Choosing the right builder

Luke Parker
Choosing the right builder

Most of us know someone who had a nightmare builder when doing a renovation or new build.

What started out as a budding friendship with the person who was going to bring a dream to life can end in acrimony and even court.

Research by the Registered Master Builders Association found the top three concerns of Kiwis looking to build or renovate are the quality and integrity of the builder, cost overruns, and timely completion.

(Find out more about getting finance for renovations and construction here.)

There are two factors to integrity, according to Registered Master Builders Business Development Manager Brendon Ward: character and workmanship.

“One of the first things when selecting a builder is to do a credit check to see whether they stand up financially,” Ward said. “You should also check references from previous clients and ask them whether the builder finished the job, were there any issues, did they come back and rectify those issues and did they listen to the clients or just follow the plans.”

Conducting this type of due diligence is in the hands of the property owner and can take as long and be as detailed as they feel comfortable doing.

“This is going to vary depending on the level of building going on. You might want to meet up once or a few times to feel comfortable that you are making the right decision. The better the communication between the client and the builder, the better the result will be at the end. Communication is one of the critical success factors for any build,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Architect vs Draftsman

Currently the building and construction sector is experiencing growth, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, after an extended bust cycle following the global financial crisis.

“This has created a skills shortage in the industry. Over the last 5 years there has been a 50% reduction in apprentice numbers. This has an impact when you hit an up cycle where it can be hard to get someone onto the job.”

ConsumerBuild* Research and Testing Manager, Hamish Wilson, says finding out you’ve hired a bad builder is unfortunately an experience that’s far too common.

“We think ‘word of mouth’ is a good starting point for selecting a builder. It’s also important that they are Licenced Building Practitioners (LBP), and happy to agree on a formal contract for the work,” he said.

The law now requires a contract for any work that’s valued at $20,000 or more and can sort out a lot of potential hassles and frustrations from the outset.

“Stage completion dates and a means of dispute resolution should be covered in the contract. If things are really not going right and you end up wanting to find another builder altogether, unless there’s a clause in the contract which specifies reasons that allow you to withdraw, this can be very difficult. This is why the contract is crucial.”

ConsumerBuild suggests those looking to build don’t place to much reliance on brand-name franchises or membership of trade organisations.

 “They should do their own homework, and do it thoroughly,” he said.

* ConsumerBuild provides a range of clear, independent and up-to-date information on building, buying, renovating and maintaining houses in New Zealand. The website is a joint project by the Building and Housing Group within the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment and Consumer NZ, with assistance from a number of other organisations who have an interest in helping consumers.

SEE ALSO: Architect vs Draftsman

Helpful websites


ConsumerBuild – 4 key things to consider when selecting a builder:

  • Skill
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Knowledge of the housing industry
  • A personality that clicks with your own


Registered Master Builders - 12 things to find out about a potential builder before signing on the dotted line:

  • How long has your builder been in business? The recommended minimum is 5-7 years.
  • Are they are registered Master Builder? Only Registered Master Builders can offer a guarantee that is supported by the Registered Master Builders Association.
  • Does your builder have a long and successful track record? Can you reasonably expect they will be around long enough to honour their warranties?
  • Is your builder suited to the size and type of your building project?
  • Does your builder have the available manpower and expertise to suit your job?
  • Is your builder ‘active’ in your area?
  • Have you completed a credit check on your builder? Expect them to do the same on you!
  • Look at the history and integrity of the individual(s) behind the building company. Do the directors of the company have a history of total integrity?
  • Can your builder willingly supply you with a number of testimonials or referees of completed projects?
  • Do you ‘click’ with the builder? You need to, as there may be some testing times ahead during the building project.
  • Is your builder asking you questions? They should be to understand you and your project.
  • Do you have enough finance to complete the renovation? Make allowance for the budget to be exceeded.

SEE ALSO: Architect vs Draftsman

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