Sunday, 10 March 2013

Building a New Home in Adelaide - Finding a Builder

Finding a new home builder in Adelaide can prove to be a tricky business if you have no particular knowledge or experience in the field.  Tradies SA therefore have some very useful tips to get your started on the process, and guidance on what to expect and to look for as you choose a builder for your new home.  This is the first of three articles that will attempt to take some of the mystery out of the process.

Deciding to build a new home is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you will ever take, and so choosing a quality builder for the project is paramount.  But unless you are involved in the construction industry, or have insider knowledge, this could prove to be a daunting task.  However, there are a number of valuable steps that you can take, and questions you can ask, to go some way to making sure that you employ the right builders for the job.

Show homes and display villages
An initial step, and one that is relatively straightforward, is to take the opportunity to look at show homes and display villages.  These will give you some insight into the design concepts favoured by a builder, as well as allowing you to see close up the quality of their work.  When you begin this process, no doubt you will want to consider as many different sites as possible, so it’s extremely useful to take with you a camera and a notebook.  It is easy after a while for properties to blend into one another in your mind, but if you note down interesting details and features of each particular property you look at, it will be easier to distinguish between them at a later date.

When you visit a display village, look at every property they have on show, even those not within your price range, as these may still give you some useful tips regarding layouts and styles that you might not otherwise discover.  Take a tape measure with you, so that you get a more accurate grasp of the dimensions of each room, which is often difficult in a show home because they are fully furnished and decked out.  Will your furniture fit?  Does the layout suit the sort of sofa, or dining table you already have?

Reputation
It may now be that you have visited several show homes or display villages, or have in mind two or three potential builders for your new home.  At this stage, it is important to consider the reputations of those builders you’re thinking about.  

People you know who have building work done are always a good starting point, as they are in a position to provide a personal recommendation (or otherwise).  Take note of any building work you like the look of around Adelaide, as well as looking at the websites of building firms.  These can be an especially valuable source of information as a well-produced site should contain a gallery of the firm’s previous projects, and may also contain testimonials from satisfied customers.  Similarly, sites such as ours here at Tradies SA will be a great help, as leading Adelaide building firms list their services with us, and we also feature client reviews from homeowners who have worked with these companies.

Professional bodies such as The Master Builders Association (MBA) or the Housing Industry Association (HIA) can also give you guidance, particularly with regards to builders that may be based near to where you are building, or who have experience in the type of home you are looking to build.  
Don’t be afraid to make as many enquiries as you need to help you feel confident about your chosen contractor.  It is perfectly reasonable to ask a builder to supply you with references from past clients, or the addresses of recent work they have carried out.

Qualifications
All South Australian builders are required to hold a current and appropriately endorsed Building Work Contractor’s Licence and Supervisor’s Registration.  A prospective builder should be more than happy to share with you their licence number, which can then be checked on the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs website www.ocba.sa.gov.au by accessing the Licensing Public Register.

In addition, if a builder is carrying out construction work worth more than $12,000 and which requires council approval, they are required to take out indemnity insurance.  

Therefore, you should not even consider employing the services of a builder who does not have the appropriate licence that proves their competence and reliability, as you will not necessarily have access to redress should something later go wrong.

Quotes
You should ensure that you get quotes from a minimum of three builders licensed to work in Adelaide and South Australia.  To ensure that your quotes are comparable, they should be made on the basis of your plans and specifications, so it is advisable to have these completed before you start the process (although this may not be possible if not all council approvals have been received).  

Any quote you receive should be itemised so that you are able to compare quotes more accurately, and you should be clear as to whether important fixtures and fittings such as tiles, carpet, white goods, bathroom ware, etc., have been included in the quoted price.  Also ensure that an itemised quote includes the GST that is payable.

There should also be a clear indication in the quote of any additional charges that have been included in order to address any conditions that are particular to your site (e.g., unusual footings, enabling site access, off-site drilling to connect services, etc.).  It may not be possible to for your builder to give a precise quote for these services before they start work, but they should nevertheless include reasonable provision for these charges.

If you receive different quotes that vary a great deal, it’s important to remember that the cheapest option is not always the best option.  For instance, a very low quote could suggest that the builder has not previously been successful in attracting work and may have omitted certain items from his quote.  This again emphasises the importance of getting an itemised quote, so that you can see precisely what has been included.

Communication
The price may be right, and a prospective builder might have the requisite skills and portfolio, but there is a further very crucial factor to consider - communication.  It is vitally important that you are able to establish from the outset clear lines of communication with your builder.  Over the time it takes to build your home and for some time after, you will need to be in contact with your builder a great deal, and so it is important to establish a working relationship with someone with whom you can speak easily and with confidence, and whom you see as transparent and straightforward in their business dealings.  

This aspect of the project is so important because it can reduce the number of mistakes that may come about through misunderstandings and can therefore go a long way to avoiding disputes.

Summary
When you are looking for a prospective new home builder in Adelaide and South Australia:
  • make enquiries about the firm’s reputation
  • make enquiries about their recent projects, and get personal recommendations if possible
  • ensure that they have a current Building Work Contractors Licence and Supervisor’s Registration
  • get at least three quotes from licensed builders
  • ensure that your quote is itemised and includes
  • details of the costs that have been included
  • additional costs to cover any special arrangements that need to be made
  • GST
  • establish clear lines of communication with your builder from the outset to minimise misunderstandings
Finding a new home builder in Adelaide
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