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Building a home extension can be a mind-boggling and hectic experience. Us Aussie love to renovate though, and the process (when done right) can be exciting, fun and rewarding. With reality TV shows like The Block, Rehab Addict and House Rules fuelling inspiration, many homeowners find that making their house the home of their dreams requires a renovation. And in most cases, it can be a better process than starting from scratch.

According to the ABS, property renovations totalled $6.35 billion in 2012. More people are choosing home extensions over relocating for the flexibility and cost effectiveness. It enables you to stay in your comfort zone without having to pack your life up again, avoiding the tiresome search for the ‘right’ home. The end result, done well, gives you a new space that’s specifically tailored to your budget and needs. But without the right advice, tools and builder, that dream too often turns into a stressful and expensive nightmare.

Building and renovating is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in a lifetime. So, it pays to get it right. Mistakes are inevitable, but if you can avoid the nasty ones that lead to budget blow outs and disappointment, you’re on the right track. Here are the top mistakes to dodge when choosing a home extension builder:

1. Choosing a New Home Builder Rather than an Extensions Builder

Some builders construct a range of new homes and investment properties, others specialise in specific construction types like renovations and extensions. You wouldn’t entrust a plumber to install your new air conditioning, so why opt for a new home builder if you require an extension? It doesn’t matter how good they are at building new homes, choosing the wrong builder for your project can end up being a costly mess.

Experience is essential, but capability in the exact field you need is more valuable. Home extension and renovation builders that focus on projects of the same nature to yours have a structured and systemised approach. Because they perform this type of construction on regular basis, their skills come with superior value, efficient construction time and better buying power.

2. Assuming the Cheapest Quote is the Best

The saying you get what you pay for reigns true when renovating or extending. Cheaper isn’t always better, so it’s vital to do your research first. Comparing comprehensive quotes from multiple home extension builders will give you the best bang for you buck. If you’re looking to extend your home, only obtain quotes from specialised, experienced home renovation builders.

To compare quotes properly, you need make sure you’re comparing apples with apples. For example; one quote may be significantly cheaper, which can look very attractive for homeowners. But are there any important things missing in the quote to make it so cheap? Quote ‘exclusions’ that will cost you down the line can turn a cheap quote into a very expensive one when you’re already locked in. Make sure you ask the builder exactly what’s included and what isn’t. Always go with a builder that is 100% transparent about the costs.

3. Not Securing a Fixed, No Blow-Out Price

Fixed fees are paramount to eliminating costly budget blow outs. These types of contracts are exactly as it sounds – a fixed fee for the works as described. Ultimately, the cost on a fixed price contract is what you’ll pay once the extension is complete. The contract and drawings will be more detailed and transparent, and it’ll avoid forking out more money once the project is already underway.

To secure a fixed, no blow-out fee, it’s important to understand the quote jargon to know what to avoid. Common phrases like ‘provisional sums’ and ‘prime cost’ can make the price seem competitive, when really they’re allowances for costs rather than a guaranteed price. These deceptive culprits can see you end up with a $3,000 toilet as opposed to one that costs $250-$500. Whilst builders have a responsibility to only include realistic figures in the quote, the range of costs for many items needed in a home extension can be massive.

4. Not Getting a Written Contract

A written contract is fundamental when building, renovating or extending your home. Putting everything in writing protects both parties, and helps to eliminate any potential problems down the track. Written contracts are the best way to clarify and meet all expectations from the beginning. It should include a detailed description of the project – from the types of materials being used, to the fixtures, products and associated costs.

The contract also needs to incorporate how the contractor will be paid and when, the approximate timeline of the project and procedure of changes. You’ll want to make formal that no changes can be made unless the contractor has supplied you with all relevant information and written approval has been obtained.

5. Failing to Research Customer Reviews

One of the biggest mistakes is homeowners failing to do a relevant reference check. Avoid asking for customer testimonials from the builder because chances are, they’re only going to give you their best references. Instead, ask for the contact details of the 2-3 current clients. Do your own research too. Look at the builder’s website for testimonials, and delve into their social media channels to see what people have to say. Use this opportunity in the research stages to determine whether the builder you’re wanting to deal with has all the relevant insurances and warranties in place, as well as a proven track record of work similar to what you’re wanting in your project.

With the right planning, your home extension build doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Cost control and preventing budget blow-outs start from the very beginning. And arming yourself with the facts early on can save a lot of headaches and money. Renovations are influenced by the team you choose to work with, the brief formulated, the decisions and documentation along the way, and how you engage with the builder during the process. With this in mind, it’s relatively easy and cost-effective to extend your property to create the home perfect for you.

Author Bio

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Stella Design & Construction – a specialised home improvement company that focus on high quality house additions and renovations. You can catch her on Google+

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