10 questions to ask a builder before hiring them

You’re ready to build your new home and are starting the search for a builder. Finding the right one can be the difference between a seamless journey to your dream home or a nightmare. These 10 questions will help you find the perfect builder for the project.

Are you licensed?

According to research by NSW Fair Trading, 80 per cent of homeowners think that working with licensed tradespeople is important, yet only one in 10 checks the tradespeople they hire are licensed.  

Choosing a licensed or registered builder means that they are qualified to be carrying out the work and that the related industry body has accredited them.

Ask your potential builder for their license details. Checking their license is quick and easy, and can be done online in a few minutes, on the related state or territory site below.


NSW: NSW Fair Trading’s Tradesperson and Contractor License Check

VIC: Victorian Building Authority

QLD: Queensland Building and Construction Commission Licensee Search

SA: Consumer and Business Service License Search

WA: WA Government’s Register of Builders

TAS: Tasmanian Government’s Licensed Tradesperson Search

ACT: ACT Government’s List of Licensed Builders

NT: Public Register of Building Practitioners

How much will the build cost in total?

Your builder should advise you of the total cost of your build and break this down into detail in your contract. There may, on some occasions, depending on the nature of the project, be some costs that they’ll estimate. For example, factors they can’t cost accurately until the job commences.

If this is the case with your home, the builder should at least provide you with realistic provisional costs, justify them and keep you fully informed of these as the project progresses. For this reason, many homeowners put aside a percentage of their budget into a contingency fund.

How will payment work?

While it may differ based on the builder and the scale and cost of the project, payment terms are generally discussed and agreed on before commencement of the build. This tends to involve a deposit and payments made throughout the project (or when particular milestones are met) and should be clearly outlined in the contract.

How long will the build take?

Your builder should be able to provide you with an approximate timeline as to when the build, or key stages of it, will be complete. That said, some factors may be out of their control, such as the availability of materials or weather.

Aim to include timeframes or deadlines in the contract so the work is completed as close to plan as possible. It may also be worthwhile speaking with different builders to compare how their time frames differ and what suits you best.

Are you insured?

Your builder should be fully insured and should be able to explain to you what this covers. For example, if they have workers compensation, public indemnity etc. Insurance requirements for builders vary between state and territories. So be informed of what insurance they need and ask for related documentation to be provided.

What has not been included in the building estimate?

While you may assume some parts of a build are a given, request your builder to explain what they have excluded in their estimate and why. For example, bathroom fittings or light fixtures and whether these are standard or custom. This will ensure you keep track of your budget and you know what is included in the end result.

Who will be overseeing the build of my home?

With contractors coming and going whilst different aspects of the work is being completed, it’s helpful to have a central point of contact that is across everything, and can answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Can I see examples of other recent homes you have built?

A professional builder should not only be able to provide you with examples of their work but be proud to showcase them to their customers. They are a testament to the quality of their work. Ask your builder for any examples of work that most align with the type of build you are seeking. Doing some research online for customer reviews or testimonials may also provide some independent insight.

Do you have any references I can speak to?

Like any business, very happy customers are generally open to sharing how satisfied they are with the service and products they received – perhaps, more so, when it’s as big a project as building a house.

Prepare some questions to run by the builder’s reference. Such as, what type of project it was, how long it took, when it was built, how they found the overall experience and how they are finding the house now.

What happens if there’s a problem after the build is complete?

Be sure to look into and take note of any warranties and guarantees as well as the building maintenance period offered by your builder. The building maintenance period is the agreed duration of time in which a builder will fix or replace any issues highlighted following the completion of the build.

Again, regulation surrounding this differs between states and territories, and can be influenced by factors such as the value of the project, and whether it’s a contract builder or an owner-occupier build. A detailed contract and an awareness of the related laws are essential. 

Your home is one of your greatest assets and CCI Personal Insurance can help protect it. Find out more about our Home and Contents Insurance policies or get a quote today.