What to ask your builder before you break ground

Building a new home is an exciting time, but asking the right questions can be the difference between a smooth or stressful process.

While your builder will provide you with guidance and structure throughout the project, you should make sure that you are clear on some of the key construction aspects surrounding your new build.

Luke Pearce, Construction Manager at Porter Davis Homes in Queensland says it’s important to ask questions about the process before the build begins to avoid unexpected issues or confusion down the track.

“It’s common for people not to get a full understanding of what the process entails, meaning that building the home they’ve always dreamed of can become more difficult and expensive than it should be,” he says.

Here are the questions he says are critical to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

Are there any hidden site costs associated with my build?

Hidden costs can really add up and contribute to a big unexpected bill at the end of the process.

“This is by far the most important question people should be asking builders. There are so many elements to the build process that it’s important to understand as much as you can before signing contracts,” Pearce says.

“Soil and contour tests, landscaping and even driveway costs are not always discussed or included in the initial building conversations.

“Discuss with your builder whether prices in the contract are fixed and make sure they offer full transparency, on all costs. This is something that is not offered by all builders, so make sure you ask.”

And if you still feel uncertain about what to expect, don't be afraid to ask again. 

How does the size of my land affect my new build?

House to land ratio is an important aspect to consider as it often dictates the size and design of your build.

“Ensure that when you choose the design of your build, the house is relative to the size of the land,” Pearce says.

“If the block is too small for the house, extra charges like relaxation fees or build over sewer fees can become quite a substantial added cost.

“This is also an important consideration for trades and their access, if the home design does not correspond with the size of the land, access for trades can become quite limited.”

If you are supplying your own plans to a builder your architect should take this into consideration. However, it’s always important to discuss the land to size ratio to ensure the build goes as seamlessly as possible.

Your builder will be aware of any other regulations you need to consider.

How long will the build timeline be?

While you may receive a set timeline initially, factors such as weather, access to materials and contractor availability can have an impact.

However, reputable builders will provide you with a timeline letting you know when you can expect each stage to start.

“It’s important to know what kind of wait time you will experience when building a house, not only for you to organise your temporary living arrangements and moving dates, but so that you will know if things are running to schedule,” Pearce says.

Find out from your building company how they communicate delays and how you can expect them to be managed.

What customisation options are available with my new build?

The biggest difference between building or buying is that building gives you exactly what you want, to an extent. Always make time to discuss how customisable your build is to your needs and how you can make what you want work.

“The best part about building your home is having the ability to personalise your styling options,” Pearce says.

Do your research and thoroughly investigate how much your builder is willing to customise the floor plan, upgrade finishes and possibly even changing things along the way if you can.

Don’t forget to ask about any additional costs involved.

What should I know about the impacts of my street location?

The location of your build can make a big difference to your budget and building timeline. Discuss with your builder whether they see any potential issues or setbacks.

“It’s really important to ask your builder how your location will impact the building process,” Pearce says.

“Busy or built up locations may require traffic management plans or present difficulty in accessing the property for the workers, resulting in additional building time needed or additional costs.”

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