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Selecting and working with a builder

One of the keys to assessing a service provider is having a starting point or guidelines that will help you to identify a problem (before it happens) and better understand the differences between the companies being considered. At a first glance a few or even many of these points may seem simple or even obvious … but it is often these that are overlooked.



As a client try to put yourself in a builder's shoes. This might seem like an odd point to start with, but how would you deal with a client who was sceptical, returned phone calls/emails a week later and was constantly thinking you were trying to cheat them (before you've even agreed to work together).

Ask 'dumb' questions

You don’t build regularly or as a profession … builders do.

A question that might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing to ask is likely to also be one that your builder has answered many times before with other clients.

Maintaining standards

When a builder has a good reputation, it’s easy to become inundated with work. Signing contracts and doubling turnover isn’t difficult, but maintaining the same level of service/attention to detail which created the good reputation is virtually impossible. Ask how many projects the builder is currently working on and how many he/she will be working on at the same time as yours.

The Builder


Never assume that a builder is licensed and always check that the type of license they hold allows them to complete your project. Ask what parts of your project will be outsourced to specialist trades (e.g. removal of asbestos sheeting) and what steps the builder takes to ensure they are correctly licensed and insured.


Well regarded and reliable trades are an important part of the community and have a vested interest in the projects they work on. The same is the case with suppliers – fixtures and materials purchased from overseas, ebay or ‘builders auctions’ in Sydney can be very difficult to match, replace or seek refunds on.

Previous clients

Photos on a website are good, testimonials are great and speaking with previous clients is even better. Any builder who has looked after clients will be able to share the names and numbers/email addresses of three to five clients without any concerns.


In recent years a number of building companies who specialise in new homes have been placed into administration. Always check whether the group you are thinking of building with has had any applications to be wound up by creditors. Also ask for a signed letter from their accountant to confirm their financial health and whether they are up to date with taxes/payments.


All prospective clients should request/receive quotes from two or three builders. Taking this step confirms value for money and choice, which helps to create a relationship of trust/goodwill between the client and their chosen builder.

Working together


At the centre of every successful working relationship is a common understanding built on good communication. When working on a project with many moving parts and possibilities, it is a good idea to take the time to place any changes in writing to help prevent confusion and conflict.

Remember timeframes

At times building can test everyone's patience, especially if it seems to be at a standstill. It is rare to find really good trades (who have the right mix of price, quality and availability) who only work for one builder or on one project as a time.

Forget the noise

“You have to do this / you can’t do that” / all builders cut corners / why renovate, you should be knocking down and rebuilding?” Everyone has an opinion and some can be very convincing, but it isn’t their property … it’s yours. If they persist in offering advice, request it in writing and ask your prospective builder for their opinion.

Think we’ve missed something?

… or have a question? Take a minute and let us know.