What to look for when hiring a builder for your next residential project

In our previous blog, we touched upon the importance of a successful relationship between the client and the architect. Equally as important, is the relationship between the client and the builder.
This blog focuses on what makes a successful client and builder relationship, drawing from the insights of David McCallum, the founder of DDB Design. David fully understands the importance of a harmonious client and builder relationship, and the key fundamentals that lend themselves to successful outcomes time and time again.


DDB: First and foremost, what should a client look for in identifying the right builder for their residential project?
DM: There are three key identifiers we at DDB Design suggest a client should take into consideration when selecting the right builder for their residential project.
A: (Company Culture) – The builder’s reputation, the size and management structure of the building company, examples of recently completed projects and most importantly, the core values of the building company.
B: (Project Manager & Construction Team) – Who specifically will be the project manager of your project and what is their background and experience? The personality of the project manager and what are your expectations regarding the management of your building project? Who is the construction manager and what is their experience? And does the builder have their own site team or is the team made up of only subcontractors? Are their relationships with their subcontractor’s long-standing?
C: (Systems & Procedures) – What specific systems and procedures does the builder have in place for site meetings, site management, contract variations and day to day communications? How has the process between the client and the builder transpired throughout the initial period, prior to the signing of the contract? Has the builder been proactive throughout the initial process, and have they delivered on what they said they would, and by when? This is a very good reflection of how they will behave throughout the build. 
DDB: What are some of the fundamental questions a client should ask when selecting a good builder?
DM: A client should look to understand if the builder is the right fit from a cultural aspect, as well as an experienced aspect. A few key questions a client may ask, can include:
  1. How long have you been a registered builder and a member of the ‘Master Builders Association’ or the ‘Housing Industry Association’? (In addition, you may wish to ask to see their building registration card).
  2. How many building warranties claims have you had since you first became a registered builder, and can you explain the details of these warranty claims?
  3. What is your procedure for handling building variations and what percentage should I allow to cover the cost of variations throughout my project?
Our previous blog covers some of the fundamental questions a client should ask when selecting the right builder for their project, and includes topical questions that address hidden costs, building variations and more. The full list of questions can be viewed here.
DDB: What other considerations should the client take into account when selecting their build team?
DM: One of the most time-consuming and underestimated parts of building or renovating a house is the interior design process, including the selection of all the finishes and fittings for the house. Therefore, the client must have a clear idea of who is going to do the interior design, and work with the designer to truly understand the best balance of form and functionality, for their lifestyle and future requirements. Before deciding to take on this role themselves they need to ask, do they have the time, confidence and experience to carry out this very important role as part of the project team?
DDB: With 30 years of successful residential builds, can you share the key attributes that have made for a successful outcome between you as the builder and the client?
DM: There are five key attributes I know works for us, and in fact, should be part of every business mantra:
  1. Great communication
  2. Transparency
  3. Integrity
  4. Trust
  5. A clear understanding of what the clients want to achieve and their expectations of the building process
DDB: What are the foundations that have continued to forge successful outcomes for you and the client?
DM: I have had a life-long love of good design and an innate understanding of the building process. Early in the relationship the clients recognise and value my passion for building and design and from this a high level of trust quickly develops. Once the client trusts you and your processes they start to relax and enjoy the process, and for me, this is the foundation of a great relationship and client experience. DDB Design has built a strong team who also represents and supports these values. So, whether a client is working directly with myself or with my team, they will have the same experience.
DDB: Which key tips are tried and tested when guiding the client on a successful build journey?
DM: A successful project outcome relies on the client’s willingness to explore, understand and be open to suggestions or ideas. Four key tips DDB Design have tried and tested when guiding the client on a successful journey are:
  • Know what you want
  • Do your homework
  • Help facilitate the project and;
  • Trust your team
DDB: Is there a key piece of advice you can offer a client when choosing the right builder for their residential project?
DM: Find the right mix. The right personality mix between the client and the builder is vital to a smooth and enjoyable project. I use the first two or three meetings with a new client to get to know each other and to see if the personality mix feels right. In this regard the client must trust their own instincts. If it feels right to them after the first few meetings with the builder, then they are in the right hands.

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