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Important note: From 1 September 2016, your builder must give you a copy of the Domestic Building Consumer Guide before you sign a major domestic building contract. For more information about this and other building law changes, view our Domestic Building Consumer Guide page.
Shop around and get recommendations
Do not lock yourself into a contract until you:
- know exactly what you want
- have compared at least three quotes for the same plans and specifications
- understand the consequences of signing the contract
- have reviewed our checklist for your type of project – view our Checklists for building and renovating section.
- Ask your family or friends to recommend a builder practitioner or tradesperson they have recently used.
- If you are using an architect, ask them to recommend two or three building practitioners who have worked for other clients, as a starting point. You should still check their references and follow the checklist below.
- Contact professional associations and other industry organisations to find local building services:
For work costing $5,000 or less, or that does not require a registered building practitioner
- before engaging someone to do the work, contact your local council to find out whether any permits are required
- get the tradesperson’s details. Tradespeople who do not have a fixed address or legitimate registered business name are very hard to trace if you want to get your money back or a job completed, so ask for their:
- physical address
- landline telephone number
- registered business name
- licence details if their trade is licensed.
- make sure you understand what the quote covers, whether it is written or verbal
- ask for a realistic estimate of how long the work will take and confirm whether the quote includes:
- transport to and from the job
- time and transport to obtain parts during the job
- costs of parts
- labour and apprentice costs, and how these are calculated
- ‘call-out’ fees and any weekend or public holiday rates.
- ask how the tradesperson or contractor will handle:
- any changes to the quote or the timeframe that arise during the job
- any delays to the quoted completion time
- late payments, and how any late payment fees will be calculated
- any concerns you may have about the quality of the work or parts.
- document the quote and any conversations about the quality or cost of work
- ask to see a certificate of currency for public liability insurance. This insurance will protect you or third parties against any damage the tradesperson may cause.
You have a contract with the tradesperson or contractor, whether your agreement was verbal or in writing. They guarantee to provide services:
- with due care and skill
- which are fit for any specified purpose
- within a reasonable time, when no time is set.
They also make certain guarantees about the products you provide with the service. For more information, view our Guarantees, warrantees and refunds section.
For work costing more than $5,000
Check your prospective building practitioners are registered with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).
- This does not apply to some work. View our About builders, tradespeople and other building practitioners page.
- You can check if the builders you are considering were involved in any prosecutions or inquiries by contacting the VBA.
- A person must be registered to reblock, restump, demolish or remove a home, regardless of the value of this work.
If your project is big, consider engaging an independent quantity surveyor to assess your plans and estimate the cost. This can help you when comparing quotes from builders. The Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors has a list of its members.
Check business references and history
Find out how long the building business you are considering has existed and whether it has always traded under the same name. You can do this by contacting the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
Find out about a builder’s reputation by checking for any:
- action against the builder by Consumer Affairs Victoria
- prosecutions or disciplinary action against the builder by the Building Practitioners Board (now the VBA).
Ask to see the most recent work of the building practitioners you are considering.
Ask their recent clients:
- Did they start and finish on time?
- Was the client able to communicate regularly and clearly with them about any changes suggested by either party, or about queries relating to quality?
- Did the price increase? Was the reason for and the amount of the increase reasonable and agreed to?
- Did the building practitioner put details and the price of changes in writing and get the client to sign off before making changes?
- Did their sub-contractors arrive on time and do a good job?
- Did they request any changes to the size of stage payments in the contract or ask for payments before a stage was complete? (This can be a sign of cash flow problems.)
- Were the clients satisfied that the quality of the work matched the details in the contract?
Using an architect, designer or draftsperson
- If employing an architect, building designer or a draftsperson, put in writing what you expect the work to achieve.
- Ensure everything you want is clearly defined in your plans and specifications, and conveyed to the builder (for example, a three-bedroom house with a seven-star energy rating). This will help you get accurate quotes.
Compare at least three written quotes and analyse them thoroughly:
- Make sure you know exactly what the quotes cover – the cheapest may not include some items, or give a base rate that does not cover the cost of the actual materials and finishes you want.
- Consider which builder is most likely to:
- deliver value for money
- listen to your needs and wants
- give you clear and regular updates on progress
- communicate clearly, verbally and in writing
- be trustworthy as a business person and skilled builder.
Paying deposits for contracts over $16,000
Do not pay 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.
You can check whether your builder is eligible to obtain domestic building insurance using the Builder Search on the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority website.
Understand pre-construction contracts
View our Pre-construction contracts page.