before you build

Avoid a Bad Building Experience

  • Creation Date: Thursday, 09 May 2019

 We've received hundreds of letters from folk who have had terrible building experiences and vow never, ever to build again.

If you're thinking about building, then there are a few things that you really need to think about and keep an eye on, in order to avoid a bad building experience.

Over the years, I have found 3 fundamental reasons why any project would run into difficulty.
The first is a compromise on design. One only needs to drive down a street in any suburb and you will find at least one example of poor design. Take any project where 100% of the normal architectural fee is charged, and on average you will find that 15-20% of the fee goes towards producing the drawing and specification. Another 10-15% for site inspections and the balance is what you pay for the experience and ability of your architect or designer to produce a good design.

There is very little saving to be made on the production of the drawings or on-site work so it stands to reason that a "saving" can only be made by engaging someone who charges less for their personal experience or expertise. That's a choice you will be making.
You will be spending an enormous amount of money on your project and you should be looking at getting the best possible design in order to increase your investment and not decrease it.

A good design, with a 'wow factor' attached, need not necessarily cost more than a poor design and your choice of architect or designer could make a big difference for you.

The second factor is your budget versus the actual cost of the project. Many people do not include professional and other upfront costs in their initial budget estimates. On an average project, this figure could be as high as 10% of your total budget and could include architect, engineer and land surveyor fees, council and NHBRC fees and connection fees, perimeter fencing, driveway paving, etc.

The point is that at least 60% of these fees will become due for payment well before any drawings are approved by the local council. This also means that one cannot rely on any bank building bond finance to pay them. It's money up front. If you don't take these costs into account from day one, it may cause some cash flow difficulty for you.

Building costs, like most things, are rising rapidly and this too must be taken into account within your initial budget.

In a 6 month build, the first 4 months will be spent on the cheapest part of the build and you should only have outlayed around 45% of the total cost of your project for the finished unpainted shell of the building. The last 8 weeks will be spent on the finishes and will cost you the most. This is also the area of the biggest price increases. Most builders will include provisional sums in their quotes for many of the finishing items in order to cater for these price increases.
They may even have specifically excluded some of them like sanware, chromeware, or kitchen and bedroom cupboards. Be aware and make provision for it or you will simply end up running out of available money before the job is done.

The third is the builder.... You can choose a registered building company with their own building team or a professional Project Manager. They would generally operate with a recognised building contract that protects both parties (for example, JBCC Minor Works building contract) but then you would be paying a little extra for the peace of mind it would afford.

With a few exceptions, small-time 'bakkie builders' are dime a dozen and you may be lucky, but then maybe not. There are some good ones around but the trick would be to find them.

Very often the 'bakkie builder' is more of a small time project manager than a builder and he will sub-contract every trade on the project, seldom using the same sub-contractor twice. The vast majority of them are not in a financial position to sign an industry recognised contract and you will, therefore, have no guarantee and no recourse if things go wrong. Many of them require money up front to start your project which puts you seriously at risk. If they need that money to finish off their last project, then you are in for real hiding.

'Standard Contracts' drawn up by a builder or a 'quote' you may be asked to sign will always favour the builder 100%. Has it checked out before you sign it? Many small builders have no insurance and no assets and these are things that could bite you in the end. The bottom line is, be aware and approach building works with your eyes open and seeks the advice of the professionals who are able to assist and protect you.

I hope that some of you will find this helpful in avoiding a bad building experience.
Please note that the figures quoted will vary from project to project but that anyone thinking of doing any building work should at least keep an eye on the issues addressed.

Article provided by Les Abbott

L A Design Studio