10 signs of a good builder

22:25, Sep 03 2014
10 SIGNS ... You've got the right builder for the job.

It's 5.20pm on Monday afternoon when Shane McBride from M2 Build calls to tell us he's running late.

He's coming to our house to discuss our reno and we're pleasantly surprised by this courtesy call.

Then he rolls in at 5.29pm - one minute before our organised time. 

"I hate being late," he says as he removes his shoes unprompted and takes a few minutes to greet Rebecca and Tasman before we get down to business.

I'm beginning to see why he has such a good reputation.

After months of disappointment and waiting, Shane is a breath of fresh air as he talks us through the process and details how it's going to work. We've been in talks for the past few weeks and it's clear he knows his stuff - plus he is polite, genuine, professional and willing to commit. What a guy!


But just when I think I'm starting to develop a crush on him, he breaks a few home truths about my budget and shatters the blossoming bromance.  He's examined our plans and agrees with the brother-in-law that our $100K budget is not realistic - more likely we're looking at the wrong side of $150K. He's right of course - and we'll have to put serious thought into how we deal with that in the near future.

But for now we're stuck in the middle and the only way out is to keep moving on. 

So we lock in a start date, September 8 (you bloody beauty!) and 10 minutes later Shane has basically taken control of the job (and I am feeling that crush coming back on again).

It's a great feeling to have a quality builder locked and loaded after months of previous disappointment.  And there are a few lessons I've learned from the frustration, that can help others choose the right builder for their project. 

10 signs of a good builder

1: They are busy.

If a builder has no work on, you should ask yourself why. Sure, they may be new in town, or just starting a solo business, but there may also be a more ominous reason. Be cautious if you make contact with a builder and they say they can start straight away. A good builder will have a good reputation and clients will be lining up for their services.

2: ...but not too busy

The jobs the builder is currently working on should take priority over new work and if there are others already waiting, you will go to the end of the queue.  Fair enough, but you can expect that most of those jobs will run over time and your project could end up getting pushed back by months. Beware the overworked builder who may start your job and then disappear for weeks/months. Be sure to ask the builder how many jobs they have on, and how they are managing with the workload before committing.

3: Is on time

Watch the clock when your meet with your builder - it's the most basic measure of their time management skills. The builder who arrives at your house at the organised time, is the builder most likely to start on time and complete the work to deadline. Take tardiness as an early warning sign. 

4: Is not a random

If you can find a builder recommended by someone you respect you can be confident they are trustworthy and competent. Plus you can inspect their workmanship before you decide and get a feel for how they worked to budget and timescales. Ask around your friends and family or put up a Facebook post - but avoid just going for friends of friends.  What you're looking for is someone who has had work done and is willing to advocate for the builder.

5: Takes his shoes off

A builder who takes his shoes off unprompted before walking into your house is more likely to show care for your property. It's a sign that they respect that this is your home - not just a worksite.

6: Answers your calls

Most builders will answer their phone and be very professional the first time you call. But the real test is whether they answer your calls when they know you're chasing them for something. If the builder doesn't answer your call, and doesn't call back within a day, it shows either a lack of respect, a lack of customer service focus, a lack of organisation or simply that they're just not that keen to do your job.  

Either way, it's a good sign you should look somewhere else. 

7: The five minute test

When you get the builder around to quote on your house, try changing the subject away from construction and see if they can hold a general conversation for five minutes. This will give you a good sense of whether you're compatible with the builder and will be comfortable having them in your home.

8: Tells it to you straight

If your budget won't cover it, your time fames are too short or your ideas are unrealistic - you need your builder to tell it to you straight, right from the start. Some builders will tell you what you want to hear just to get the job - and this can lead to major issues down the line. During your first meeting tell the builder your vision, budget and deadline - if he just says 'yes, yes, yes', he's probably lying or not experienced enough to know that you're dreaming.

9: Is an ideas man

Most builders can follow a set of blueprints (if they can't you're in big trouble) - but the good ones can think in colours that aren't just black and white. Do a 'walk around' your project with the builder and if they're full of good ideas and practical advice they're a keeper.

10: Has a brand

The builder that invests in a brand is working to build a quality business and will be more likely to deliver a positive customer experience and have pride in their work. Look for a website, business cards, work shirts and vehicles. You can't always judge a book by its cover - but then again you have to dress the part to play the part.