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What to look for in a builder

  • Presentation. Professional builders operate in a business-like manner. They respect your schedule and show up for appointments on time. They present themselves well, are organised, and deal with your questions and concerns directly. They earn your confidence because they follow through on promises – if they say they will call you back tomorrow, they do. How a builder deals with you before a contract is signed tells you a lot about how you can expect to be treated once the job begins.
  • Communication. Renovation is a ‘people business’ and good builders are good listeners and communicators. Professional builders must ‘translate’ your ideas and goals into a workable plan and a pleasant experience. This requires a solid working relationship and good rapport. If you’re not comfortable with the builders you interview or don’t feel you can communicate with them effectively, you should keep looking to find the right person for your job.
  • Skills and experience. Renovating a home can be a far more complex task than building it in the first place. It also involves a lot of different types of work, some of which require specialised expertise. Whatever the scope and nature of your project, your builder needs to have solid experience with that type of work and be able to show you from past projects that this is the case.
  • Professional reputation. Established builders will provide you with references from previous customers, and in fact, you shouldn’t even have to ask for them.

Interviewing builders

Once you have a list of potential builders, your next step is to meet them and discuss your project. These initial interviews will help you determine who is qualified to handle your project, and what each can offer in terms of ideas, suggestions and guidance in developing your plans.

Initial interviews provide the opportunity to get to know builders – their background, experience, business stability and trustworthiness. Take your time and ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid you will offend potential candidates. Professional builders welcome the opportunity to tell you about their experience and services.

Many homeowners wonder how many builders they should interview before deciding who to hire. While there is no hard and fast rule, three should be adequate. If you can’t establish a comfortable rapport with a builder, or if you feel your questions are not answered properly, then you should talk to someone else. On the other hand, if you find someone who you have a high level of confidence in and are certain they are right for your project, don’t hesitate to choose them

Checking references

In order to select the best builder for your project, you need the right information. A builder’s past customers are probably the most reliable source of information available to you.

Each builder you interview should be able to provide at least three references from previous customers. Ideally, these past projects should be similar in scope and scale to yours.

Once you have the list, make the calls. Surprisingly, many people who ask for references never actually follow through and check them. This is a mistake.

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