Where to Start Your Search for the Right Builder
Your builder arguably has the greatest influence on the overall success of your project; therefore, builder selection is the single most important decision a homeowner will make.
Many homeowners embarking on a new build feel out of their depth. It can be overwhelming dealing with industry jargon, regulations, registration, permits and insurance rules - as a consequence people often rush the all-important builder appointment process.
It can also be challenging compiling a list of capable, reputable and affordable builders. Though several 'review' websites claim to provide this service, there is no magical site where you enter a suburb, budget and job specs and half-a-dozen properly-vetted, trustworthy and available builders appear. Be aware also that online reputation management services exist - bad reviews can be deleted when pressure is applied.
The fact is, some of the very best builders have limited social media presence and a large number don't appear in any of the review websites. To ensure the best possible outcome you'll need to do some leg-work.
Here are the most common avenues homeowners use to gather a list of referrals:
- The first port of call is usually family, friends and neighbours. If they've built before they're sure to have a strong opinion about their builder
- Talk to local architects and building designers - particularly if you've appointed a specialist designer - as they'll be able to make referrals of builders that they've used successfully
- Take a drive around your neighbourhood and look for active building works. Knock on doors for a chat, most people are happy to share knowledge
- Ask trusted tradespeople for recommendations
- Ask local building surveyors, engineers, building inspectors, real estate agents and your council or shire planning offices
- Review local press and web adverts. Like everyone, builders want to work close to home - focus on builders who advertise in your area
- Search web, social media (Facebook is particularly good for this) and blogs
- Search building industry association websites (eg: HIA, MBA, etc)
Be aware that membership of an industry association is not a guarantee of quality workmanship. No association will tell you that one of their members may cause headaches. It's a common misconception to assume that, in the event of a dispute, an association will take the side of the homeowner. In reality, unless you have irrefutable evidence, industry associations are generally inclined to defend their fee-paying member. Having said that, a recent association award commendation is a more reliable barometer of expertise - award winners can be searched on association websites. It is generally true however to say that building industry association members are better informed and professional - we recommend you use one.
Be mindful not to rely too heavily on referrals alone, an acceptable outcome for a friend may not satisfy you. Also, be aware that the majority of Australian businesses fail in the first 5 years. We strongly recommend homeowners utilize the services of a long-established builder (ie: 10+ years).
The two questions we're most often asked at Builder Background Checks is, 'how do I avoid dodgy builders?' and 'how do I find out if a builder is reputable?' - here's the answer, after you've assessed quotations and before you sign a contract, complete your due diligence with a Builder Background Report.
Brendan Watkins, Director - Builder Background Checks P/L
Brendan was CEO of the Swimming Pool & Spa Association of Victoria (SPASA) for 12 years and is the inaugural association building industry 'Hall of Fame' inductee. SPASA is the sole industry peak body for registered builders. As well as serving as CEO of the national industry association for a time Brendan sat on several government building, training and regulatory committees. He has advocated to Ministerial offices and is considered highly knowledgeable and well connected within the construction industry. Brendan presents regularly at the HIA Home Show. Builder Background Checks is augmented by access to a number of specialised industry experts including construction industry lawyers, mercantile agencies, building surveyors, architects, engineers and designers.