Choosing a builder

As with choosing an architect/designer, it’s essential to select a builder you can trust and feel comfortable with. Choose wisely. They are making something for you that is going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and if they get it wrong it can directly affect your wallet, your health and your safety.

If you’re doing a renovation they are often arriving as you’re showering and leaving as you’re preparing dinner. They need to respect your house, too. Building can be a dirty job but there are steps for minimising the dirt and the inconvenience. Set the ground rules early.


  • Ask more than one to tender for the job so you can see if the costs being presented are fair and realistic.
  • Don’t take the cheapest simply because it is the lowest. Get the higher bidders to justify their prices and find out what may have been missed by the lower bidders. Ensure they are quoting on the same things. Often builders will quote low with the intention of clawing back revenue on variations and changes to plans during the build.
  • Visit other jobs each builder has done or is doing and speak with their clients.
  • Builders must now come back and fix defects in the first year following completion, no questions asked. Find out what other guarantees are offered with the job and do you have Third Party Builders Guarantee insurance in place?
  • Registered Master Builders Association and NZ Certified Builders are the two main industry organisations for builders but realise there are many excellent builders who do not belong to either organisation.
  • Group House companies can be a reliable and convenient option. All provide standard designs and some will do custom-designed homes as well. They will take care of the whole project for you from start to finish, including project management but not all are as equal as others: Go here for reviews of Group Home Builders…
  • Smaller companies (which make up the bulk of the industry) are often better because being smaller, the owners are usually involved in the actual project, they’re closer to their clients and can be more responsive.
  • As with any job where there’s lots of money involved, DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE.
  • Speak with friends to see who they may have used and would recommend.
  • Look at what awards they may have won – note there are many excellent builders who do not bother entering awards.
  • Create a shortlist and then take time to visit sites they are currently working on.
  • Builders doing Restricted Building Work had to be Licensed by March 2012. All Restricted Building Work as defined by the Building Act must be carried out or supervised and signed off by Licensed Building Practioners.
  • Click here for information on third-party builders guarantees for residential building projects in New Zealand.
  • Builders, especially good ones, may be booked well in advance, so ensure you start looking early in the planning process.
  • You may choose to have your architect or designer stay on as full project manager or you may have an arrangement where your builder is the project manager and the designer takes on an overview role.
  • There are specialist project management companies and, while this maybe a bit more expensive, this can take many of the hassles out of the whole building process and will help ensure you have a quality job.
  • BRANZ (the Building Research Association of New Zealand) has a list of Accredited Advisors who can also manage a building project, or even specific elements within the overall job.
  • You may wish to be the project manager yourself. Ensure you have the time – it requires a lot – and, ideally, the expertise.
  • Whichever option you choose for managing the project, make sure the arrangement is fully spelt out in the building contract. (You DO have a contract, don’t you?).

The Building Code is a complex and exacting rule book and the technical aspects of many components of the building process are important to get right and sometimes your building professional won’t.

Use our checklist here to keep an eye on your build – this will most definitely help ensure a satisfactory outcome. There is no reason why your builder should not be happy with this – if they object, replace them.

Owner Occupier

If you want to build your own house and you are not a licensed builder you are actually allowed to but you have to do all the work yourself or use friends or family who are not paid and you are not allowed to have done this anytime in the previous three years. The fact you have done the work yourself will also appear on the LIM report, too.

If you do use a licensed professional for something like roofing, then from our reading of the rules it would appear that you will need to use a licensed builder for all the work.

For more information, check out the MBIE – Building & Housing website here…