Before the Design Dilemma: Comparing quotes - what you need to know.

dts builders
May 19, 2015
last modified: May 19, 2015

When gathering quotes for your new home or any home improvement
project, we as the owner, know exactly what we want and believe we are communicating
that information accurately to the builder/tradesperson. But has that
information been interpreted correctly? When obtaining quotes there are a few
key points to ensure you are comparing quotes equally and full understand what
you are entering into.

1. Champagne taste, Beer budget Reality Check

Everyone wants luxury finishes for their home, unfortunately, when the
quote comes in, it can be quite a shock. Building a home costs money, anything that
is nonstandard, custom built or a premium brand will add up. Further to this,
owners often don't realise the amount of labour, tie in work between trades and
behind the scenes man hours that are required to produce a quality home.
Particularly in extensions/renovations, all too often people only think of the
major elements and believe they are being overcharged, not realising that there
is a lot more work for a renovation/extension than for a new build. Reality TV shows have a lot to answer for - particularly when they never give you the true cost of the renovation and the fact that there are teams of people to assist.

The builder may not be overcharging, but charging you accordingly as
any other profession would… That feature wall that needs each stone to be laid
individually and then the gaps reworked with tiny stone takes a lot of man
hours and inevitably money.

Talking Budget:

Many people don't want to tell the builders their budget, which is
fine, however, our advice would be to find someone you are comfortable with and
work together to meet the budget, not the other way around. The beer budget
can't buy the champagne no matter how many builders you speak with. However, by
working with your builder and making some compromises in some areas you may end
up with at least a sparkling wine. Most builders are happy to work with their
clients to ensure they get the most value out of their budget and home.

2. What’s included?

Your idea of value, mid level or luxury finishes could be very
different to what you are being quoted on by the different builders you speak

Be sure to ask for clarification on the level of inclusions and what
forms part of the quote e.g. are council approvals included in the quote or in
addition to it? You may be surprised to learn that although you would assume
carpet and tiles would be included they in fact weren't included in your quote.

There can be a significant difference in price between builders purely
because one has quoted the basics and one has quoted on a whole of house with
nothing left for you to do. Don't be caught out by signing up to something
without understanding what you are getting.

Two very different ideas on luxury - make sure you understand what the quote really includes

3. The display home phenomenon: Project builder VS Custom builder

You walk through a display home and want the exact same home but built by
a custom builder for the prices you see advertised by the project builder. Project
builder display homes are a great way to get inspiration, ideas and see the
latest trends. The reality is that display homes are built to the highest
standard and are not reflective of any of the advertised prices.

Further to this, a custom builder cannot compete with a project builder
quote. A project builder has economies of scale and limited options available
for you to choose from. A custom builder is just that, they build custom homes,
every house is unique and whilst each builder can offer a certain amount of
standardised inclusions dependant on the level of finishes desired, the builder
quotes in accordance to the house design and the clients brief, providing
flexibility and individuality. Ultimately, the decision between a project
builder and custom builder quote is whether standardisation and cost is the
priority or uniqueness and flexibility.

By embracing these 3 simple, but often overlooked tips, you will set
yourself on a path to compare quotes accurately and equally, providing the best
outcome for yourself.

Comments (14)

  • Luke Buckle

    Helpful info!

    dts builders thanked Luke Buckle
  • mattban
    Everyone should read this post.
    It's basic to someone in the industry but unknown to almost everyone else.
    dts builders thanked mattban
  • PRO
    dts builders

    Thanks Matt, appreciate the comment.

    You hit the nail on the head. In the industry, we understand what's involved, however, we have come across many homeowners wanting to complete projects with unrealistic expectations regarding the budget or timeframe.

    Hopefully, someone reading the story with a project in mind will get a better understanding of what's involved and what to look for when getting quotes. There really is more to moving an external wall than taking a sledge hammer to it and then magically putting up another one with no other tie in work.

  • Pazz

    Great article!!

    We started the process with a project builder, and ended up with a custom builder... didn't quite have a beer budget, but let's say maybe a half decent wine :)

    Basically, we worked out that...

    project builder's standard inclusions + all the costly upgrades we wanted + a design we couldn't change + lots of compromise = house we had to settle for

    custom builder's much higher quality standard inclusions + very few upgrades + customised design + transparency + personalised service + not that much more $ + a few compromises = house we exactly wanted

    Yes, I too say do your research and don't be lured in by the advertised BASE prices and think that what you see at display homes is what you get... well you can get it but not at the advertised price.

    dts builders thanked Pazz
  • PRO
    dts builders

    Thanks Pazz, your comments regarding custom vs project builders is invaluable. Hopefully, readers will take heed of your experience :)

  • Trappist

    But, and I absolutely mean this, don't think just because the builder is a custom builder that the default position infers quality. Take a look how badly I've been burned with a "custom" builder. Just one example of many areas this house has gone badly awry.

  • Pazz

    Oh gosh... what actually is that?... and was the house meant to be on the boundary?

  • Pazz

    Is that the slab at the bottom and if so shouldn't the frame be at the edge of it?

  • Trappist

    Garage's are considered zero lot, so very close to the boundary. No it's the waterproofed retaining wall. The dark blue stuff is termite protection. The brick veneer wall goes on top.

    This builder actually has quite a spiel on Houzz. I'm currently exchanging solicitor's letters with him. There has been remediation work over several areas. Quality builder you think? As for a custom builder establishing an excellent client rapport - let's see if we end up in court.

  • Pazz

    Hmmm... yeah not fun... let's hope the builder comes good and you can find a resolution... good luck!

  • PRO
    dts builders
    I'd like to think as custom builders we are offering our clients quality. Unfortunately, just like in every industry you come across some not so quality professionals, that can give the rest a bad name. If the builder claims to be big on building rapport Biertrappist, hopefully you'll both come to a mutual agreement. Good luck
  • Trappist

    Hi DTS
    Indeed, bad apples in every pack. No inference against all custom builders intended just making others aware the mere fact a builder is a custom builder is evidently not a singular guarantee of quality. Due diligence, seeing builds at frame stage, extensive searching and meeting previous clients are all necessary steps in the assessment of your builder's suitability. I obviously needed to do more.

  • Eleanor Mcmillin
    We went down the custom build path because we couldn't find a home to match the uniqueness of our block.
    Fortunately we have found a builder that doesn't advertise only operates by word of mouth - absolute dream to deal with.
    We provided a budget, a list containing must have, like to have and we're dreaming.. ;)
    Whilst we are above our initial budget we couldn't be happier with the work going on. We are getting everything on our list. We are apparently 8 weeks from completion.
    We took the time to get to know the builder, we spent a lot of time getting the initial plans and contract right.
    Rebuilding our house has been as much a journey into ourselves as it has been about constructing our house. This exercise has bought us closer!!
  • PRO
    ideal drape makers

    Excellent article that parallels many of the same issues faced by professionals in other trades and related or aligned industries.

    1. On the subject of Budget.

    There seems to be an almost universal reticence on the part of potential clients to withhold information on their budgetary constraints. In my many years of experience in business within my own industry, I have yet to find, or even hear of a story, of a reputable provider who has intentionally 'padded-out' a quotation to meet the limits of a budget disclosed by the client.

    Obviously, trust is the issue here, and I suppose understandable. However, you can build confidence in your selection of providers by checking carefully their credentials and, preferably customer testimonials/recommendations if they are available to you.

    With a 'known' budget limit a provider can design a solution that provides the best value for money. The correct trade-offs can be made over elements that make up your eventual quotation in a way that does not compromise the overall quality of the solution you are presented. You may not be able to incorporate all elements of your 'wish list' but you give the provider/supplier the opportunity to work with you in arriving at a quality solution that doesn't skimp on the important, and often required, elements of your solution design.

    From the supplier/providers point of view the amount of time and effort providing you with a solution quotation that provides optimal value can be vastly minimised. - I don't know how many times I have provided quotations to potential clients who are unable or reticent in disclosing their budget, only for them to fall over, when the quoted price is way beyond the amount they are willing or able to spend. When this happens, it leaves a rather bad taste in the mouths of all parties; with the provider/supplier now perceived as 'over the top' with their pricing, and the provider having to 'rework,' (if lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do so), the quotation in light of the 'now disclosed' budgetary constraints.

    Of course, often as not the potential client moves on to another provider/supplier, educated and informed by the first provider and is able to direct the second provider with a revised specification (and associated design decisions) courtesy of their interactions with the first provider who will ever be thought off as 'over the top.'

    I can only emphasise the point, that providing an indication of your budgetary range or limits, is so very important and may well save you from missing out on the benefit of working with a reputable supplier/provider.- Instead, you may be left with a provider that has made an easy sale having being given a shopping list or manifest of the required solution components, with the hard work and expertise required to define the solution, already completed and provided by the client.

    2. On the subject of quotation detail,

    I have always provided a complete quotation breakdown so that the customer can clearly see what is included and what is not. In my business branding is as important as feature lists and component specifications, as the information detailed in the quotation should speak of the calibre, quality and functionality of the solution you have been quoted on.

    For a supplier/provider. this can sometimes be a two-edged sword, as it provides an easy pick-list for the next supplier/provider, who once again may simply counter-quote the solution and undercut pricing on the same components that make up the first provider's quotation. Alternatively, cheaper, often inferior elements of the solution may be substituted, in order to provide a clear price advantage, which 'sad to say' at least 50% of the population will opt for (imho); with claims of superior quality, reputation and after sales, warranty and service benefits, sacrificed by clients who value price over just about anything else. Of course, in many cases these are not the clients we are targeting with our own business, but that does not prevent a lot of time, effort and expertise being wasted; and in a lot of cases, as already described, expertise that is simply given away to a usually, lower-tier player in our market.

    3 On the subject of Project vs Custom.

    I will not repeat the excellent points made in both the article and some of the comments above. In my own business we only manufacture custom product (Drapery). One point I will make is that reputable suppliers/providers in any market have usually been in business for a considerable time (30+ years in my case). If you produce crap, you do don't tend to survive in business over the long haul. Reputable providers/suppliers have built quality long-term relationships with the providers in their supply-chain, and often as not it is word-of-mouth recommendation that provides much of your custom. Word-of-mouth recommendations are typically the product of an 'impressed' and 'happy' customer. You will pay more, but with the reputation of the provider/supplier on the line each an every day, there is little scope for 'finger pointing' when we the supplier gets it wrong, or if a problems or issues are experienced post sale. - We have far more on the line, and as a result, do very much 'give a damn' as do our delivery partners with whom we work, to ensure that no chinks develop in our collective 'reputational armour' and that you receive the premium value you paid for.