My Dream Home Extension – Choosing a Builder – Part 3

Dream Home Extension – Choosing a Builder

Choosing a Builder Part 3 of this series about building your dream home extension assumes you’ve decided to use a registered building practitioner and you’re needing some advice on what to look for, when to reveal your budget and how to decide which quote to accept. If you’re still yet to decide on whether to build yourself or hire a registered builder then tootle over to Part 2 of this series where you’ll get some great advice.

Choosing a Designer and Builder

Before choosing a registered building practitioner it is essential to have decided what you want to build and then be able to describe it in detail; photographs can be helpful for this. You also may want to consider using a designer builder. A designer builder will have a design team behind them that can help reduce the complexity of designing your extension and detailing exact requirements. For example, they can help you put together your building ‘shopping list’ which can be anything from the numbers of rooms you require and their positioning to your extension’s environmental impact and aesthetic harmony with the rest of your house.

When choosing, a first port of call should be any recommendations by family and friends; people that you would trust to give you an honest opinion about any building practitioners that they have used in the past. If that’s not an option or you want to search further afield another excellent way to find a builder is to contact professional associations and other industry organisations that will help you find local building services.

Aim to select 3 registered builders in your search and for each one it is recommended to obtain the following details:

  • Their full name (not just their first name).
  • Their physical address (not a post office box).
  • A landline telephone number – most reputable building contractors will have a landline number.
  • A registered business name (if they are required to be registered get their details from your local registered authority. In Victoria it is the Victorian Building Authority).

When putting together a building team it is good to have:

  • An independent building lawyer to help you understand any contracts.
  • An independent building consultant to check whether the specifications in the contract are adequate for your project and to check the quality of the ongoing building work.
  • A building surveyor to make sure your extension meets the minimum standard building regulations.

Revealing your Budget

There’s an understandable line of thought: if I reveal my budget before I get a quote then I might be quoted higher than if I hadn’t revealed my budget. It’s a matter of trust and it is hard to trust someone you don’t know.

The best way to handle this is to first know what your budget is. That way you won’t be tempted to spend more than you want to or need to. If you have found really good building practitioners then it is worth expending a little trust when it comes to your budget. If you don’t want to reveal it immediately you could give them your building shopping list and ask how much it will cost.

The thing is, reputable builders are the experts so know how much things really cost and as such it can save a lot of hassle if you are upfront with your budget. That way the builder/ designer can be upfront with you and let you know early on whether what you require is within your budget.

Which quote to go for?

So you have selected a reputable building practitioner, you have your building shopping list and plans, have revealed your budget and now have three quotes. How do you decide which one to go for?

Often there are stories of quotes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. One builder seems incredibly cheap and another incredibly expensive and both are offering the same work. It can be confusing so here’s a little help to aid your decision.

Firstly, make sure that you know exactly what the quote covers. For example, a cheap quote may not cover all the items that you expected, or it may just be a base rate that does not cover the cost of the materials and finishes that you want and expect.

Secondly, assess who you think is going to give you value for money. For example, a building practitioner that listens to your needs, updates you regularly throughout the project, is readily contactable, and is trustworthy in terms of their skills and professionalism will be worth paying a little more for than someone who is not.

Once you have decided which quote to accept, for contracts over $12,000 (in Victoria) make sure you don’t hand over a deposit until the builder gives you a certificate of currency for domestic building insurance for your property. This insurance covers you if the builder dies, disappears or becomes insolvent.


Registered builders realise that there is competition out there and their reputation as being highly skilled and trustworthy is what keeps them in business. If you have done some good research and compared a number of builders you should be able to verify that quotes are similar and that most builders are competitive. All builders pay similar prices for materials and labour and have to compete for work with one another. So in the end you will probably choose the one you think can do the best job for you. Happy Building.

Part 4 of this series will look at the foundation and structural requirements of your new extension.

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