How to choose a builder for your new home

As with choosing an architect/designer, it’s essential to select a builder you can trust and feel comfortable with. 

Why choosing the right builder is important

They are building something that is going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and if they get it wrong it can directly affect your wallet, your health and your safety.

If you’re doing a renovation they are often arriving as you’re showering and leaving as you’re preparing dinner. They need to respect your house, too. Building can be a dirty job but there are steps for minimising the dirt and the inconvenience. Set the ground rules early.

How to choose "the one" for your build

  • Ask more than one builder to tender for the job so you can see if the costs being presented are fair and realistic.
  • Don’t choose the builder with the lowest quote simply because they are the cheapest. Get the higher bidders to justify their prices and find out what may have been missed by the lower bidders.
  • Ensure different builders are quoting on the same things. Often builders will quote low with the intention of clawing back revenue on variations and changes to plans during the build.
  • Visit other jobs each builder has done or is doing and speak with their clients. 
  • Builders must now come back and fix defects in the first year following completion, no questions asked. Find out what other guarantees are offered with the job and do you have Third Party Builders Guarantee insurance in place?
  • Registered Master Builders Association and NZ Certified Builders are the two main industry organisations for builders but there are also excellent builders who do not belong to either organisation.
  • Group House companies can be a reliable and convenient option. All provide standard designs and some will do custom-designed homes as well. They will take care of the whole project for you from start to finish, including project management but not all are as equal as others. Again, check your builder's reputation and ask around.
  • Speak with friends to see who they may have used and would recommend.
  • Look at what awards they may have won – although there are many excellent builders who do not bother entering awards.
  • Create a shortlist and then take the time to visit sites they are currently working on.
  • Builders doing Restricted Building Work have to be licensed. All Restricted Building Work as defined by the building act must be carried out or supervised and signed off by Licensed Building Practitioners.
  • Builders, especially good ones, may be booked well in advance, so ensure you start looking early in the planning process.
  • You may choose to have your architect or designer stay on as full project manager. Alternatively, you may have an arrangement where your builder is the project manager and the designer takes on an overview role.
  • There are specialist project management companies and, while this maybe a bit more expensive, this can take many of the hassles out of the whole building process and will help ensure you have a quality job.
  • BRANZ (the Building Research Association of New Zealand) has a list of Accredited Advisors who can also manage a building project, or even specific elements within the overall job.
  • You may wish to be the project manager yourself. Ensure you have the time – it requires a lot – and, ideally, the expertise.
  • Whichever option you choose for managing the project, make sure the arrangement is fully spelt out in the building contract. (You DO have a contract, don’t you?).

The building code

The building code is a complex and exacting rule book and the technical aspects of many components of the building process are important to get right and sometimes your building professional won’t.

You can use this checklist to keep an eye on your build – this will most definitely help ensure a satisfactory outcome. There is no reason why your builder should not be happy with this – if they object, replace them.


Financing your building project

The cost of building in New Zealand

13 tips for your new build home

This article first appeared in the New Zealand Building Guide. Read more about building your dream home at 

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