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06 Jul 2017

How to get the best from your builder?

When building and renovating your home it’s important to select the right industry professionals to assist you. But once you’ve got the best people on board, how do you make sure you stay on good terms?

We asked a builder, an architect and an interior designer for their tips on getting the best from your builder.

Trust

A good relationship between builder and client is based on “good communication, mutual respect, and the big one, mutual trust”, says Alex Roth, principal architect and lead designer for Roth Architects in Sydney.

“If you’ve got that trusting relationship from the beginning, along with clear communication, it always helps,” agrees builder Ben Richards from Richards Building Co in Sydney’s north shore. Ben and his brother Jack have more than 15 years experience in residential building and know how important a good client and builder relationship is to the success of a project.

“Jobs that go really well are when the starting foundation is built on trust from both parties. “When our clients have set out clear expectations of what they’re looking for, and they trust us when it comes to timing and pricing, jobs run smoothly.”

Communication

“Even before you hire a builder, ask them how they communicate with you and how often,” says Tania Bell from Green Room Interiors in Melbourne.

“Some builders who are progressive have adopted an online project management software package, which allows clients to log into a portal and be able to see and keep updated with the project every step of the way,” she says.

Make sure you have clear documentation and detailed specifications, advises Roth. “Poor documentation often leads to issues later on.”

Get a recommendation

Research your builder and get testimonials. “Ask your building designer or architect for recommendations of a builder, as they may have good working relationships with reputable companies,” suggests Bell.

“Go with your gut instinct when working with a builder. If you don’t click with them from the beginning then they are not the right one for you. Find someone who you trust and communicates well.”

Make selections in advance

Don’t delay on decisions regarding selections. “Before you approach a builder to tender for your project, have as many choices for exterior and interior fixtures, fittings and finishes selected,” says Bell. “This way you get a more accurate cost for the build. You may wish to consult with an interior designer to help with these decisions.”

Be decisive

“One key quality for a client to have to get the best out of their builder is to be a good decision maker,” says Richards. “Being able to negotiate any hurdles big or small with minimal delay will ensure productivity continues and timing and budget will only be affected marginally.

“Jobs that don’t do as well tend to be when a client hasn’t gone into the project with a clear idea in mind and are continuously changing their mind,” warns Richards. “Changing things once the job has started can mean a huge change in pricing and can push the timings out. We are always working with subcontractors and timing and availability of these trades is critical. Any delays for one trade can easily throw out the timing and availability of the next subcontractor which can have a snowball effect and can potentially cause significant increases in the project duration and cost.”

Finances

“Finances also play a huge part in a successful builder/client relationship,” says Richards. “The builder must be upfront and honest with their pricing from the beginning and the client must ensure they pay their invoices on time. If either party fails on this front then the trust is lost and it can cause considerable strain to the relationship and can impact the project negatively on all fronts.”

Don’t interfere

“Don’t second guess a builder’s decision to construct something a particular way, they are the experts and you should leave them to do the job they are trained for,” says Bell.

It’s important to have consistent instructions from a single individual. “Too many people instructing the builder can lead to things going wrong. For example, conflicting instructions issued from a couple of sources will often lead to errors,” says Roth.

Look after the tradies

“If you are working with a supervisor, make sure you butter them up,” says Bell. “All tradies love to be treated nicely with some home-baked goodies, coffee or a beer on a hot Friday afternoon. A little bribery never goes astray.”

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