How to Choose a Builder, Designer or Architect
Are you stuck finding the right builder for your new home or dream project? Whether it's a stunning renovation or a brand-new design, it’s important to find the right person who can deliver on your build ideas and home design goals.
Learn from the experts about how to make the right decision the first time (to save yourself from any costly mistakes).
Get Clear on Your Vision
The initial step involves finding a professional who not only understands but resonates with your vision. Check their existing work (you can do a Google search for local builders and designers) and find one whose work matches the style you’re after. If you are unsure of how to design your house or what home design style you want, take some time to research. Ask yourself: What do you envision for your dream home? What functionalities are crucial? How do you want the space to feel and function? Are you looking for a passive building design for maximum comfort and efficiency? Are you thinking about buying a house and land package? Moreover, establishing a realistic budget is equally vital. It's essential to be practical about your finances and to choose a builder who can accommodate it. Having a well-defined vision and budget not only aids in effectively communicating your expectations to potential builders, designers, or architects but also assists them in understanding the feasibility of your dream project.
Seek someone who listens intently, grasping not just your design preferences but also your lifestyle, needs, and aspirations for the space. Look for a builder, designer, or architect with a portfolio that showcases their expertise and creativity. Scrutinize the quality of their past work and take in any customer reviews, testimonials, or word-of-mouth advice as this can offer valuable insights into the builder and designer’s reliability, work ethic, and ability to meet expectations.
Look At Their Existing Work
Examining the portfolio and existing work of potential builders, designers, or architects is a crucial step in choosing the right home professional for the job. It offers a window into their style, craftsmanship, and the quality of their finished projects. Ask to speak to and view renovations they have done in the past, review their online portfolio and attend open display homes so you can scrutinise their craftsmanship and design style up close. This allows you to gauge not just the visual appeal but also the functionality, floorplan, flow of spaces, and overall atmosphere created by their designs.
A reputable builder or designer will showcase their past and current work online. Look through some local ones and pick one with a style you like. Don’t forget to review the prices or ask for a quote, if it’s available. If you want both a builder and a designer, you may opt to choose a builder who also includes home designing as part of their package. Otherwise, select an architect if you prefer someone to take full design control.
Remember, the build and design process can take up to 12 months to complete, so it pays to choose someone who is transparent and trustworthy in their dealings and who demonstrates great communication. You can gauge this by visiting different builders and choosing one who you can communicate with the easiest.
Ask the Right Questions
Once you've spoken to a professional about a quote, you want to obtain as much information about the services they provide as possible. The most efficient way to do this is to have a list of questions ready. Things you need to know include:
- Whether the business is licensed and insured.
- Exactly what the quote covers and how long it is valid for.
- Whether the quote covers DA applications.
- Whether the architect or builder has access to a network of licensed professionals (electricians, plumbers etc).
- A clear outline of fees, which should be itemised.
- Whether references are available and if you are able to view previous work.
- Whether the company has a lot of experience in creating the look you are after (whether it be modern or traditional).
- Whether the company uses eco-friendly design principles that save on energy and water.
You should expect your consultant to be able to answer all queries without hesitation, and they should also be asking questions - it's a sure sign they have experience in meeting the needs of their clients.
To avoid any unpleasant surprises when building or renovating your home, it is imperative you understand that the process from design to completion is necessarily long and all parties involved must have a clear understanding of each other's position.
"For starters, the client and architect or builder must have a clear brief and a fee agreement in place. During the building phase, you need to have concise and accurate working drawings and a contract that is sufficiently detailed, includes start and finish dates and fees, and states that there are unlikely to be any variations," Caulfield explains. "That way, you can proceed with confidence."
Choose Someone Reputable
It's essential that any architect or builder you hire is registered - this guarantees you are hiring a professional. All architects in Australia, as well as being fully qualified with a university degree and around two years of practical experience, must be registered with the Architect Registration Board, or equivalent body, in their state. Builders are licensed in most states and should also be registered, which guarantees they are qualified to do the job.
To find an expert to assist with your building project or home renovations, contact the following organisations:
- Archicentre - the building advisory service of the Royal Institute of Architects. You can ‘Ask an Architect' on the website for helpful advice. Visit www.archicentre.com.au or call 1300 134 513.
- The Building Design Profession provides an Environmental Design Guide, which is written by independent experts and gives up-to-date environmental knowledge across the building industry. Visit acumen.architecture.com.au/environment/
- The Design Institute of Australia offers an online referral service that can match interior designers to your specific project needs. Visit www.design.org.au
- The greenfinder is an online resource that will help you find eco-conscious architects, builders, and designers. Visit www.greenfinder.com.au/categories
- The Master Builders Association of Australia has an online facility that helps you to ‘Find a Master Builder in Your Area'. Visit www.masterbuilders.com.au
Some Final Advice From the Experts
"Whether you're looking for an architect, builder, or designer, there are numerous ways to find the right people for the job," says Robert Caulfield, managing director of Archicentre – the building advisory service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. "The first thing to do is to ask family, friends, and colleagues for recommendations - it's always good to have someone that comes by referral."
Another step in the right direction is to take note of properties and renovations that appeal to you as you drive around the area you reside in. "If you've seen work that you like, it's generally not difficult to find out who the architect or builder was," adds Caulfield. If you're in need of an architect, Caulfield points out that you can take advantage of Archicentre's client/architect matching service. "When people call, we discuss their budget and what exactly they want to do, and we will match them up with a registered architect in their area, someone who will know local builders and subcontractors, understands weather and environmental conditions in the area and is familiar with local council regulations."
A similar service applies to builders. The building and construction industry is presided over by the Master Builders Association of Australia, and your relevant state or territory branch of the association will help you locate a registered Master Builder in your area.
"There is a licensing system for builders in every state, and your number-one priority should be to make sure the builder you employ is registered," says Caulfield. "You can contact the Builders' Registration Board or the equivalent board in your state to check registration."
When selecting an architect or builder, be alert to anyone who suggests you take on the owner/builder mantle for a discounted price. "This will often indicate that the builder is not registered, or has been struck off for bad practice," Caulfield warns.
When it comes to choosing the right home designer such as interior designers and decorators, they best come personally recommended, advises Caulfield. "You do not need to be qualified or registered to set yourself up as an interior designer or decorator, so ask plenty of questions and make sure your consultant is qualified and is completely independent and not receiving any kickbacks by selling products," he says.
The key to making a confident choice is to always get at least three quotes. This will give you some insight into what different companies have to offer in terms of the service they provide. In addition, prices can vary enormously from company to company, and having this knowledge can give you some bargaining power.
DISCLAIMER - The information provided is for guidance and informational purposes only and does not replace independent business, legal and financial advice which we strongly recommend. Whilst the information is considered true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided. LJ Hooker will not accept responsibility or liability for any reliance on the blog information, including but not limited to, the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or links.Share