Eight must-ask questions before choosing your home builder

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Building your dream home is a monumental decision. To guide you on this journey, we’ve compiled a straightforward guide with essential questions to ask potential home builders. Armed with these insights, you will be well-equipped to sidestep common pitfalls and make sure your home builder aligns with your budget and aspirations.

1. What’s included in your standard home build?

Each builder will have their own version of ‘standard inclusions’. These can vary between builders, meaning you will need to enquire and compare their offerings. Some builders offer the essentials in their standard inclusions (which may be better suited to first-home buyers or investors), whereas others may offer a more complete package with premium inclusions (better suited to a second or forever-home buyer).

Where possible, make direct comparisons between the inclusions (such as benchtops, ceiling heights, downlights, and floor coverings) and align them with your goals and aspirations.
Additionally, don’t forget to clarify what is not included as standard. Depending on the builder, these can include driveways, fencing, and window treatments. Ask if these are available as upgrades or if you will need to arrange these after you’ve received your keys.

2. Do you have any recommended upgrades?

The colour selection and upgrade process can be one of the most exciting parts of your home-building journey, as you can begin to see your vision become a reality. Your builder can provide some great tips and advice based on their professional experience with other clients.
For instance, while higher ceilings are a common upgrade to make your home feel more spacious, raising the door frame heights to match can add that extra touch of grandeur.
It’s important to have a thorough understanding of your builder’s promotions as well – you might find some of your desired ‘upgrades’ are included at no extra charge!

3. Can I customise the floorplan?

If you’re considering customising the floorplan, be clear about your intentions early on. While some builders allow changes, others might have restrictions or added costs. Asking this question will help shape your expectations on design flexibility.

4. Are site costs fixed or is there an allowance?

It’s important to understand the difference between fixed site costs and site cost allowances when building your home. When site costs are fixed, you will have peace of mind knowing that the price won’t change regardless of what’s required to prepare your lot for construction – while this could save you money if your builder has to complete extra work, it might also be an
‘extra cost’ if your site requires less work than anticipated.

On the other hand, if your builder uses a site cost allowance, the price will change depending on your lot’s final soil and survey test – meaning you can expect to pay more if your lot requires more work than anticipated. Of course, this can also mean that you potentially save money if the work required is less than expected as you will only be charged for the final actual cost.

All builders are different, with different policies and offerings. Have an in-depth chat with your consultant to find out the pros and cons of fixed cost and site allowance.

5. Can I bring in an external building inspector?

Engaging an external building inspector can give you that added peace of mind that the build meets industry standards for quality and design. Check if your builder allows an external inspector throughout all construction stages – it’s a great way to safeguard the standard of your new home.

6. What’s the duration of your maintenance period and structural guarantee?

All builders provide a maintenance period on their builds after they’ve handed over the keys. This means that for a certain period after handover, they will come back and fix certain issues. Find out how long this maintenance period is for your builder; be sure to also ask what is and isn’t covered if any issues arise.

Similarly, different builders offer different structural guarantees on their homes – this may affect your decision-making process. Chat to your builder about how long the structural guarantee is, as well as the associated terms and conditions.

7. What is the final cost likely to be?

Knowing the final actual cost of your new home build is the most important aspect of your financial planning. Many builders will be able to give you an upfront cost estimate for your new home while fixed-price builders will tell you the exact amount.

Keep in mind, certain elements can incur additional costs. For instance, certain tapware, flooring, and colour selection may fall outside of your standard or promotional inclusions. It’s a good idea to ask your builder what other customers like yourself are typically spending in the colour showroom – this can help you get a more realistic expectation of your final cost.

8. Should I lock in today’s price or wait for a better deal?

There are many builder promotions available throughout the year which can drastically affect your final price. While there may be upcoming promotions, new designs, or features you would like to wait for, there may be costs associated with waiting.

Locking in a price or promotion today can help to protect yourself from future price rises or unforeseen changes. Most builders offer ‘price freeze’ opportunities – ask your consultant if this is something you can take advantage of.

Your dream home is on the horizon

As a first-time home builder, arming yourself with these questions is key to a successful journey. By seeking clarity on inclusions, upgrades, site costs, inspections, warranties, customisation, and deposit expectations, you’re better equipped to make a confident decision.

Remember, comprehensive research and open communication are key to the best home-building experiences.

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