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Guide to the building process for new home builders

As a company that works in the building industry we want to make sure that everyone has a positive experience when they decide to build or renovate their home.  To do this we have put together some resources to help homeowners make the right choices and get the results they want.

There are six stages to the process:
  1. Before you build

  2. Develop your design and specifications

  3. Select the right builder

  4. The building process – before you get started

  5. The building process – during the build

  6. Final checks and moving in!


Stage One: Before you build
Research, research, research.  In other words, do your research.  The more work you put in up front, before you even start looking for a builder, the more you’ll know what to ask and the better off you will be.  Here’s what we recommend:

  • Check out your section thoroughly to find what covenants and other restrictions may affect the type of home you can build.

  • Decide what style of home you want and what particular features will suit your needs.  The Homeowner’s Building Guide has a good list of questions to consider: www.buildingguide.co.nz/building-guide/home-design-hints-and-tips-and-design-brief

  • Visit your local bathroom and kitchen showrooms and builders’ show homes.

  • Consider what technology you want in your new home and ensure that you include pre-wiring for hi-fi, home theatre and data cabling in your plans. 

  • Consider what environmentally sustainable and economy saving features you want to include.  For example: heat pumps, solar panels, insulation, double glazing etc.  For more on this go to: www.buildingguide.co.nz/building-guide/sustainable-building-practices

  • Talk to your friends and see if they have any recommendations or advice.

  • Look through style magazines for ideas.

  • Go and see your local building surveyor or architect and ask them for advice. 

  • Visit your local council, or go to their website, to find out about their consent process and for information about local conditions.

  • Check out www.consumerbuild.org.nz, which is a partnership between the Department of Building & Housing and Consumer.  It aims to “provide clear, independent and up-to-date information to the public about building, buying, renovating and maintaining houses in New Zealand”.

  • Future Proof Building (www.fpb.co.nz) is an excellent source of information for those looking to build.  Download their “How To Guide” at: www.fpb.co.nz/attachments/How-To-Guide_FINAL.pdf

  • The Homeowner’s Building Guide (www.buildingguide.co.nz) is also an excellent place to start your research.

  • Finally, decide whether you want to manage the build yourself or get a project manager to do so.  This involves managing sub-contractors, buying materials and co-ordinating the site to ensure that everything happens as and when it needs to.  Most builders can act as the project manager, known as a “full contract “ job.  Due to the complexity, time and risk associated with project management it is not recommended for the inexperienced.

 

Stage Two: Develop your design and specifications
Once you’ve done your research and know what you want, but before you find a builder, you should put together your design.  Here are our tips:

  • Appoint a designer, such as a registered architect or architectural designer.  Or you may want to go to a group home builder.  These companies offer a selection of “off the shelf” designs that have been tried and tested over time.  You can often make adjustments to their designs to incorporate particular aspects that you want.

  • Work with your designer or builder to choose your building fundamentals, such as roofing, cladding, insulation and windows.  These are important as they will ensure your home is comfortable to live in and holds its value over time.  This is where you should include your environmental requirements.

  • Specify the fixtures and fittings you want, including kitchen, bathroom, electrical, lighting and heating.  You should highlight your technology and pre-wiring requirements at this stage too.

  • A great tool to help  you visualise your design is the GIB Living “Room by Room Guide”: www.gibliving.co.nz/room-by-room

 

Stage Three: Select the right builder
Choosing the right builder is the most important thing you can do to ensure you have a positive and successful building process, and outcome.  Here are our tips:

 

  • Click here to check that your builder is a Licensed Building Practitioner.

  • Make sure your builder can offer an independent, insurance-backed guarantee like our Homefirst Builders Guarantee.

  • The Homeowner’s Building Guide gives excellent advice on choosing a builder:  www.buildingguide.co.nz/products/builders as does ConsumerBuild: www.consumerbuild.org.nz/publish/trades/tradespeople-findingbuilder.php and Future-Proof Building: www.fpb.co.nz/page/111/selecting-a-builder.aspx (you may need to become a member of FPB, but it is free and has good resources for homeowners).

  • Give them your design specification and plans and ask for a detailed quote, not an estimate, in writing. A quote is a price that legally binds the builder, the builder is not bound by an estimate.  Go to: www.consumerbuild.org.nz/publish/trades/tradespeople-tenders.php for excellent advice on the tender process, including the specific aspects that you should include.

  • Alternatively you can engage a quantity surveyor to cost up your design and oversee the budget, ensuring that you get a realistic price for your project.

  • Be wary of quotes that seem very cheap, it probably means something is missing, or the builder is going to need to take shortcuts to make a profit on your job.  It may seem like you’re saving money that you can spend on nice furnishings, but if the builder goes into liquidation or doesn’t finish the job you could end up spending a whole lot more.

 

Stage Four: The building process – before you get started
Having selected a builder you now need to focus on the details of your build.  These are the key steps you should be aware of:

  • Get a written building contract.  This should contain the full details of your agreement, including a construction timetable and payment schedule that outlines what will be paid when during the project. ConsumerBuild has more information about what you should include in your contract. Another good source of information about building contracts that you can download is: www.inderlynch.co.nz/pdf/brochure_buildingcontracts.pdf.  If you use a Certified Builder they will use a standard building contract from the Certified Builders Association.  Or you can purchase a contract template from Standards New Zealand

  • Obtain a building consent. this is your local council’s written authority to undertake building work, according to the plans and specifications that you submitted.  You cannot start building before you receive a consent and they cannot be granted retrospectively, instead you need a Certificate of Acceptance.   Click here for a Building Consent Checklist from the Homeowner's Building Guide.  It is the homeowner’s responsibility to obtain a consent, however in practice most builders will do this as part of their role as project manager of your build.  Generally your consent should be processed within 20 days, provided that your documentation is complete.  For more information go to: www.consumerbuild.org.nz/publish/buildact-consents.php

  • Complete your guarantee application along with your builder and ensure that they send it in.  Make sure you receive confirmation of your guarantee before work begins.  Click here for more information on the Homefirst Builders Guarantee.  For a comparison of the two main guarantees on the market go to: www.consumer.org.nz/category/property/building


Stage Five: The building process – during the build
Once work commences things will start moving along quickly.  These are some of the things you should be prepared for:

  • Visits from a building inspector, who is responsible for ensuring that work is being carried out in accordance with the Building Code and your building consent.

  • Substitutions of materials.  Often there are good reasons why a builder will substitute one brand or type for material for another, but you should always be advised of this and approve it.

  • Variations to the plans.  It is common for homeowners to ask for changes to the design of their home during the actual construction phase.  These can sometimes create challenges for the builder and should always be documented in writing as variations in the building contract.  If the variations add cost then this should be agreed between both parties and included in the building contract.  Some variations will require an amendment to your building consent also.  And you should advise the provider of your guarantee of any variations to the building contract. For more detailed information on variations go to: www.consumerbuild.org.nz/publish/phase/buildingphase-approving.php

 

Stage Six: Final checks and moving in!
At the end of the build you, your designer and/or project manager will check that everything has been done in accordance with your design and specifications  and is of a good standard.  These are the final steps you should expect:

  • Do your own inspection and if there are any defects  arrange for the builder to rectify them.

  • You should request a final inspection by a building inspector, who will then issue a “Code Compliance Certificate”.

  • You will be issued with a Certificate of Guarantee once you have sent in a copy of your code compliance certificate.

  • Move in and start to enjoy your new home!


Click here for case studies of real circumstances in which builders have been unable to complete our customers' homes.  The examples demonstrate why you need to do your homework thoroughly and make sure you get an independent, written guarantee from your builder.

Click here for testimonials of how the Homefirst Builders Guarantee has helped our customers complete their building projects after their builders were unable to do so.