How to Level the Playing Field With Your Builder

How to Level the Playing Field With Your Builder

Building and renovating is not something most of us do more than once or twice in our lifetime, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people get very nervous leaving their precious homes in the hands of home professionals such as builders. After all, it is a big investment and even small errors and minor misunderstandings can become expensive and stressful to resolve. However, from a builder’s perspective, whom does it every day, it all seems very obvious. This gap in understanding between the homeowner and builder – the unwritten ‘rules of the game’, in other words – can cause a lot of unnecessary tension and stress during the build.

Here are nine tips to help you get on a level playing field with your builder and enjoy a successful build.

1. Plans alone are not enough
The main function of a set of plans is to tell the builders and trades how to build a particular project. However, on their own, they are a terrible way of quoting. Even the most detailed set of drawings will have dozens of pieces of critical information missing. Items that are represented on a floor plan or assumed to be included (like a robe fit-out, floor finishes and bathroom fittings) are often not covered in enough detail in the drawings for a builder to be able to make an informed decision about the client’s expectations of those items.

The best way to ensure you receive detailed, accurate and transparent quotes that are also easy to compare is to also prepare an inclusions schedule to accompany the drawings and plans. Use it to set out specific allowances for dozens of items that must otherwise be guessed by a builder.

2. Select generous allowances to help avoid variations
When you are completing your plans and inclusions schedule, you will need to consider what allowances to make for all of the fittings and finishes that will go into your home. These will generally be monetary figures that make it easy for the builder to quote, as well as ensure transparency in the quote.

When selecting your allowances, it is always better to be more generous with the allowances than to leave yourself short. The reason for this is that by making generous allowances you are building a buffer into your quote and minimising the likelihood of cost variations, additional builder’s margins and budget blow-outs. For each item that you don’t allow enough money for, you are creating an opportunity where the builder can charge you an additional builder’s margin of up to 20 per cent on top of the difference in the allowance and the actual cost of the item.

3. Make your project easy to quote!
The building industry is currently enjoying a very busy period, so we are seeing builders struggling to keep up with their workload and hearing stories of wildly variable building quotes. One of the reasons builders submit seemingly outrageous quotes is because they may not be that interested in the project, and one common reason for that is the perception that the project is going to be hard work.

Ultimately, the quote reflects the builder’s confidence and enthusiasm for the project. In a busy market, one of the best ways to ensure you get the builder’s sharpest pencil is to make sure that your project is easy to quote. That means supplying them with professionally prepared drawings that accurately set out the scope of the project. Your investment in professional drawings tells the builder that you are committed to the project and are less likely to be wasting their time. You should also make sure that you supply the builders with your inclusions schedule, which, as previously mentioned, fills in a lot of the gaps in your requirements and expectations that drawings generally don’t cover. The benefit for the client here is that a confident quote is more likely to be a competitive quote.

4. Don’t get too many quotes
Don’t fall into the trap of getting six or seven (or more) quotes from builders. Instead, do some research, ask for recommendations and meet or talk to a shortlist of builders so that you can settle on three or four preferred builders to quote your project.

You are going to be spending a significant amount of money on your project so you want to make sure that you are dealing with the ‘right’ builders, not simply the cheapest builders. Don’t underestimate how time consuming the process will be, and the more builders you are trying to communicate with, the more distracted and confused you will get. Trust the shortlist of builders you have created and focus your time on them. You are also likely to get better responses and more competitive quotes from builders if they know they are quoting against two or three other builders, rather than six or seven.

5. Your DA drawings may need work
Depending on the complexity of your project, the drawings that were approved by council for Development Approval (DA) may not be sufficiently detailed to allow the builder to quote from or complete the project. This is most often the case for extension and renovation projects where the intent of the project can be simply explained with a few basic drawings that show the extent of the proposed works against the location of the existing house. This is easy for the council to understand and and approve, however the builder needs to know ‘how’ it is to be executed. For example, how will the new part of a building be connected to an existing building? What walls are being retained and removed? Where is the structural support for the roof and what size and specification are the windows?

As previously mentioned, you need to be prepared to invest in thorough high-quality documentation so that the builders have enough information to prepare a quote that is detailed and confident. This investment will probably save you much more by avoiding cost variations and budget blow-outs that occur when the builder is left with no choice but to make guesses about how to complete the project.

6. Understand your drawings
By the time you start building, you will probably be quite confident about your understanding of the drawings, however it is important that you have a clear understanding of what the plans are really saying. This means you need to be familiar with the notation on the drawings and what the actual drawings represent.

Unless you have engaged an architect or designer to help you through the building process, you will generally be the one the builder will contact with any questions that arise. You are not expected to be an instant expert in building, but you will be better off if you understand the drawings sufficiently enough so that you can respond to any queries the builder may have during the build. It may be a good idea to check with your designer if they are able to give you assistance with such matters from time to time during the build if you need clarification of an issue or simply a second opinion.

7. Make timely decisions
One sure way to frustrate a builder (and blow-out a time line) is to make slow decisions about selecting fittings and finishes. You shouldn’t be expected to make important decisions with unreasonably short notice; however you do have a responsibility to not excessively or consistently delay progress.

The builder is just as motivated to get your project finished as quickly as you are and the longer it takes, the more his profit is affected. Ideally, your builder will be able to guide you as to the order that items need to be selected. For example, it may surprise you that the toilet suite is one of the first things you will need to select, even though it doesn’t get installed until later in the process. This is because each toilet will have different set out locations for the plumbing connections that need to be known at the beginning of your project when the drainage is installed.

8. Trust the builder’s trades
Good builders rely heavily on the quality and reliability of their group of regular trades because it is these trades that execute the work for which the builder becomes known. So even though you may know a painter or electrician, don’t be surprised if the builder stands firm on his preference to use his regular trade group. The builder has probably been through a lengthy trial and error process to recruit trades that he can rely on and that will complete their task to his high standards.

If your builder does agree to use one of your preferred trades, you must accept that you are taking more responsibility for their involvement in the project, including the quality of their work and their reliability. Think about the position this puts you in before making that commitment.

9. Have realistic expectations
The process of building or renovating a home isn’t easy. There are a lot of trades and suppliers involved in the program of the build, and from time to time things won’t go to plan. There will be days when there is nobody on site and progress will seem slow. It might be that the required trades have been delayed at another project or that the required materials have not been delivered (another good reason to make timely decisions). At times like these, remember that good trades are worth waiting for.

Also keep in mind that you are unlikely to be the builder’s only client, so he may not always be as accessible as you would like. This situation can be better managed if you begin the project knowing how many other projects the builder will be working on at the same time.

Renovation and Home Design


Taken from:

Categories: ,