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The importance of getting 3 builder's quotes!

We've just signed the ink on my own new reno - we're building a loft above our garage to be my new fab studio! - and I wanted to share some thoughts about how important it is to put together a scope for the builder and to get a number of quotes!

Even though I work closely with a great builder, we still reached out to 3 others and got quotes. This let's you know where the pricing should be AND it gives you the heads up about elements of the build that you may not have thought of. For example, we may have to relocate a sewer line and that one aspect alone lead to many (many!!!) discussions and questions from all four builders (and Sydney Water, and the council, and our architect and the planner.....OMG) as to how it can be best handled. All four builders had varying approaches which was reflected in the pricing. It also helped to inform us of the options and we now have a great plan for this part of the build. Whew!

The scope is also super important. Of course, this this can evolve as you go along the process (ie as you learn new things and make decisions about issues), but taking the time to really think this through at the beginning of the process is super important. To illustrate this, I have a client on at the moment and in their scope they've asked that the builder do as a separable portion the decking and the internal paint work so that they can either do that themselves to save money OR if the builder's price is good, they might choose to have the builder do it (saving them weekends of extra time and possible frustration and potentially save their marriage LOL!).

You can also specify suppliers you'd like to use. Eg, In our scope of works, we made it clear that we wanted the custom windows to be sourced from Windoors, who we've used before and think they're amazing! But we don't really care where the cement for the slab comes from or the beams or blue board etc. So have a think about that when you're putting your own scope together.

The process of getting the quotes has been super interesting. And difference in the quotes surprising. In this one pretty small project there's been a difference of $100,000! Yep 100k! And this is just for a loft above a garage (with a few tweaks downstairs) and all based on the exact same brief. So, it is definitely worth your while to get at least 3 quotes on a job. You'll be happy to know that the builder I recommend to clients is the one we're going ahead with for my own job. I think that speaks volumes.

If you're stuck finding a builder, ask your friends for recommendations, but make sure you grill your friends about their experience! Ask them about the highlights, but also about the lowlights. How could their experience have been better? Can you weave any lessons learnt into either your scope or your contract!

Another point to consider when doing this tender process is nailing down the expected time frames for it as a whole and for each stage. For eg our builder initially said it would take 20 weeks for our project (excluding inclement weather). That's 20 weeks of shitty parking in Glebe (where there is buggar all available!). So, we've negotiated it down to 16 weeks but also that we can start using the spaces earlier if the build progress permits. I'm thinking once the new slab and structural bits are in place, we should at least be able to use one of the two spaces (I hope!).

Variations can also be an area that home owners come undone. If you're new to the game, variations are any changes or additions to the contract after works have started. For eg if you've specified floating floors but want to change that to polished concrete after the builder has started that will definitely mean a big change to the cost! Ask the builders how they handle any potential variations for eg do they quote any desired changed before commencing down that path. Keep in mind that some can be unpredictable such as discovering rock when you demolish. Usually a builder will have an exclusion around this, making it clear that there will be additional costs if this issue arises. This is why getting your scope and your specifications and the drawings all done properly is soooooooo important. It cuts down on possible problems and cost blow outs down the track.

If you're new at this process, you could also ask your architect (if you've used one for the project) to review the tenders for you - just to make sure you're not missing anything that could bite you on the bum later on!

Building and renovating is a challenging but rewarding process (usually!). And even with experience there can be surprises. But to paraphrase Napoleon - that 1 hour of reconnaissance is worth six in battle; planning is key to success. So in that light, my main tips for this important step in your renovation are to: 1) don't make rushed decisions 2) gather as much info as possible about all aspects of the project 3) get a few quotes 4) negotiate the final contract.

I'll keep you in the loop for my own project. It's exciting and I now can't wait for the final photos!

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