with the local shires. 

Combine this with an online check of their status through social media, and verify if they are in good standing with accredited building associations to ensure you are dealing with a provider with a sound reputation.

  1. Do you provide design services?

Most builders do provide design services, especially if they are volume builders. They generally have a selection of set home designs that you can choose from. Some allow for some level amendments to the designs so homeowners can make them more customised. And some allow for a full custom design service. 

If the builder also offers house and land packages, they may also be able to assist you in finding a good location at which to buy land as well. As industry insiders, it is also possible they can find suitable blocks of land or put you in touch with estate agents that can help you to buy outside of such developments. 

  1. Are you registered and insured? 

This is important to verify before signing any contract. Licensing is a basic requirement for such work, which you can further verify through the Department of Commerce website. The builder should be licensed in both the state and local region in which the build will take place. This will ensure they know the local building regulations and standards that need to be followed.   

Registered builders are also required to be insured. This protects the property owner from liability issues and protects their assets. It can also help safeguard the property owner in the event the builder fails to complete the projects as expected due to such problems as going insolvent. Insurance is a must in ensuring legal and financial security for the project. Ensure that the type of insurance and level of coverage is, at minimum, in compliance with state policies. 

  1. Are you locally based?

It is always best to work with a local builder. This is someone that will already be familiar with local building regulations and will have previously engaged with the local authority for approvals and permits. This established rapport can help ensure they know what is required when making applications and who they can get in touch with for follow-up through the approval process. 

Experience as a local builder will also ensure they know which local suppliers of materials and products can be relied upon. They will also be more knowledgeable about finding good local sub-contractors for various works and more adept at handling region-specific challenges such as climate issues. 

  1. How long will the build take?

You need to ascertain how long the building project will take, especially if choosing to build in boom time. More so if you need to arrange for other housing during this time and until you can move into your new home. Your builder should be able to provide an estimation or timeline you can use to organise your finances for other accommodation. 

However, do not be too strict on the dates given as delays can arise unexpectedly. Problems such as weather and supply chain problems can mean that despite the builder’s best efforts, the project may take longer than expected to be completed. 

  1. How can I be sure your business is stable?

As mentioned, insolvency is a problem that can occur with builders. It can cause devastation to homeowners who have not ensured that proper insurance is in place. There have been numerous cases of builders that were midway on projects suddenly filing for bankruptcy, leaving homes unfinished and homeowners frustrated. This often compels the homeowners to contract another builder to complete the project, often with delays and extra costs. 

Financial instability in the industry has been driven by high competition amongst builders that forces some to keep cutting prices till it reaches unsustainable levels. Besides querying the builder on his financial stability, you can also run a credit reference check on their business to help gauge financial strength. They should have a good rating and record for paying suppliers on time.

  1. When can I receive a detailed quote?

The quote will be instrumental in helping decide which builder will be given the contract. It should be as detailed as possible, providing a good breakdown of individual costs for labour and materials. You will also likely need this document if you intend to seek financing. 

Construction loans require the submission of this document as it will guide how payments will be structured for each phase. Having the monies disbursed in phases as construction progresses will save on interest costs. The sooner your builder provides this information, the quicker you can have the loan processes and start the project. 

  1. How will we be communicating during the build?

There needs to be communication throughout the build. You can probably tell how much effort the builder will put into keeping you updated through your queries with previous clients, but you still need to clarify how this will work going forward. 

You need to establish a clear line of communication and plan on how you will be receiving updates. There also needs to be an arrangement in case the builder needs to urgently get in touch for time-sensitive decisions that may crop up. An unscheduled visit may seem a good way to keep people on their toes but can interfere with work. Avoid causing disruptions that an unannounced visit could bring when critical work is ongoing. 

  1. How will quality control be managed?

You need effective quality control measures to ensure the best outcomes. From where they source materials to how they are stored, the number of tasks being undertaken simultaneously to whether the person supervising has the relevant experience and training, there are many aspects of the project that your builder will be responsible for in ensuring a suitable level of workmanship, finishing and durability are achieved. The builder should be able to explain the quality control measures that will be applied to the various tasks. 

Care should also be demonstrated in how the builder selects sub-contractors. Sub-contractors are often engaged for specialist work like electrical works, plumbing, roofing, masonry, carpentry, and landscaping. The choice of who gets to perform these tasks should be dictated by quality rather than price. 

  1. Who will have access to the property during construction?

Even with insurance in place, it can be frustrating to find out a theft has occurred at the building site. Find out from the builder what steps will be taken to ensure that the works and materials are safeguarded until handover. 

The builder will also likely inform you of when the lockup stage goes into effect. This happens once windows and doors to the structure are installed and the interior can then be locked up for better security. The site manager will also be responsible for monitoring the activity of workers on-site and ensuring lock up at the end of the day. 

  1. What kind of warranty will I get?

Always ensure that your builder details the warranty terms for the project. A warranty is an assurance from the builder that their quality work will last. The minimum for structural warranties is six years. 

The builder should also provide you with a homeowner’s manual during the final handover that will provide product warranty information on appliances and more. It is important to get such information to avoid any action that could invalidate your warranty and provide guidance on what to do when it comes time for servicing, maintenance, or repairs. Also, find out if the maintenance and repair work will be handled by the builder’s company or a third-party provider.  

  1. What happens if I want to make changes to the design later?

It is not uncommon for homeowners to want to make amendments to the home design they already signed off on. Most will try to avoid this due to financial penalties, but given it is still a possibility that you may change your mind about something, you need to know what will happen. 

Find out up to what point in the process you are allowed to keep making amendments without penalties and how much extra it will cost if you want changes past this point. Most builders will apply penalties if changes are made after the construction phase has begun. 

  1. What is the cancellation policy?

Even after you have gone through much of the processes to start construction, something may happen that compels you to postpone or cancel the contract. Be sure to thoroughly go through the contract document to find out what the cancellation policy states. There are likely to be important deadlines and penalties involved you should be comfortable with before signing. 

14 Jul, 2022