How to find good tradies? – Carolyn Boyd

In today’s show we are joined by Carolyn Boyd, from Domain, who has been looking into the horror stories surrounding building contracts – like the one we mentioned a few weeks ago with Samantha Powers – and Carolyn says it is about the quality of workmanship so she has some tips that will help choose the best people to engage.


Kevin:  Three or four weeks ago, you might recall on the show we had a talk to Samantha Powers who had a horror story when she went through a building contract. If you missed that, go back and have a listen. It’s a two-part interview. We did that sometime in mid-May. Just have a look for that. You’ll find it there.
It prompted me to think about how you go about getting a good tradie, and Carolyn Boyd has been looking into this for me. Carolyn is from
Hi, Carolyn. Nice to be talking again. How are you?
Carolyn:  Hi. I’m great. Thanks, Kevin.
Kevin:  Good. Now, you have some statistics there about complaints with builders and building contracts.
Carolyn:  Yes, quite interesting. These are from New South Wales, and they look from Fair Trading at the number of complaints they’ve had come in through their doors and just what they’re about.
67% of building complaints are actually around the workmanship. It’s not that people aren’t finishing the job or there’s some contractual dispute; it’s that the job is getting done but not to the standard the home-owner or investor expects.
Kevin:  A lot of the people I talk to have great frustration when a builder will start and then move on to another job and maybe slow down when they come back. That’s a frustration for people.
Carolyn:  It certainly is. I think that’s probably the builder lining up that number of jobs to ensure they have some income coming in, but it’s perhaps sometimes finding they have too much on their plate.
Another conversation I’ve just been having recently is around the nature of these bite-size jobs. You might get a tiler or a plumber to come in and do a job, and because they’re going to be at your house just that one and only time, there’s not that feeling of that relationship that you need to do a really great job and look at all those tiny things that make a difference that we as home-owners notice, but potentially they’re sometimes in a rush to get on to the next job.
Kevin:  It is a reality. We get tradies in from time to time, and we also sometimes have to go through building contracts. What are your suggestions about finding good tradies?
Carolyn:  The first thing is to try to find some who you can use again and again, so you do build that relationship. It is a bit hard. Isn’t it? Sometimes you can luck it. You can look through the local paper or the Yellow Pages and find them. But I would always start by asking your family and friends who they’ve used before and to get recommendations if those people are any good, and maybe get them out to do a small job as a starter.
You can ask tradespeople or, in fact, your suppliers. If you’re off to a tile shop or somewhere like that, they might recommend to you some of their trusted tradies who they know do a good job, and certainly, I’ve found that to be a good way to find them. If that’s not working, you might then go to the local newspaper or the Yellow Pages.
One thing that sometimes we forget to do is check that our tradespeople are actually licensed, particularly when you’ve just pulled them out of the phone book. You can usually easily do by searching online in your state or territory to find whether they actually do have a building license.
Kevin:  As well as licensing, it’s also important to ask about insurance, as well.
Carolyn:  Yes, it is. I guess we assume people do have that, but that’s right. There’s no harm in asking, “Please show me,” and if this person is unable to show you evidence of that, then probably move on to the next one, I would suggest.
Kevin:  Yes, indeed. I know in well-run property management departments, they keep a file on all the tradies they use to make sure that their insurance covers are up to date because it can actually cost you quite a bit of money if you don’t really tick that little box off.
Carolyn:  Absolutely. I think also you probably need to beware if you’re going to be selling your home within the next few years that it could come back on you as well – not only that it could cost you some money, but then if you’re selling that property and there are some issues, it’s worth thinking it could be a bigger ramification than you have in mind.
Kevin:  If you are looking at getting some work done around the house, another tip for you is to make sure that you get everything approved. Quite often, it’s okay if you don’t intend to sell. Well, it’s not really okay, but it can be okay until it comes time to sell, then it can come back to bite you big time.
Carolyn:  It can, and the thing is, too, it’s sometimes surprising things that you don’t realize need approval. One great example of that, believe it or not, is even something as simple as a backyard cubby or a backyard shed.
There are a couple of great stories that I’ve heard – not great for the person involved – where a family knocked down a shed, rebuilt in exactly the same location and the same size, but, of course, the planning laws had changed. The local council wasn’t happy and took them to court because they had erected this new structure and it was actually too close to the fence, even though the existing one had been okay because it had been there for a little while.
Exactly the same problem with building a backyard cubby: dad goes out on the weekend, builds a cubby with the kids, the neighbors complain, and they end up in their local council applying for a DA.
Kevin:  The bottom line: always do your homework and always check to make sure that everything is covered.
Carolyn:  Yes, absolutely. Even the smallest things, it probably doesn’t hurt to think, “Oops, do I need to get approval for this one?”
Kevin:  Yes, exactly.
Carolyn Boyd is a property journalist and keen follower of the Australian housing market. You can tell she has a great source of knowledge, and she also writes for
Carolyn, always great talking to you. Thank you very much for your time.
Carolyn:  My pleasure, Kevin.

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