So you’ve found a builder and negotiated on the home you want, and now they’ve offered you a contract to sign. But what does it all mean?

Here, CEO of the Master Builders Association Rob Stewart, offers some insight into what to look out for.
“Before signing the contract read it carefully,” suggests Mr Stewart. 
“A contract is a complex document and in fact contains several sets of paperwork including the Plans, Specification, Schedule of Finishes and the Engineers Footing Report. “
The Plans detail what work is to be performed by the builder and generally shows the dimensions of the rooms and the house under construction. They also include the siting or positioning of the house on the block and any site works that have to be completed prior to building. Keep in mind that in many cases the builder holds the copyright of the plans, so they remain the property of the builder and must not be used with another builder. 
The Specification details exactly how the builder is going to perform the building work outlined in the plans. It generally describes and specifies the technical aspects of all the building materials to be used in the construction of the home. 
The Schedule of Finishes details the exact style, colour, texture and brand of materials and fittings to be used in the home.  It’s important that you’re completely familiar with the Schedule of Finishes as it details exactly how the job is going to be finished.
The Engineers Footing Report is another essential document that’s required as part of the building process and details the footing sizes, footing layout and thickness of the slab required to support the house.  It will also include recommendations as to how storm water should be disposed of. 
If you don’t understand any part of the contract documentation, seek advice!  The Master Builders Association recommends the use of their “Plain English suite of Contracts”. 
Make sure you’re aware of all of your obligations and those of the builder. Any variations to the signed contract will invariably result in increased costs. If you must vary the contract, ensure you obtain a written quote from the builder for the cost of the variation before proceeding with the work.

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