Read time: 8 minutes

Key Takeaways:

  • Not all volume builders provide discount rates despite what you may think. Understand how builders cost their projects and how they keep costs low before committing to them.
  • If you can, fix your site costs. Understand the details of the build early on.
  • Depending on the size and what is included in the build, a single-story home takes 16 to 20 weeks to complete and a double can take anywhere from 20 to 26 weeks.
  • Weather and trade shortages are the two biggest delay risks in building a home.
  • There are two construction elements that impact the integrity of a build i.e. the base and the frame. Your builder should carry out drain camera inspections to pick up any base breakages. As for the frame, check that your builder uses a higher structural grade timber such as MGP10 pine.
  • A 3-coat paint system is preferred when it comes to finishes but you can use a 2-coat system to save on costs. Make sure that a high-quality paint, such as Haymes, is used if you go with the latter.

 

Introduction

Congratulations! You’re one step closer to either building your dream home or your investment property.

It’s an exciting time but can also be just as overwhelming with the amount of information available out there.

Who do you go with?

How do you know you’re getting a fair deal?

Who can you trust?

These are all questions you’ll find yourself asking (if you haven’t already).

We’ve worked with dozens of Australian builders and have gone through this process many times with our clients at Eda Property.

In this article, we explore the top tips and must-knows when it comes to selecting a builder.

 

What you first need to understand

Many Australians rely on volume builders to provide cost-effective solutions for their family home or investment properties.

It’s important for you to understand what these builders offer and whether they’re the right fit for you.

What are ‘volume builders’?

Volume builders are typically known as ones that buy and construct a high number of residential homes. Because of the high volumes, it’s assumed that they are able to save money through building efficiencies and bulk purchases. As a result, they supposedly pass these volume savings on to their client.

There are builders that do indeed provide discounts with no impact on the quality of their builds. However, there are also those that market themselves as ‘volume builders’ but do not provide cost savings at all. The residential construction market is competitive, which means that those with high advertising budgets will be able to attract more potential clients with their compelling hooks.

In the next section, we explore how you can vet and select builders.

 

What you need to know about your builders before locking in

We interviewed Chatham Homes’ CEO, Ivan McRobb, for his professional views on selecting a builder and navigating the construction process.

Chatham Homes is a medium-sized building business that offers bespoke products and limited wholesale opportunities.

Below is the interview between Eda Property’s Director, Anissa, and Chatham Director, Ivan.

 

Anissa (Eda Property): What are some of the ways that volume builders keep their costs down? Which ones should clients care about?

Ivan (Chatham Homes): Volume builders have the perception of being affordable because of their buying power. The truth is there is a lot of smoke and mirrors and the reality is that they aren’t that cheap. They might offer a cheap base price but then charge margins on items that should be quite at standard costs. They might also charge site costs on top. When looking at the base price, you (the client) should always seek to understand what is and is not actually included.

 

Anissa (Eda Property): What are the most important considerations during the build with regards to timing? What can clients do to make sure they’re not holding up the building process?

Ivan (Chatham Homes): An organised builder should be able to complete a single-story home in 16 to 20 weeks depending on size and inclusion, and a double in 20 to 26 weeks. Weather and trade shortages are really the only things that should hold up a job once it has gone to site.  The key is correct paperwork at the start, so the job is ordered correctly by the builder.

 

Anissa (Eda Property): As a structural engineer you must have a strong view on this particular question. What part of the construction process has the biggest impact on structural integrity?

Ivan (Chatham Homes): The 2 structural components of any new home are the base and the frame, everything else is really cosmetic.

The base will be inspected twice by the building surveyor so as long as it has been checked correctly, it should be fine. The number one issue people have after moving in is slab heave. Slab heaves occur when water gets underneath. This is often due to broken stormwater pipes. To make sure this doesn’t happen, builders should carry out 2 drain camera inspections (this is what we do): one after the slab has been poured and another towards the end of the job. The camera inspections will pick up any breakages. Builders can then fix any breakages prior to landscaping, keep a record on file of repairs and where they occurred.

As for the frame, it will be inspected by the building surveyor, so it should not cause any structural problems. However, it’s always good to check if your builder is using MGP10 pine which is a higher structural grade timber than most volume builders use (this is what we use at Chatham Homes).

 

Anissa (Eda Property): Many budding builders will focus a lot of time on selecting the right finishes and clients can be lured by promises of upgrades and fashionable interior options. What do you think is the most important thing to focus on when considering finishes?

Ivan (Chatham Homes): A 3-coat paint system is important. Most investment builds do 2 coats to save on money. If you are using a 2-coat system, you should consider the brand as this matter. Chatham uses Haymes, which we believe to be the best paint on the market.  Plumbing fixtures are also very important. Our advice is to look at the country of origin and see are they Australian made. If so, they tend to be better quality the mass produced in some markets and of course, it is a lot easier to get parts for any maintenance.

 

Anissa (Eda Property): What advice you would give your family when choosing a builder?

Ivan (Chatham Homes): Only build with Chatham Homes, of course! Hahaha. The advice I will give is to go to the display home, check what is included in the base price, try and have your site costs fixed so you don’t have any surprises. Also, check what brands the builder use, are there any promos running, who they use as a building surveyor (to make sure your mandatory inspections are being done correctly) and look at some builds that are currently under construction.

 

We hope you gained some insight from this interview and have more confidence in vetting and selecting your builder.

 

We’re here to help if you have any questions. Email property@edaproperty.com.au.

 

Have you read our recent article on personal income insurance? Click here to read more about why you should protect yourself during the property investment process.