Four Tips for Choosing a Builder for House Renovation

Dominique Grubisa
Dominique Grubisa

Published 5:46 am 21 Feb 2020

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A bad builder will cost you money when you’re renovating a property. DG Institute founder Dominique Grubisa checks in with her tips for choosing a builder.

How to choose a builder for your house

  1. Always Check the Builder’s Portfolio
  2. Ask for References
  3. Check for Licenses and Insurances
  4. Ask Plenty of Questions

As a property investor or developer, you’ll be working with a bunch of professionals. One of the most important is your builder. Developers obviously work closely with builders to bring their projects to fruition. And investors also need builders if they’re using a fix and flip strategy.

Your house builder is the person who’ll turn your vision into a reality…

As long as you choose the right one. 

Failing to pick a great professional could lead to bad construction mistakes that will cost you thousands of dollars.

That’s exactly what a friend of experienced builder Simon J. Griggs discovered.

98 Defects in a Single Project

Like many new developers, Simon’s friend felt a great deal of excitement about getting their project underway. They’d done all of the research, worked with the right people, and gotten all the relevant approvals.

Now, it was time to make their project a reality.

This excitement led to the friend checking in on the building work constantly. And it’s a very good thing that they did, since Simon describes the project as a “nightmare.” 

The problems started with the slabs that the friend wanted installed. The builder ended up marking these slabs out in a mirror image of what he wanted. A quick correction sorted out that problem. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the problems that he faced with this builder.

More things went wrong with the roof, blockwork, and even the painting.

According to Simon:

“In the end, there were a lot of things he refused to pay for. By the time the house was done…the final total was 98 documented defects, and he swore he’d never go for a new-build again.”

In this type of situation, fixing all those defects would cost thousands of dollars. And of course, that money comes out of any profit you might make on the project.

It’s stories like this that highlight how important it is to know how to find a reliable builder

The good news is that there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re working with a true expert builder.

Check the builder portfolio

Tip #1 – Always Check the Builder’s Portfolio

Before you even start thinking about any questions for builders, you need to check the builder’s portfolio.

Ideally, you’ll find a list of projects the builder has worked on via their website. Your goal isn’t just to see that they’ve done good work on these projects. You’re looking for examples that the builder has worked on similar projects to the one you’re bringing them.

Pax Project Management’s Chris Paxino explains this in an article on He says:

“Look at what their past projects are and try to find multiple examples of houses that are very similar to what you want to do.”

“For example, if you’re looking to build a contemporary home, you wouldn’t go for a builder if they mainly do French provincial-style homes, and vice versa.”

Tip #2 – Ask for References

If you’re satisfied that the portfolio shows examples of relevant work, it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Pick out a few of the builder’s projects that relate to your own. Then, ask the builder to provide references for those projects. The goal here is to talk to the builder’s clients to find out what working with them was like.

This conversation could save you a whole lot of hassle. For example, a client may reveal that the builder is difficult to work with, which could counteract the quality of their work. Or the client could confirm that the builder offers everything you’re looking for.

The key here is that you’re using third-party proof to back up the builder’s claims. 

As a side note, be wary of any builder who won’t provide references. This tends to indicate that they don’t want you talking to their previous clients. Any house builder worth their salt will be more than happy to have you talk to their satisfied customers.

Tip #3 – Check for Licenses and Insurances

A little research goes a long way when it comes to finding an expert builder.

First, we recommend checking to see if they are licensed with at least one of the following organisations:

If they’re not, this means there’s no independent organisation overseeing the quality of their work. As a result, you will find it more difficult to raise issues if they do a poor job.

From there, you need to make sure the builder has insurance. 

At the minimum, they should have the following:

  • Home Building Compensation (HBC) Insurance
  • This is also known as Domestic Building Insurance
  • Public Liability Insurance

These insurance policies offer you some protection if the builder makes bad construction mistakes. You can rely on these insurances to pay for the damage, rather than having to find the money out of your own pocket.

Tip #4 – Ask Plenty of Questions

Never be afraid to come up with questions for builders

Before meeting with the builder, make a list of issues that you want to clear up. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to get the answers you’re looking for.

Key here is how the builder responds to your questions.

Those who constantly try to deflect or use industry jargon to confuse you aren’t transparent. This suggests you’ll run into problems with them later on.

An expert builder will provide clear answers in language you can understand. They’ll see your questions as an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise.


If you use these tips for choosing a builder, your fix-and-flip projects are more likely to succeed. After all, an expert builder will execute your instructions to the letter. And they may even be able to highlight ways for you to save money on the project.

Of course, choosing a good builder is just one part of becoming a successful house flipper.

There’s plenty more to learn, which is where DG Institute comes in.

RER Webinar

Good Debt Vs Bad Debt With Dominique Grubisa - DG Institute

Lawyer, Asset Protection Specialist and Property Educator

Dominique Grubisa is a practising legal practitioner with over 22 years of legal and commercial experience. She is a property investor and developer, an entrepreneur with businesses in Australia and Southeast Asia, a speaker, educator, writer and published author. You may contact Dominique at

This column has been written for general information purposes only. It is not intended as legal, financial or investment advice and should not be construed or relied on as such.

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