Before you sign a contract or pay a deposit, ask your builder the following questions. It could potentially save you thousands and avoid costly legal bills.

Deposit and Pricing Questions

Once your plans and detailed specifications are finalised, a reputable builder will prepare a contract. The contract should set out both parties’ responsibilities, and importantly, a progress and payment schedule.

  1. How much is the deposit and how much will be kept should we not proceed?
  2. At what point will we have the final price?
  3. Can you give us a price before we pay a deposit?
  4. If we pay for things like soil test and property information, do we get these reports to own should we not proceed?

Land Questions

Finding the right block of land for your new home is an important decision. There are a number of considerations when choosing the size and location of your land to ensure you can build your dream home.

If you agree to pay for preliminary information like a soil test, property report and levels, you should ask your builder the following questions. If the answers to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you will need to obtain a cost for each that will likely sit outside standard inclusions.

  1. Do I require an engineer-designed foundation? (You may require this if your block is on reactive soil or close to the coast.)
  2. Do I require protection against termites?
  3. Does the storm or septic water disposal system need to be engineer-designed?
  4. Are retaining walls likely to be required?
  5. Will there be soil/fill that needs to be taken away or brought onto the site?
  6. Will there be services required to receive distant connections?

Plan & Design Questions

  1. How many plans do you have in your range?
  2. Can I modify your standard plans and at what cost?
  3. Can I bring in my own plans for you to price?
  4. Will you inspect our block before we buy it to ensure it’s suitable for the kind of house we want to build?
  5. What is included in your floor area total? (The square metre area of a home can be measured in different ways. Some builders could include decks, eaves, patios or paved areas.)
  6. Will you provide a comprehensive design consultation service? What will this include?
  7. Will you provide modern visual design aids and access to professional designers to help me achieve the ideal plan that I want?
  8. Will you help me to find out if there are specific requirements or restrictions regarding our home’s location on our block, and are there any protective covenants?
  9. Will you give me a simple concept plan with my quote before I pay my deposit?
  10. What energy rating will my home be aiming to achieve?
  11. Where will the midday winter sun enter the house?
  12. How much summer afternoon sun is going to enter the house?
  13. Where will the view (if any) be visible from inside?
  14. Are there long runs for the hot water and if so how will wastage/lag time be reduced?

Standard Inclusion Questions

  1. Is your quote comprehensive in its inclusions?
  2. Can you explain what is not included?
  3. What soil classification is allowed for in your standard inclusions for foundation and slab design? (Some builders often treat even simple excavations and earthworks as extras.)
  4. Will my colour selections be carried out locally?
  5. What heating and cooling is included?
  6. What floor coverings are included?
  7. Do you have a soil test allowance in your standard inclusions?
  8. Does the contract or quote include any provisional sums? (These costs could potentially be a guesstimate that are not fixed and will change once they have the final price from their supplier.)
  9. Have you included full drainage and other service costs or have you listed them as a provisional sum? (This could potentially be listed as a provisional sum which could rise considerably.)

Credibility Questions

  1. Are you trade certified and affiliated to a recognised industry body such as HIA/MBA?
  2. Can you show me through any homes that are currently being constructed, or any completed homes? (Here you can check the quality of workmanship of existing customer homes.)
  3. Can you provide me written testimonials from past clients?
  4. Is it a fixed build time?
  5. Will you pay me money if you are over contract time? (This is also known as liquidation damages.)
  6. What exceptions enable you to extend the contract time with no liquidations damages payable?

Confidence Questions

  1. What health and safety processes do you have in place?
  2. What contractors do you use?
  3. Do you have a dedicated construction coordinator who will personally manage all sub-trades on my site, keep me informed of progress and answer my questions?
  4. Can I speak directly to the registered builder who’s ultimately responsible for my home construction?
  5. How can I be sure your company is financially stable?

Guarantees Questions

  1. Who does the builder acquire home owner warranty insurance from?
  2. Does this insurer cover loss of deposit, non-completion and defects?
  3. Does the builder have min $10 million dollars public liability insurance, and construction insurance adequate for your home?
  4. What is the maintenance period?

Technical Questions

Although many of these questions are technical in nature, it can be beneficial to have responses so that you can accurately compare quotes.

  1. Is the supply of concrete pumping included?
  2. What wall and ceiling insulation is included?
  3. Is a three coat paint system included? Using whose paint?
  4. Is sarking to roofing included?
  5. Are COLORBOND® down pipes included?
  6. Are eaves standard on our chosen design?
  7. What type of toilets and basins are included? Are they china?
  8. Is obscure/safety glass to ensuite and bathroom included?
  9. Are there plan-specific overhead cupboards to kitchen included?
  10. Is a gas (electric in some areas) boosted solar hot water system with two solar panels included?
  11. Is the rangehood ducted to natural air i.e. not recirculated?
  12. Is termite treatment included and what system is used? Will maintenance be required??
  13. Is trenching and conduit for service connections included?
  14. Is ceiling plaster fixed onto metal battens, reducing the risk of warping and cracking?
  15. Are steel lintels with bricks over the garage and windows included i.e. no high maintenance timber in-fills?
  16. At what stages will you be able to inspect the works?

Two Golden Rules

Finally, there are two golden rules to follow when dealing with builders.

First, do not sign anything with your builder until you have read all the fine print. If there is anything that you do not understand, ask for advice from an independent builder, consultant, or obtain legal advice. Remember once you have signed a building contract you cannot normally back out if you change your mind. There is no ‘cooling off’ period.

Second, ensure that everything important is confirmed in writing and keep a copy.

Looking for a builder in your area? Contact your local G.J. Gardner Homes office.