Two people sitting on the floor looking at their house plans. They're building their first home

Building Your First Home: 6 Tips for Choosing the Right Builder

Building your first home is an exciting journey that can be both challenging and rewarding. From choosing your block of land, finalising your design and then surviving the construction process, every step gets you closer to turning that key. 

It can be a real rollercoaster ride, and the process can be overwhelming for a first home builder. But, with some patience, preparation, and the right builder by your side, your dream of moving into your first home can become a reality. 

This post shares six tips for choosing the right builder for your first home build. 

Let’s get started!

1. Understand the key stages of building your first home

Understanding the key stages of building a home is essential. Building involves a significant investment of both your time and money, and knowing what to expect at each stage can help you make informed decisions, avoid delays and budget effectively.

In Australia, once you’ve chosen your builder and signed your contract, there are generally six key stages of building a home:

  1. Base Stage
  2. Frame Stage
  3. Lockup/Enclosed Stage
  4. Fixing and Fit-Off
  5. Practical Completion Inspection (PCI)
  6. Handover and Maintenance

Understanding how your first build will progress will help you feel more confident as you navigate your build journey and know what to expect at each stage.

2. Do your research and check credentials

The first step to choosing the right builder is to do your research. 

Look for builders in your local area and read reviews online at sites like Product Review or their Google Business Profile. 

Look at the star rating but dig deeper and read the context of the review. Some builders collect reviews early on when homeowners are excited about their design and making their colour selections. They’re more likely to leave a glowing review when they’ve just walked out of the colour studio rather than at the end of a lengthy build journey.

You’ll also find Facebook groups dedicated to people who are building with certain builders. If you feel inclined, read up on their experiences and ask questions. Some will have a good build journey; others won’t. Consider this and balance it with your own research when making your final decision. 

Don’t forget to check if the builder is licensed and registered with the relevant authorities. In Australia, builders must be registered with the state or territory building authority to carry out any building work. This registration ensures the builder meets minimum standards. If you’re in NSW, you can check their credentials at Verify.Licence.

3. Check the builder’s experience and display homes

Most bigger builders have display homes where you can check the quality of their work. And, if you’re using a smaller builder who doesn’t, there’s no harm in asking them to walk you through one of their completed or nearly completed homes. 

Look at the attention to detail, the use of materials, and the overall finish of the homes. You’ll get a good idea of the builder’s capabilities and what you can expect from them.

When it comes to display homes, be mindful that these are often heavily ‘done up’. What we mean by this is that the builder tends to include all the upgrades that generally wouldn’t be included in their standard homes. 

For example, a standard inclusion in your building contract is 20mm stone bench tops and 2,500mm ceilings. But. the display home features 40mm stone and 3,000mm ceilings. These upgrades are designed to WOW you – and WOW you they do! 

Always ask what’s included and isn’t included as standard inclusions when visiting the display homes. 

4. Consider communication

Effective communication is essential in any building project. Choose a builder who communicates effectively and is easy to work with. 

During the initial consultation, pay attention to how the builder communicates with you. 

  • Do they listen to your needs and concerns? 
  • Do they explain the building process?
  • Do they answer your questions clearly? 

A good builder will communicate effectively throughout the project, providing updates and seeking your input when necessary. Be mindful that for some builders, the person who sells you the build package may not be the person you’re communicating with during the design and construction phase. 

Always clarify the process and who you’ll be dealing with. Again, research is essential, so refer to the reviews and talk to others who have built with them.

5. The cost of building your first home

Cost is a HUGE factor for first home builders, and it’s easy to get confused about what’s included, what’s not included, interim costs and what other costs can crop up that you weren’t expecting. 

Choose a builder who provides a detailed and transparent quote. The quote should include all the costs involved in the project, including materials, labour, and any additional charges. Be wary of builders who provide vague quotes or do not provide a breakdown of costs.

Don’t be fooled by clever marketing campaigns advertising the ‘base price’. This price can vary significantly from the final build cost.

The base price is the standard build cost and often doesn’t include any upgrades. For example, the base price for some builders includes old-fashioned batten lights in all rooms. You’ll likely pay to upgrade to LED lights throughout the home. It also doesn’t consider any additional costs required to upgrade your slab if your land is classified as needing it. Slab upgrades and site costs can cost thousands, which can hurt when you weren’t expecting it. 

Don’t be surprised if your final build cost is around $100-$200k or more than the base price.

6. Always read your build contract

Like – always! We can’t emphasise this enough.

Residential building work worth over $20,000 in NSW requires an extensive home building contract. And, while we know that sifting through every page can seem like a waste of time, it’s so important. You’ll understand what’s included, what’s not included, applicable warranties, the contract price (and warnings if the price is subject to change), timeframes (like how long they have to start on site), a progress payment schedule, termination clauses, and so much more. 

Only sign the contract once you have read it or sought individual advice from a professional to ensure that your rights are covered.

If you’re local to the Hunter Valley region, we recommend chatting with Kerri-Ann from Carnelian Projects. Kerri-Ann’s Tender Health Checks take the stress out of signing on the dotted line by helping you uncover terms and exclusions that might disguise potential extra costs throughout your build – like additional piering, soil removal or bushfire requirements. Contact Kerri-Ann on 0402 107 194 or

Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to building your first home?

If you follow the tips above, you’re on the right track! It’s fair to say that most build journeys aren’t perfect – at least not in our experience. But, it will be so much easier if you do your research, understand the process and choose a reputable builder who communicates regularly and is transparent regarding their costs. And, when it’s all said and done, it will all feel worth it when you walk through the front door of your brand new home.

And remember, we’re here to help. If you’ve got questions about anything in this post or the conveyancing process, chat with us on (02) 4056 1070 or email us at 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. We recommend consulting with qualified professionals for advice tailored to your individual circumstances.

Oliver and Co Conveyancing Cessnock founder Tayla Ross (nee Oliver)

Hi there! I'm Tayla Oliver

I founded Oliver Howells & Co. to educate and support you through your legal, or property buying and selling journey, with affordable, full-service legal and conveyancing support. You can count on our experienced and friendly team to look after your best interests at every step of the way.

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