Building a home can be an incredibly exciting but stressful experience. However, you can alleviate a lot of this stress with forward planning and knowledge of the building process. Here’s five things you need to know before building a home.
Having a competent builder is essential to the building your home, as is having a good relationship with them.
There are two ways you can go about engaging with builders. First, is seeking one out yourself and inviting them to prepare a quotation or tender. Even if you already know the builder or have been recommended them, seek out an alternative quote to ensure you’re getting a competitive quote.
The other option is to call open or selective tenders from a number of builders and choose one based on price and their previous work. In either option, you should note you’re not obliged to accept the lowest or any tender.
Your builder should supervise and coordinate the delivery of materials and conduct quality control. You can find qualified builders on the Master Builders Australia website and the Housing Industry Australia website. This doesn’t guarantee their competency but it’s a good place to start. If your build costs more than $3,300, which it no doubt will, the builder must be licensed.
If you want to build a sustainable home you need to be clear about it from the outset. Builders will typically use materials they’ve used in the past which are tried and tested, so they won’t deviate from this unless specifically told to do so.
Australian building regulations enforce that new homes are eco-friendly, so that they use less water and energy, which helps reduce emissions and also cuts down your utility bills. As well as using sustainable materials, make sure your house is being fitted with sustainable fixtures like eco-friendly lightbulbs and grey water gardening systems.
If you want solar panels, consider where they will be best suited to be fitted and make sure your builder knows about them early on.
Contracts are an incredibly important part of the build. Not only do they stipulate the building plans, but they also enforce the schedule and the responsibilities of the builder. If for whatever reason, there is a dispute between you and the builder, the contract is your best friend, as you can easily use it to reinforce your position, and legal bodies can use it to argue your case.
The contract will also nominate any subcontractor you’d prefer the builder use, like a plumber or a painter, who you know is reliable. Builders usually have their own preferred subcontractors so be sure to state otherwise if you wish to use a different one.
The contract should strike a reasonable balance between your needs and the builders, as well as have clear conflict resolution provisions. It should also state if you want any sustainability measures fitted. Consider having a legal representative draft and double-checking the contract to ensure it’s exactly what you require.
It’s important to have an open line of communication with your builder so you can frequently arrange to see the build. This can enable you to point out anything you don’t like or that is incorrect before it’s too late.
Supervising the build isn’t something you should do by yourself. It’s critical to get construction and real estate experts to ensure everything is above board and the right decisions are being made.
Inspecting the building site is also required by law to confirm it's built in accordance with the contract and meets relevant Australian standards and Building Code of Australia regulations. Experienced professionals can provide you advice if something is going wrong and tell you the best course of action.
An owner’s manual is arguably as important as the contract. Your designer or builder will be able to give one to you, and it’ll give you detailed instructions on how to go about handover and maintenance of the home. If you end up selling the home, you should give the new owners a copy.
The owner’s manual covers things like:
cleaning of solar appliances
termite barriers and inspection schedule
operating guides for water harvesting and treatment systems
isolation valves for services (gas, electricity and water)
hot water system sacrificial anode replacement date
hot water system pressure relief valve checks
appropriate cleaning products for all surfaces and finishes
landscape maintenance requirements.
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