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Building or renovating a new home is exciting; until you realise nothing is going to plan because you’ve chosen the wrong builder! 

How to choose the right builder for your project? Your builder should be trustworthy and experienced, complemented by great communication to ensure you’re contacted at every step of the process. This is very important for first home builders because the whole experience can be quite daunting. 

Constructing a new home is a large investment whether starting from scratch or a knock-down rebuild – possibly the single largest financial investment many people will make. Buyers should be particular and many can be strict in their criteria for their home builder.

Below is the most important checklist when hiring a new builder.

Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!

A great sign of a reliable builder is that they are more than happy to show you examples of their previous work. A few things you should do: 

  • Speak to their current and previous clients
  • Ask to visit their completed work 
  • Ask for testimonials 

Remember you will have a relationship with your builder for the duration of your project. You need to ensure they are right for the job, will make good on what they promise and you should get along. 

To see some of our testimonials – check out our home page.

The Basics

Your first step in choosing a builder is ensuring they have the correct skills and paperwork to conduct a project. Builders need to be qualified through the Victorian Builder Registration and need to have a permit to build. You can look them up on the VBA website – just one minute of your time could save you thousands of dollars!

Credit Checks

Credit checks are a very important step to take when choosing your builder. Without checking credit, you can be hit with unfinished jobs or unpaid tradespeople due to lack of finances from the business. 

Check your builder and their company to ensure there are no active or past court cases against them. You can easily find this information online. A more thorough check can be done through a credit bureaus. This will tell you:

  • If builders have any bad debt
  • Any outstanding payments to others
  • Or have been bankrupt before 

Can They Finish the Job Financially?

Before a builder starts any work they must register for insurance with the VMIA. This is a home owners warranty insurance which protects you financially in case the builder cant finish the project.

Many builders don’t want to take over someone else’s work because they will be liable for any defects and structural damage that the previous builder has done. Don’t choose the cheapest builder you can find, as this usually means they don’t have the finances to finish the job – don’t risk it! If they can’t afford to pay their tradesperson, your job may be delayed or left incomplete.  


Put in place with the Building Code of Australia, The Building Act 1993 and Building Regulations 2018, ensures that buildings comply with an official document. This certifies that a building surveyor has given approval for the go-ahead of a construction before it begins. If it is found out after the build that there was no permit, the structure is subject to being pulled down or redone. 

Builders cannot apply for your builders permit; this must be carried out by your surveyor. Building permits are required for an array of reasons – many pertaining to the safety of those working on the construction and others around the site. A building surveyor ensures the accessibility, safety and energy efficiency of any structure. 

Enforcing these industry standards, a building permit provides the occupants peace of mind around the chance of high risk situations such as improperly wired, constructed or plumbed buildings. 

Any works that are structural must have a building permit that has been inspected by a building surveyor and or performed by a registered builder. Works can include:

  • A new construction
  • Structural alterations and repairs
  • Additions to existing structures
  • Alternations that change the use, size or height of a building
  • Retaining walls and fences

It is illegal to build without a permit. Depending on various structure and location factors, building without a permit can result in fines $75,000 or more. The cost for a permit is between $500 to $1000 for small construction projects and around $1,000, and up to $2,000 for dwelling​​s. 

How Do I Apply for a Permit?

Unless you are an owner builder, you will not apply for a permit; a building surveyor will apply for a builders permit on your behalf. This surveyor must have current and relevant registration. 

If you are an owner builder, proceeding with your building permit can entail either applying through your choice of private building surveyor or paying your own fee through the building permit levy which requires documentation. 

Paying for your own permit can mean the tradesperson can leave if the work gets too hard. Some sneaky tradies do this tactic because they are not contracted to finish the job. In short you shouldn’t be applying for a permit yourself, your building surveyor should do this for you. 

Can You Sell a House with Unpermitted Work?

Unpermitted work means that modifications or inclusions made to a build did not have a permit to do so. This often includes plumbing, electrical, and structural. Unpermitted work may affect

your sale price because the real estate agents, by law, have to disclose this.

If unpermitted work is not disclosed, it may result in a lawsuit. Prior to purchasing a home, it is suggested that the buyer is fully aware of any modifications made to the home. 

If a wall is 1m in height, you are exempt from a building permit. If it is associated with other building work, then you will require a permit. 

Other things that don’t require a permit include:

Do they know the Bass Coast and Phillip Island area?

And lastly, Unique Custom Homes is a local, licenced builder with 25 years building experience. As a local builder, located in Corinella, we understand the area and how to maximise design potential for views and lifestyle, while ensuring a quality build that will last a lifetime.

For all your renovating and building needs, Unique Custom Homes have you covered. Contact us today for a quote on your next project.

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