5 Questions NOT To Ask A Custom Home Builder
As custom home builders in South East Queensland we are quite commonly asked a lot of different questions which can at times trigger a response that potential home build customers may find surprising. In fact it is not just custom home builders in our beautiful part of the world but all over the globe that are asked these very same questions.
What we have done to assist you through your upcoming home build is to compile a short list of the 5 most prolific questions that you SHOULD NOT ask a custom home builder throughout your research stages of the home build journey and why they should be left out of your investigatory phase altogether.
Our ultimate aim is to assist in streamlining the process for all potential new home build clients whilst educating them on some of the more important details to keep in mind as you begin to step through one of the most exhilarating chapters you are sure to experience within your lifetime.
Let’s step through the top 5 questions NOT to ask a custom home builder now:
1. What is your square metre rate?
This is probably one of those questions we are asked daily that is the most surprising, and sadly frustrating for any prospective home build customers when we have to respond by advising we can not give them a firm answer or figure.
Of course we try our best to avoid frustrating our prospective clients however it really all comes down to one very basic and simple reason why we can not give them the answer they are seeking…
Not all custom homes are created equal!
One of the easiest ways to enable people to comprehend where we are coming from is by explaining the very basic ‘Shoe Theory’.
When you go to buy a size 9 shoe, you do not expect that every single shoe in your size will come at the same cost. In fact in some cases the cost can be hundreds of times more expensive from one shoe type to another.
It is exactly the same with every single new custom home but on a whole new level as it is not just a shoe we are talking about here. When you consider that in each project you have items like carpet, bricks, tiles, kitchens, bathrooms and finishes to suit every budget, you can start to see why providing a firm square metre rate is impossible to do.
Whilst one prospective home build customer may want low to mid range finishes in a similar home design, another may want luxurious high end finishes throughout with no expense spared and we have not even come to floor plan design changes yet.
So although the house design may have the same amount of square metres, there can be a considerable difference in the amount or type of materials required to complete the vision of that specific client. Everybody’s vision is unique and as custom home builders it is up to us to bring that to life which means different square metre rates nearly 100% of the time.
This is also why it is so important to engage with a design and build firm that can keep your vision and budget in mind from the very beginning of the process.
2. Here is my design, can you provide me with a free quote?
Another incredibly common question we are asked as custom home builders is to provide a full detailed ‘quote’ on someone’s designs that are sent through to us. The expectation is that we should be able to quickly glance at an external design provided to us then offer a detailed quotation to assist that prospective client in deciding on a number of things.
The most likely scenario we have found is that people are seeking the cheapest quote to determine which builder they should go with or second to that is to see where they need to make changes if it is not within their designated budget. The main element at play here, and the reason why we are very happy to explain the process, is that people just do not know or understand the process. There is a deep seated assumption in the building industry that has been around for a very long time, that builders will spend hours of free time on quotes with absolutely no guarantee that there will be a contract signed at the end of it all.
The sheer amount of work that needs to go into a full, detailed quotation runs into weeks, not days, and a professional quote should be at around 30-40 pages long. As you can now gather, there is not a single other industry where this time and effort is being requested at no cost to the consumer. Times have changed and the building industry has changed with it.
This is what brings us to explaining an estimate VS a quote.
An estimate is where it needs to start and even these can take a large number of hours to complete in some cases, depending on the size of the build. You also need to consider that material costs in these uncertain times are fluctuating at unprecedented levels and changing sometimes daily so this needs to be factored into a rough guide on pricing. That is exactly what an estimate is, just a rough guide only to get you started.
You will find in nearly all cases that estimates will be provided to you for free as they are providing you with a basic overall idea of costs, rather than exact figures that you would expect in a detailed quote.
It is when you’re being offered ‘free quotes’ from custom home builders that the alarm bells should start going off.
‘Free’ quotes nearly always end up costing you more.
Creating a detailed and accurate quote can absolutely take a builder more than 50 hours to complete at a minimum. A comprehensive quote is very labour intensive and involves the engagement of professional estimators, seeking quotes from suppliers and subcontractors and putting together a complete job schedule for the entire build all whilst the industry pricing for materials and services remains volatile.
50 or so hours of work for a builder can run up a cost of thousands of dollars in time alone! So you have to ask yourself, when other builders do offer this for free, where are they cutting corners and how will YOU pay for that down the track.
So when hiring a professional builder for your new home, the quote should NEVER be free but you can expect an estimate at no cost. A nominal fee should always be charged for their time to provide you with a complete quote if they are following professional business practices to remain a viable and successful company. This is why it is imperative to understand the difference between an estimate and a quote.
3. Can you do some small maintenance jobs for me?
So this question is one that may surprise a lot of people as to exactly how often we are presented with this very request.
At least weekly for some custom home builders there are requests to fix doors, add in a staircase, do a minor renovation on the laundry and the list goes on.
The secret is in the name, ‘Custom Home Builder’.
It is of course understandable as to why custom home builders like ourselves are commonly approached to consider these types of works as there once again is a far reaching assumption that a builder will pretty much cover all bases.
In this day and age there are specialists in specific fields of the building industry which can be broken down into more fields than you would expect. We have:
Custom Home Builders
Renovation Specialists (General covering all types of renovations)
Major Renovation Specialists (Large extensions & additions)
Home & Property Maintenance
Home Build and Renovation Firms
Design & Build Firms
Once again it all comes down to understanding the modern day building industry and that there are now niche contractors for a large variety of services within it, rather than the historical ‘one size fits all’ approach. Although they do exist, you know what they say about a jack of all trades being the master of none.
So if you do contact a custom home builder and they politely decline your minor maintenance works, please do not take offense and instead you will find in nearly all cases, a quick online search entering in the niche service you are seeking will present you with a vast range of options from industry members that are there purely for your exact work type.
4. Can we start construction immediately, I already have plans?
There is a theme that runs through the vast majority of people building their homes for the very first time and that is the sheer excitement and anticipation that is at an all time high.
Anyone can certainly understand why there is so much expectation behind this excitement regarding things happening very fast once you have a design or floor plan you like or have created. We do not want to burst anyone’s bubble or dent that excitement in any way but the honest truth is that there are formal processes throughout the preliminary building stages that must be adhered to and these things inevitably will take time.
You have to factor in what works are done and what is yet to be done in the early stages of a build. Here is a just a small portion of some of things that are required:
Contour and Identification Surveys
Engineering (footing/slab design, structural design, etc)
Energy Efficiency Report
And so on …
Now the majority of these services mean engaging individual third party contractors to quote and perform the works and at times one relies on the other to be completed before they can commence work themselves so it is also about aligning the tasks and services required to suit all parties which, once again, takes time.
As your custom home builder, we can certainly follow proven processes to keep all necessary elements of your build on track, but there are certain delays that may be experienced which are totally out of our control. This could be due to volumes of work or the pressures on the construction industry, such as what you are seeing now.
We are not done yet though ..
Once you have all of the reports, documents, engineering and drawings in hand, it is then time for your approvals stage to begin where you are going for BA or DA approval with council. (NOTE: BA is for a standard residential dwelling ‘Building Approval’ and DA is for ‘Development Approval’ where your build may not be a standard one and outside a standard residential build such as dual occupancy or three story luxury build, impact assessment projects, etc)
The wait times for any approvals all depend on the specific council catchment themselves and the workload they are currently experiencing. For example, at the moment it is around a 3 month wait or longer on average for a vast majority of the councils within the South East Queensland region. That is for a standard BA however if your project is outside of what is permitted by council then you could be looking at up to a 6 month wait in some cases depending on the complexity of your build and if any relaxations to the guidelines in place are required. This means if your dwelling is a little higher than it should be or too close to the boundary you could be looking at a longer wait time for approval and may even have to make some last minute changes depending on the council’s decision.
Finally it is important to remember that any professional builder has what is called ‘Construction Slots’ which allow them to place projects into a workable and set timeline, thus allowing for a seamless and reliable home build timeline and ensuring that the same high levels of service can be delivered to every client.
All of these processes and necessary steps through the home build journey are the reason why asking your local custom home builder whether we can break ground next week or even next month is almost always going to be met with a firm no. It is also the reason why we have this as one of the top 5 questions not to ask your local custom home builder.
5. When will the construction industry demand and supply issue end?
The final question to avoid asking a custom home builder, no matter where you hail from, is when the demand and supply issue, and consequential price increases and trade delays, will come to an end and things go back to ‘normal’.
The truth is …. nobody really knows and in all honesty things will probably never go back to pre pandemic/flood/war times when it comes to prices and timelines as all of the aforementioned issues have affected almost every corner of the industry and the globe. We can all certainly gauge the market by watching certain elements and how they affect materials and trades, however there is no one easy fix or solution therefore no real way of knowing. It is not to say that eventually things won’t settle down and provide some easing on the industry, along with the builder and consumer, but we live in highly volatile times so it is a case of pivoting where needed and working very closely with everyone involved to achieve the most positive outcome.
For those out there that MUST have some kind of response to remove their own personal anxiety of not knowing, at bare minimum we are almost certainly looking at another year or two of similar effects on the Queensland building industry, providing you with at least some sort of reasonable and fair expectation in the meantime. Of course we have to remind anyone reading this that it all strongly depends on potential government intervention being placed into the mix, the chance of future natural disasters, international trade and transport, supply chain issues, trade availability and a huge range of other factors that may affect this.
We want to make it thoroughly clear that the information that you are reading through now is absolutely not designed to scare people away from the thrilling and life changing process of building their own custom home. Our goal is more so to open up the conversation in an open and honest way so that people wanting to build a home can make a more informed decision that will sincerely show you what may be achievable.
Knowledge is power and the more you know, the better chance of making a much more informed decision is able to be made about whether now is the right time to build or if you need to reassess your position prior to committing your time, money and energy.
With such an ongoing and fluid situation, it is all about being dynamic and working through problems to seek solutions. When you are solutions focused there is no need to give up on your dream as long as you are part of the open and honest communication necessary with your builder from day one. In these uncertain times it is not a one size fits all approach for the clients of a professional custom home builder, and instead a case by case basis of what options will work best for that individual.
Solutions could be something as simple as increasing budget or minimising the home design. It could mean adding in contingency only to your building contract to cover ongoing price escalations. It could even mean being honest with yourself and making the tough decision that now may just not be the time for you to create your dream home and work on what you need to to get there.
So if you are wondering whether it is the right time to build your luxurious custom dream home, please do feel free to reach out and speak to one of our friendly team at Capri Building Group to have a casual chat and ask those pressing questions that are weighing on your mind. You just don’t know, it may actually assist in guiding you on one of the most exciting and important investment decisions you are sure to make in your lifetime.
So ask us any and every question you need to help you make those decisions, just please don’t ask your local custom home builder when the industry will go back to ‘normal’ as we just do not know.
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