Beyond price, How do you choose the builder? What can we do to reduce risks and make the right choice?

How do you choose a builder? Every client asks the question. 

It’s a discussion that causes a bit of anxiety. The reliability, capability and suitability of your prospective builder is up there as one of the biggest sources of fear for anyone embarking on a renovation or new build.

It starts with a tender. An invitation to a range of builders to review the design documents and respond with a price. [expand this description]

The list of builders included in that tender process will usually come from your recommendations, if you have any, in addition to reputable builders we have worked with successfully in the past.

Over time, an architect will usually build a stable of preferred builders to recommend to their clients on a case by case basis.

Once the prices are returned, the hard part begins: selecting the builder. This becomes even more difficult if the prices fall into a narrow range - which is becoming more common.

As the construction market changes, we’re finding a general increase in the competitiveness of building quotes. 

When a tender provides a close range of prices, price is no longer the main factor to consider.

There are a number of important factors to take into consideration to reduce risk. Building your dream home or renovation is a big job, and a lengthy commitment.

In this article, we will share the due diligence steps we recommend to our clients to ensure they are making the best decision.

Do they have experience working with an architect?

What makes a successful residential project? The three-legged stool. The client, the architect, the builder. You need to find someone who fits with the team.

We need to find people who get the process of working with an architect, and who want to work with architects: because it’s slightly different to projects without one.

Is their past work successful?

See their work. See other projects they’ve build, get a sense of the build quality. A builder should be proud to show you their past work. Check builder references: existing clients, other architects and collaborators. 

Does their site look professional?

You can’t underestimate the value of seeing one of their active sites too, the setup, the neatness, the degree of professionalism.

It’s worthwhile to invite your architect too, they’ve seen a lot of sites, they know what to look for - the warnings signs. We’d never recommend a builder where we haven’t had the opportunity to visit one of their sites.

Does their team look capable?

The foreman matters. Meet them. The same builder can build projects with very different outcomes depending on the foreman in charge on site. Do they understand how the big picture goes together? Are they thinking ten steps ahead? Think about what’s coming up in several weeks? 

Meeting their team can also help to explain any differences in their tender price. They may have access to experts with specialised knowledge to add to your project that other builders don’t.

Do they have the necessary business fundamentals?

Visiting sites and finished buildings provides valuable information on your prospective builder, but it doesn’t protect you from the biggest area of risk your project faces: cashflow.

Cashflow is one of the biggest risks to a construction project. It doesn’t matter how good of a builder they might be, you can run into big trouble if they don’t have the necessary business skills and processes.

[expand with a short suggestion on how someone can assess this side of things - red flags etc]


The risk of having a bad builder on your project is just enormous. You’ve invested a lot in the design of your home, and making a hasty decision when choosing a builder can lead to disaster. Due diligence is essential.