Builders can be found in many ways. HiPages, Google search, the local paper.
If you know someone who has finished a building project, ask them. Would you recommend your builder?
Questions to Ask a Builder
That said, here are the basic questions to ask when making initial inquiries by phone or in person.
Are you Licenced?
It might be tempting to use your brother who is keen to practice the art of building. However, we need to be sure that the structure will satisfy building codes.
The license is proof of experience. Using an unlicensed builder is likely that it will cost more than its worth.
Unlicensed builders cannot enter home building contracts. Without a building contract, it’s impossible to be sure what you are agreeing and to what standard.
The building contract is a key document for you, the homeowner, and your builder.
So, if you can’t afford a licensed builder, you can’t afford to build.
Do a License Check
If you are recommended someone, you can check the license online. You can use the Service NSW website to check a builder or tradesperson’s license is legitimate. This extra step is well worthwhile:
You can also check the licenses of plumbers, electricians, pool and spa tradespeople.
If you are after superior workmanship, using a member of the Master Builders Association is an extra layer of credibility. You can use the Master Builder’s Association website to find a master builder in your area.
What Insurance Do You Have?
In NSW, builders should have Home Building Compensation Cover for every project over $20,000 including GST. (This used to be called ‘Home Warranty Insurance’.) It’s a bit like the compulsory green slip but for builders.
Here are more details about Home Building Compensation Cover
It isn’t legal for licensed builders to do work without this cover.
Other Insurance for Your Building or Renovation
Other insurance it is a good idea for a builder to have is:
Contract Works Insurance:
This covers the loss or damage to materials and work.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
This is particularly for professional service providers (as opposed to tradespeople) such as architects, engineers, and certifiers. Professional Indemnity covers advice, design, management, and certification.
Public Liability Insurance
This covers the building and people if there is an injury.
Subcontractors also need their own public liability insurance as they may not be insured by the builder.
You as the homeowner are ultimately responsible for this if the builder does not have it, so it is worth checking. Otherwise, take out your own policy.
Tell Your House Insurance Company
You should also remember before you start building, make sure you tell your home insurance provider. (Many standard home building insurance contracts specify that the property isn’t covered if under construction.)
Are you available to work in our area?
It seems like a strange question, but if the builder lives an hour away, it will potentially impact their daily arrival time and schedule.
Do they want to work where you are? Check that the location isn’t a problem.
What else are you working on?
(In other words, are available during your preferred start dates e.g. autumn of 2021?)
Try to find out what their schedule is like upfront.
If the builder has multiple other jobs yet to finish, work out whether you want to delay and keep that builder or move ahead with another party.
Clarifying this early could save later frustration.
Do you have any work examples we can see or past clients we can talk to?
If they say yes, great! Check out the quality of the work first-hand. Even better if you get to speak to a past customer, then you can have questions for them.
Questions for Past Clients
- Were the costs accurate? Did they blow out by much?
- Were the builder and tradespeople on time? Were they reliable?
- Was the work finished when it was estimated to finish?
- How was the communication? Did they explain things and check things with you?
Finally and most importantly, would you use them again?
If they say yes, and the other info checks out, you may have got your builder. Lock ‘em in.
Requirements differ in each State and Territory. This article is general information only. It shouldn’t be considered as personal advice.