Building a new home is the dream of many Kiwi families, but it’s also a daunting prospect. A dream project can quickly turn into a stressful and and financially painful nightmare, so New Zealand Certified Builders are here to help. Our builders have shared their top tips to ensure your architectural build goes smoothly from start to finish.

Step 1 – How to find and brief an architect

The internet is a good place to start when looking for an architect, but you’ll need to be a little more specific than just plugging “architect” and your location into Google. Thorough research takes time, but it is a small price to pay to avoid things turning pear-shaped further down the track.

Make sure you research the portfolio of any architect you’re interested in – for example, an architect who specialises in large public works may not be suited to designing your new home. You will also need to ensure you find a licensed designer.

If you’ve never had a custom-built home before, it can be hard to distinguish between the roles of designer/draftsperson and architect – and even harder to decide which is right for you. Don’t stress, though, our NZCB builders are here to help.

Richard Poff, of RDJ Builders in Christchurch, has a basic explanation.

“An architect is generally more focused on design – artistically, technically and holistically. Their fees will be higher than a draftperson/designer. A draftsperson on the other hand will usually have more practical ideas – they focus more on the technical aspects.”

Andy McRae, of The Limited in Queenstown, says architects are also much more involved in the details.

“Architects help a homeowner select the right fixtures and fittings to suit the overall style of the home design, versus an draftsperson who will just give the building design,” he says.

It is important to interview your architect/designer to see if they are a good fit and understand your lifestyle. You should also ask if they’ve ever been in dispute with a client or builder and, if so, ask why.

“Make sure that your builder has a good relationship with your architect. This will save you time and money in the long run, so ask your architect how long they have been working with the builder, before you select your architect and building team,” Andy adds.

“And before you decide, make sure you are happy with the style and design of homes that an architect produces. Ask to see their portfolio or a list of homes that they’ve completed, so you get a feel of what your design might look like.”

You should also ask your architect how they manage the three main areas of any build project – cost, time and quality. Architects tend to favour design quality first.

With this in mind, we also recommend getting a minimum of two or three quotes for fee proposals and the phone numbers of your potential architects’ recent clients, who you can call directly for references of their experience.

And lastly, always put your brief in writing. Your brief should include a detailed description of the physical building, for example, number of rooms, idea of light and functional requirements. It might be easier to write a wish list of what you want for each room in your new house.


Step 2 – Set your budgets

It’s important to be very clear on your budget with your entire team, right from the start. This will help when it comes to compromises or changes further down the track.

“In order to get a quote to build your new home, your builder will need to see rendered drawings from a licensed designer. Builders also tend to know what products work and don’t work, so it pays to ask them their opinion of the products that have been specified by the designer,” Richard says.

The cheapest quote, even when detailed, will often wind up with a lot of extra expenses at the end of the project. There are quite a few large expenses which may not be included in your build price, such as:– Landscaping
– Fencing
– Decking
– Window coverings and flooring
– Internet and media wiring
– Driveways
– Furnishings
– Any expensive upgrades deemed in excess of what’s needed to finish the home by the construction loan inspector.

“It’s usually the fixtures and fittings that tend to blow out the budgets on architectural designs, so allow 10 per cent contingency for these items,” Andy says.

Instead of looking for the cheapest quote, look for one that is detailed right from the very beginning.


Step 3 – How to find your builder

Start by asking for recommendations from friends or family. Don’t forget to check out online reviews, as well. Your architect/designer may also have preferred builders’ that they like to work with. You should also use the NZCB Find-a-Builder search.

It’s important to check the credentials of any builder you’re considering. Is your builder trade-qualified in carpentry level 4? All NZCB members have been checked to ensure they have a trade qualification in carpentry.

Designing and building your architectural home can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, if you’re working alongside the right team. Click here to find your local NZCB builder and get things under way now.