19 Questions to ask your builder before you get started

Building a home is one of the biggest investments of your life and choosing the right builder is one of the most important steps in your journey. We’ve compiled a list of questions to help make this process easier.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, managing director Brendan Howe talking to client

When choosing the right builder for your knock down rebuild or custom home there are a number of factors you need to consider. Asking the right questions from the onset could potentially save you thousands. You want to make sure you feel comfortable communicating with them and they are transparent and flexible. Pick a builder that you have complete faith in to do right by you and your new home. To help aid you in this journey we’ve compiled a list of easy questions and checkboxes that you should be asking every builder before you make your decision.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, Red Hill, exterior at dusk
Ask your builder if they are licensed.

1. Are you a licensed builder?

Deceptively simple, but yes this is the first question you need to ask. Some people decide to go with an unlicensed builder to save money leading to disastrous results. An unlicensed builder is not entitled to any fee or compensation in relation to the work undertaken under a contract and may cut corners or leave your property unfinished. A simple Internet search can rectify this before you’ve even met with them.

2. Can you work with my chosen architect?

You want to choose a builder that is accommodating and can work with your chosen architect. Consulting a builder before and during the design process could potentially save you thousands. They will be able to advise you as to wether the home you’ve designed is achievable within your budget. If you haven’t selected an architect already most builders will be able to point you in the right direction for what you want to achieve with your design.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, Governor General inspecting plans
Ask you builder if they can accomodate and work with your architect.

3. Do you have Homeowners Warranty Insurance?

Your builder must issue you with a Certificate of Currency for Home Owners Warranty Insurance before you even start construction. This covers you for financial loss should they become insolvent during or after the construction of your new home.

4. How experienced are you at knock down rebuilds?

You want to choose someone that is a specialist in their field. This will ensure that they have all the right industry contacts on hand. This will make your build process as smooth and stress-free as possible. At Homes by Howe we truly are the knock down rebuild specialists with more than 75% of our projects falling into the category.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, partially demolished house yellow digger in foreground

5. What investigations are carried out for the quote?

You want to check what kind of tests and investigations your builder does on site to come up with their cost estimate. This will indicate wether they are giving you an accurate and realistic quote from the onset. Make sure that the pre-quote assessment at least includes a contour survey, site and floor plan, compliance check and preliminary engineer report.

6. How long will it take before I can get my quote?

It will take around 4 weeks from final design approval for a builder to come up with a comprehensive quote. Seeing that they send you a quote within the specified time period is a good accountability test before the build even starts.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, Managing Director Brendan Howe making measurements on site

7. What is your contracted build time? Have you ever exceeded the contracted period to build a home?

Contracted build times will vary in accordance with the size of your new home and your site. Most builds allow 4-6 months for pre-construction and 6-12 months for the build depending on the size. With a knock down rebuild or new home it’s easier to have clear and set construction times. Renovation time scales have the potential to get blown out of proportion due to out-dated infrastructure and banned substances. These can be found during the construction process. Meaning it will require additional work to bring the existing structure in line with current building code. At Homes by Howe we have never yet exceeded the contracted build time.

8. How many homes do your construction supervisors manage at any given time?

This is one of the most important questions. You want to make sure a companies construction supervisors aren’t stretched too thin. So that they are able to give your knock down rebuild or new home design the attention it deserves. At Homes by Howe Brendan and the construction supervisor team only manage 10 builds at any one time. This ensures that each client gets the maximum attention and build quality.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, family in Homes by Howe display home, Chapman

9. Do you thermally wrap the homes as standard?

From a sustainability and energy efficiency point of view this is a very important question. If a home is thermally wrapped it will drastically improve its energy efficiency. This will improve its longevity and make it comfortable to live in all year round. At Homes by Howe we wrap all our houses in Enviroseal ProctorWrap wall wrap.

10. How big is your standard brick selection?

You want to make sure your builder uses a brick supplier that offers a wide range of brick styles, textures and colours. This will give you lots of options when designing your new home. Homes by Howe primarily use Austral Bricks or PGH Bricks, which offer a wide range of brick styles.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, Watson, exterior entrance way

11. Are your appliances, fixtures and fitting known brands? And do you provide the model numbers?

Make sure that the builder you partner with outfits your house with the best possible appliances, fixtures and fittings. Builders will have brands that they are partnered with to get you the best fixture at the most competitive price. The brands a builder chooses to partner can tell you a lot about the builder. Homes by Howe use only high quality, premium brands of which all model numbers are shown in the inclusions list.

12. Are your downlights standard?

Lighting is one of the most important parts of the home. You want to make sure your lighting design is tailored to your home to make it an inviting space. If not you can always ask your builder for a standard lighting layout.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, display home, Chapman, kitchen, marble bench tops, wood detailing, Miele appliances
A full suite of Miele appliances in the Homes by Howe Display Home Kitchen.

13. Do you build on sloping blocks?

Site plays a huge role in the cost and time it will take to complete a build. Building on a sloping site is more difficult than a flat one. If you have a sloping block you want to make sure you have a builder who has experience and is comfortable building on a sloping site. This will make the process easier as they will already have industry contacts and experience with the issues that can arise on a sloping site build. During the initial quoting process your builder will review your site and look at the local council requirements for building on your chosen land so as to mitigate issues before they arise.

14. What parts of the contract do not have a fixed price?

This is an important question as it’s where you can experience the biggest budget blowouts so it would be wise to get clarification on this from your builder before you start the building process. For instance at Homes by Howe rock removal, underground water and traffic control are the only costs that we don’t fix in your building contract.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, display home, Chapman
Homes by Howe Display Home making the most of split level on a sloping site.

15. How flexible are you regarding changes?

You want a builder that is flexible and can accommodate minor changes you want to make to your new home design on the go. This is your dream home. You should be a part of the team and be able work together with your builder to build the home you want.

16. What don’t you do?

It’s good to ask this question as some builders may not do certain things, such as pools or landscaping, requiring you to contract out for those services. This can make the building process more stressful and cost you more money. Having a builder that does everything, start to finish, will make your life easier and the build process less stressful, allowing you to move into your new home with nothing left to do.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, knock down rebuild, Tudawalli Place, Chapman, living room, green weathertex architectural panelling, skylights and large floor to ceiling windows

17. When do I sign my contract?

After a detailed quoting process you will be provided with a fixed price contract for signing. A fixed price contract is a contract that sets the total price for all construction related activities during the project to be paid as a lump sum after deposit at the end. Typically in a fixed price contract the builder will estimate total material and labour costs for the project and will charge this regardless of the actual cost. Once you have signed and paid a deposit you will be issued with your Home Owners Warranty and Insurance Certificate of Currency.

18. What tools do you use to keep communication open during the build?

You don’t want a builder that makes it difficult for you to access information about your build or that you’re constantly having to chase up to see when things are happening. To mitigate this ask how they will communicate with you throughout the build. Homes by Howe use software called Builder Trend that allows you to keep up to date with progress onsite. It also allows you to upload photos and send messages that are stored against your job reference. This system makes it easy for you to check in on your build and keep track of progress remotely.

Homes by Howe, Canberra Builder, family in display home, Chapman

19. Do you have a COVID safe plan?

At the moment the ACT Government dictates that all sites must have and abide by a COVID safe plan on site. It is imperative that your builder has one in place and adheres to all the measures required by government and industry bodies so there is no risk of your site being shut down.

Building your dream home should be one of the most exciting experiences of your life not one of the most stressful ones. Choosing the right builder from the onset can go a long way towards reducing stress and making the process as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Hopefully this has helped to illuminate the kind of the things you should be asking your builder before hiring them to construct your knock down rebuild or custom home. The best builders in Canberra will already have the answers to these questions on hand. If you’re ready to jump in and build your dream home a design consultation with Home by Howe is a good place to start!