Exploring your options
Now you are ready to see what’s available in home designs. As you drive around visiting builders’ display homes, sales centres and offices, it’s a good idea to take notes. That way, it is much easier to make comparisons later.
The key to successful home hunting is to take your time. Take a thorough look at everything and ask a lot of questions. The builder or salesperson should be ready and pleased to answer each question. Sales centres will often have a complete information package on the homes, the development and the community, including schools and other facilities. And keep in mind that a builder’s display home is usually just one of several designs offered by the company.
If you are still looking to buy land, does the community meet your needs?
- Does the development have a good ‘feel’? Can you see yourself living there? Ask about landscaping plans and common facilities, if any. Visit a builder’s finished development for a better impression.
- What are the long-term plans for the community, e.g. growth, roads, facilities, commercial/industrial expansion?
- Are there any community or development covenants and bylaws that restrict how you can live in your home (e.g. no pets)?
Display homes and plans
- Take a close look at the quality of each display home – is the construction solid, the finishing well done with attention to details?
- Compare layouts and size (more squares does not always mean more living space).
- Find out if the features in each display home are standard or upgrades (i.e. extra cost) and ask to see samples of the builder’s standard finishing products.
- Note down the features of each home that appeal to you.
- Consider your family’s daily routine throughout the seasons.
- Check if the builder is using brand name products you know and trust.
- Ask about each builder’s design flexibility (e.g. moving walls, enlarging windows) and how that would change the cost of the home.
- Ask about optional or upgrade ‘packages’ (e.g. lighting, plumbing, floor coverings, etc.).
- Look at the company’s other designs and plans.
- Visit display homes outside your price range for ideas for layout and features (but stay focused on the price range that’s most comfortable for you).
- Ask about lot availability for the display home you are interested in – there may be restrictions on block size or shape.
- You should shop around for your builder as carefully as you do for your home design.
- Is the company a member of the HIA? The HIA is Australia’s largest residential building organisation. Membership of the HIA is an important indication of their professionalism.
- How long has the builder or building company been in business and, on average, how many homes do they build annually?
- Where else have they built and/or are they building now? (It’s worth a quick tour to see if you like the finished results.)
- Will they give you the names of past customers for references? (Check with a few to find out if they are satisfied and would recommend the builder.)
- Call your local builder’s licensing or registration agency, office of fair trading or consumer affairs to see if there are any complaints against the company.
- Ask about after-sales service – most builders have an established follow-up system once the home is built.
Other important questions
- What is the required deposit?
- How much will the progress payments be throughout construction and when will they be due?
- How long will it take to get local council and other government approvals?
- When can construction begin, and when can you expect to move in?
- Who is the contact person before and during the construction of your home?
- Can you visit your home during construction?