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Essential Guide to Communication With Your Builder – Check it Out Before You Enter Into a Contract!

How Important to you is communication with your builder?

The answer is its ‘essential’lady-on-phone

But when you are looking for a builder, how do you know you are going to get the levels of communication necessary to:

  1.  ensure you get what you want;
  2.  provide peace of mind;
  3.  get you involved and excited about your journey, and;
  4.  avoid any issues, mistakes or lengthy delays.

A lot of us probably think we are a good judge of character, I know I do!

However, it still pays to ask specific questions and do your homework, and let gut instinct compliment your findings as opposed to dictate them.

Some people have the ‘gift of the gab’, and could probably sell you anything – this is why it is important to get proof, and look beyond a slick salesman.

In our opinion the best way to communicate is by using a variety of methods, and importantly there is the need to be flexible for individual clients and for differing situations.

 

Not all clients are the same.  Everyone is unique, and has differing communication requirements. 

couple signing contractSome people don’t live near their build.  We have had a few who lived overseas whilst we built their homes.  They might not have the ability for regular site visits so they need reassurance and transparency via other means (these include video calls, telephone, emails and online job management systems).

Some people like to meet face to face or over the phone, and others prefer emails.  Some may not be as comfortable with technology as others.

Some clients may be time poor and although they want access to the jobs progress, they want to pick and choose what they wish to discuss in detail.  An online job management tool is excellent for these clients as they have 24/7 access to the jobs progress, schedule, photos, selections and tracked communication all in one easy to use secure cloud based programme.

It is important early on for you to discuss with the builder what your expectations are and how you prefer to communicate.

So….Ask them how they communicate on a job?

See how they respond to situation based, as opposed to general, questions, such as:

  • If we decide we want to change an item in the house once the build has started, how do we communicate and agree on this?

Tip: Do they have a system in place for variations?  Do they have a means of recording the choices, approvals and cost implications that is both transparent and timely, for example does their online job management system have the capability to do this?

  • How often can we meet on site? meetong-on-site

Tip: Regular site meetings are a great way to keep abreast of developments, discuss upcoming milestones, discuss any changes you might want to make.  The latter is important as you can now  better visualise the layout, sizes, possible furniture placements, so you may decide to alter some things where it’s possible (bearing in mind the constraints of the consent & building stage).

  • I am often away for reasonable periods of time and can not always get to site, how do you keep me informed on the progress of my build?

Tip: This is where an online job management tool is invaluable.  Dependent upon the job management software your builder uses, communication can include; decisions made and recorded on house selection items, the jobs schedule/progress regularly updated, photos can be uploaded, variations can be costed and approved, and communication made on items and recorded on an easy to track platform.  You get a secure log in and may be able to request daily, weekly or live updates, via email, of changes made to your jobs online project.

You will need to ask what system your builder uses and its capabilities so expectations are the same.  Importantly, ask how frequently your builder updates it and what parts of it they actively use.  What matters is that the parts they do actively use match the parts that are important to you?

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  • If last minute you find a problem and need to talk to us (the homeowner) about resolving it ASAP, what process do you have in place to do this to ensure we are kept in the loop?

Tip: How would they try to contact you and how hard would they try? What process do they have in place for any amendments to what has been authorised?

This last point suggests perseverance is another skill your builder should possess.  How many times have you heard ‘well we tried to contact you and we had to make a decision there and then’, or ‘we could not get hold of you and so we made the call’.    The potential for the wrong call to be made is huge just because the builder was a) not organised, or b) only tried to make contact once, possibly using only one method of communication.  Of course, as the client there does need to be reasonable access to you so it is again important to discuss what this access would be to avoid delays to the building project.

Another item to discuss is your potential trips away, as a 3 week vacation may signal, for example, that specific incomplete selection choices need to be made earlier than planned to avoid delays in the building process, or it would highlight the need for the builder to identify any items that require a discussion early.

Written versus verbal

The merits of each depend on the situation, the urgency, the ability to record the discussions, the risk of miscommunication or confusion, and the best use of time.

I won’t undermine your common sense by explaining the pros and cons of each BUT I will say that they are also not used in isolation – why not have a phone conversation to discuss an issue and the various solutions to ensure you understand each option clearly, then the builder can follow it up in an email or, even better, on your online job management programme where it can be recorded and a decision documented (along with any cost implications).

One of the biggest client fears is being taken for a ride.  Clear communication followed up by written agreements aids transparency and confidence in the builder and their build process.

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A reputable builder wants a happy client with buy-in to their building process and systems. 

A client wants to feel involved, informed and confident. 

Communication and agreed expectations, on the level and detail, of communication are essential to achieve this.  If your builder brings communication up themselves early then it is a good sign!  Just make sure you ask lots of questions!

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To Find out more about what to ask your Builder before signing a building contract download our ‘7 Things You Must Ask Before Signing a Building Contract’ here. This guide offers invaluable independent advice in a straightforward manner.  It provides you with the questions to ask and the information to check, ensuring you get the builder and the result you want.  This great resource is a fantastic place to start your journey and will help ensure it is an enjoyable one!