How to hire a builder

August 12, 2016

Building a new home, or doing a major renovation to your existing one, is a very exciting project to take on. But it is also a huge financial commitment, so you want to do it right.

Part of making sure you do get it right is to hire the best professionals for the job. From the person drawing up your plans to the tradies hammering the final nails into place, you will need to trust these people with one of the biggest financial outlays you will make in your life.

So just how do you choose the right builder for the project? There are so many out there and it can be hard to weed out the good from the bad. Here are some tips for the things you should be looking for and some questions you should be asking:

Price and Scope

The general rule of thumb is to always get at least three quotes. Builders are well aware that they will not be the only ones quoting for your job, so there is no need to feel like you are being shifty by having several tradies quote on the same project.

Once you receive the quotes, it can be tempting to look straight at the bottom lines and choose the lowest price based on that. But before you do this, first have a good look and see what the builders have actually quoted on. Some builders will quote just the very basics of the build, and won’t include demolition/excavation, the kitchen fit out, or any internal materials such as carpeting etc.

Other builders will quote on absolutely everything up front, from the skip hire to the light fittings and will even include a buffer in case the budget gets blown out during the build. So when you see one quote is far higher than another one, just make sure you double check they are quoting on the same scope of work, to make it a fair comparison.

License and Credentials

All builders need a license, and there is no exception to this rule. Make sure any builder that you are planning on hiring has a valid and current license before they start any work at all. The name of the license may vary throughout Australia, so contact your state building and construction commission for advice on exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Builders are also required to hold a current Homeowners Warranty Insurance Policy, and this is very important to double check as this is what will protect you if the builder doesn’t finish the job for some reason. Most builders, as part of their licensing conditions, will need to give you a warranty on their work for a set amount of time.


Take a look at the kind of work and jobs your builder has done over the past 12 months. Talk to the owners of other projects they’ve completed to see what they thought of the builder and if they are satisfied with the outcome. Getting recommendations from other people is important as any builder can tell you they are good at what they do, but it’s the people who have worked with them in the past that will give you the real truth.

Another important thing to check is if your builder has had experience doing something similar to what you want. There is not much point hiring a builder who usually only does commercial jobs to do the renovation on your house. Looking at similar projects they’ve done before will also show that they understand the kind of style and look you are after.

The Contract

Once you have chosen a builder based on their quotes, reputation and whether or not they hold all of the required licensing and paperwork, it’s time to have a contract drawn up. Take the time to look over the contract in detail, so you aren’t up for any surprises halfway through the build. A contract is different to the quote or tender. The quote may cover the price, timeframes, scope of work as well as exclusions. However, this is simply a quote and not the legally binding contract. Once you have negotiated and then agreed on the quote, the builder will draw up the actual contract for you, which will include all of the terms and conditions.

Look over the contract for errors (such as incorrect names or addresses), check the price stated is the agreed upon price, and whether or not it has a clear start and end date for the work. It will also help you plan better if you look over the payment schedule, so you know what kind of deposit is expected up front and any extra costs the builder has written in that they can charge you for.

Once you have done all of this, you can confidently get the ball rolling on your brand new house or extension!