Architect Peter Mannion from Synergy Designs gives a rare insider’s glimpse into the building industry by offering his top five tips when choosing a new home builder:
1.What’s the word on the street?
Reputation is king in the building industry. Peter recommends you always check multiple sources to get a feel for the builder’s reputation - don’t just rely on the testimonials on a builder’s website. Look at independent online reviews and ask your friends, neighbours and work colleagues about their experiences with builders.
Good reputations are earned for good reasons and the same can be said for bad ones.
2. Are they at the top of their game?
Best practice in housing design changes rapidly - the cutting edge home of 20 years ago would not hold its own against today’s leading home designs, especially when it comes to environmental sustainability.
“Does the builder offer the latest designs with the option to customise or are they still dragging out the same old tired designs from when they first went into business?,” Peter asks, “You want a builder who’s on top of the latest trends in design and technical advancements in the building industry.”
3. Do they return your phone calls?
“When you sign with a builder it’s like entering into a six month marriage contract”, Peter said. “You’re trusting your builder with a very large investment so it’s important that the relationship is a close one, built on trust.”
Peter said to look for a builder who is an open and honest communicator. Do they relate well to you? Do they understand where you’re coming from? Do they promptly return your phone calls and are they happy to answer all your questions, no matter how rudimentary they may be?
4. Experience counts
Youth and enthusiasm are great if you’re building a website, but when you’re building the family home, experience counts.
Peter advises to look for a builder who’s been in business for a number of years and has long-standing relationships with local trades.
“A good builder will only hire good tradies who he knows and trusts, and they will have a shared professional commitment to their work,” he said. “You can expect standards to be high.”
“If the builder has long, solid working relationships with his trades and suppliers then the people who built the display home that you so admired will be the people who will eventually build your home.”
5. Check the fine print
Peter said two important things to check on the contract are ‘after sales service’ and just how ‘fixed’ the ‘fixed time contract’ really is.
“Some big builders will sweep through an area and sign up 50 new home owners,” Peter said. “Then they’ll tender the trades and services. So the people who sign up last might get their home built within six months, but the people who signed up first will wait a lot longer than that.”
Some builders are also less motivated when it comes to minor repairs and fix-ups after the keys have been handed over, according to Peter.
“Local owner-operator builders tend to be much better at follow-up after the job has been completed,” Peter said “They’ll do a better job at fixing up problems after hand-over and will also complete them in a much more timely manner.”