What you need to know before you hire a builder - Building NZ
What you need to know before you hire a builder

What you need to know before you hire a builder

Did you know that you can get a builder on board before you have even purchased a site? We spoke to DJ Hewitt Builders’ Daryl Hewitt about everything you need to know about what your builder can offer you.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

ArchPro: For those looking to build, what should they know about choosing a builder?

Daryl Hewitt: They need to make sure that they've got a good track record because a builder is only as good as their last job. For architectural building make sure they have got a good track record and at least seven years’ experience, and have got experience in the type of work that you're going to be doing. If it's building on the hill for argument's sake, because not all builders can build on the hill.

AP: And how can you find out if they've got a good track record?

DH: You could ask for references from past clients. If you've seen their sign up somewhere you could ask those clients to give a reference. It’s also doing some due diligence - ask some of the bigger suppliers like window manufacturers about them - they know a lot about whether a builder is good or not and if they pay on time!

AP: What's the difference between a design, management build service like yours, and just a build service?

DH: Well for example, clients can come to me saying: “We want to build a house” and they may not even have a section, so I can help them find the section, and do due diligence with a designer or architect on the site before they purchase the site. Then I can give them an idea of what the budget will be to build a house on that site. So they know where they're at, before they get in too deep. Then we hold their hand for the whole build.

For architectural builds, you need to engage a contractor who has experience in delivering high-end projects, says Daryl.

AP: What’s the biggest issue you see people having when building an architecturally designed home?

DH: The biggest issue is people’s budget gets swept to one side, but it's probably the most important thing to be discussed up front, so people understand what they're getting themselves in for. If the budget is assessed in the brief, it's pretty easy, it's just enjoying the process, really.

Halfway through the concept stage or the planning stage, we actually do a budget because with architectural builds you don't really know what something's going to cost until it's drawn. If it's a little too much we can make some changes to the plans and you're not wasting time and money with all the professionals.

AP: What services do you offer?

DH: We work with different architects and designers as a team, depending on people's flavour of what they want done, or the type of project they're working on. So we engage either an architect or designer, and work together with them and organise the engineer and the interior designers and everything, and bring together the whole project for the clients and hold their hand the whole way through.

We also do a critical path plan which many residential builders don’t do. This plan keeps the client totally up to date with what's happening on site six weeks ahead of time. We update the plan every couple of weeks and it shows when milestones are happening which also helps clients with their budget. We also send them photos every week if they're not able to come on site and clients are loving that!

AP: What’s the benefit of having your builder project manage the whole process?

DH: If people go to a designer without a builder like myself, they might estimate a budget of $1 million dollars but by the time it comes to a builder price up, it might be $1.5 million, because the architect or designer will specify what they want. The budget might not have been considered, it's like some of those TV programmes you see, where they haven't always got money to finish and they're getting stressed about things. It should be pretty simple! Also, in this market we've got a lot of loyal suppliers who are on the top of the pecking order as far as getting materials.

DJHewitt Builders offer a complete service from choosing a section to pricing, building and project management.

AP: At what stage should people looking to build come to you?

DH: If you've already got a site come and see us but even if you've started your plans or even if you're halfway through it's still not too late, we can bring a lot to the table. We've got a lot of experience with everything to do with building: how to heat the home; what sort of windows to use; what sort of cladding to use; how to make it strong and durable; best maintenance and things like that. And of course, we are also about the architecture, so we want it to look beautiful as well!

AP: What’s the key piece of advice you would give to someone looking to build?

DH: Make sure you do your homework up front. A lot of people don't understand what they're getting themselves into. Also, it’s crucial to trust, like and respect the people you're dealing with. If you can't see eye to eye with your builder and you're arguing at the first meeting, there's not really much point in having a one or two year working relationship. You need to be able to see eye to eye and get on with each other, to be getting the right product for you, and you need to enjoy the process with your professionals!

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