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Earlier this year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) undertook research to gain a better understanding on a homeowner’s typical experience when undertaking a major renovation or new build.

The research showed the highs and lows and the typical pain points– what’s likely to trip up a homeowner, delay a project and could ultimately lead to disputes. Reducing delays and disputes makes for better a experience and a better financial return for builders.

Many homeowners put success down to luck rather than good management, but the research identified several critical areas for success or failure in a building project:

1. Architects are very influential in the process – particularly if they are managing the project and making the design decisions throughout. Homeowners who don’t know the process get their initial advice from their architect, but also from interactions with others as the building project progresses.

2. Many builders specify low-end materials and fittings to make quotes competitive, which can lead to variations and tension later. Builders are usually asked to provide fixed-price quotes, and because price is a large factor will often specify cheaper materials and fittings. Many homeowners often realise or change their mind down the track, as the building work progresses and request or are forced into changes.

3. Understanding what you get, from whom, and when, is important. So too is making sure that all the roles are covered – someone to make design decisions, someone to manage deadlines, someone to handle council, someone to document changes.

Homeowners often don’t know what they need, and who does what, when. We found that, when roles are clear at the beginning of the project, the project was more likely to be successful.

4. Homeowners use different terminology than builders. Builders often said that the building work starts when they start constructing, whereas the homeowner often said that it started with clearing the land. Different terminology leads to confusion, adding pressure on the building relationship.

5. The relationship between the architect and builder is important. The most successful projects generally involved architects and builders who worked well together; they understood each other’s needs, practice styles and limitation, making a smoother experience for the homeowner.

6. The process can involve risk for builders, financially. Builders are asked to provide fixed-price quotes, and adding contingency will lessen their chances of winning the work. So the project needs to run smoothly for their costs to be met.

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