Chapter 5: Dodgy Builder, Atas Builder

An example of a worksite

Everyone will claim their builder is the best and sing a tune of their folks. Not me. Right from the start, I treated every builder like my enemy. Savvy Steve said he didn't give a shit what builder I chose for him, as long as they did the job. When it comes to Aussie builders, conventional wisdom does not apply and the notion of, "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys," certainly doesn't too. If you think by paying a lot more money to a particular builder will get you quality, you may be in for a nasty surprise if Lady Luck is not on your side.

On the other hand, it is possible to get value for money as well. The key is keeping your eyes wide open. The "Close-one-eye-and-let-HDB-build-your-house" concept should be dropped. We are in Australia and these guys are not HDB. Every house is unique, unlike the carbon copy HDB flats spamming all around the place. That, I suspect, is why so many young Singaporeans find the urging need to splurge a lot of money on renovation. So that their flats stand out from the others. So that they can subconsciously fill the gap in their hearts carved by realizing the cruel fact that they are paying a lot of money to be just one of the automatons. 

I met several Singaporeans who froze during their building processes because there were simply too many options to choose from and too many micro decisions to be made. Your house is fully "customisable" right down to the last detail. Due to our background, we are not used to subjecting ourselves to planning such things holistically in our minds. Many were overwhelmed and humbled during their building processes. Some even turned to buying a completed house to avoid having to experience possible trauma. I suspect some of them simply are not prepared to fuck the builder on regular basis.

We chose a small land because Savvy Steve's budget was that small and thought his money was very big. Another factor was we have not been the cleanest family around. So it is better to live in a skip bin than a landfill. If such things frustrate me, it is better to have lesser of it. Makes complete sense. Savvy Steve had no comments whatsoever. He left it completely to me. I could chose any land at any location and build a house of any shape and size as I pleased. He told me he had only 1 rule for me to follow - Stick to the budget. Fair enough. This is something I am good at.

Sales reps of builders are some of the biggest scums you can meet around here. They'll do all kinds of thing to convince you to use them. Not just them actually. Him, to be specific. Whenever one pissed me off, I'll tell him I like his company but I'll look for another sales rep. The moment a sales rep badmouth another builder, I take my discussion with him no further. That is my rule #1. The second tactic they'll use is fear-mongering. I.e. "If you go with X builder, (sneer) you'll regret it. Your doors will fall apart. blah blah blah." Hello, I came from LKY island. You think I will be affected by these shit? Some sales reps were left so bitter that they even sent me sarcastic emails. They should had gone straight into the thrash bin, together with their emails that I junked.

We are not here to make friends. If you go through this process in future, never forget that. Be professional at all times and do not allow personal feelings or emotions cloud your judgement.I do not believe any builder is bulletproof. If your friend built well with one builder, it doesn't necessarily meant they will do the same for you. If you know how the industry works, your house is as good as the tradie teams selected to build it. Each builder has many teams that they rotate around on need basis. When they are too busy due to their popularity, your house building will certainly be delayed. It is a no brainer but surprisingly, many do not seem to understand that. In such a situation, should you rush them, they will have to hire teams that are not their "regulars". In that case, your builder's reputation is only as good as the random team they manage to find to rush your job out. Thus, if you are paying a lot more money for the name of a builder, you are actually paying for nothing.

To understand what builder suits you best, you have to know your own needs better than anyone does. Every builder pretends that they know it better than you do but they cannot be more wrong. Only you know what you need. No one has the same requirements as you do. The budget, house design, land location, amenities, time you can afford to wait are just some factors to run off the list. Be smart and choose a builder than suits your needs best. Not every build is strong in every aspect, regardless of their reputation. Some build very fast. Some are strong in finishes. Some can give very low prices particular trades. Some are, well, just fucked up and hopeless.

With a little exposure in the construction industry in Singapore, I came to understand that no builder is immune to mistakes. Even big historic building companies in Singapore makes glaring mistakes, some you wouldn't expect an experienced company to commit. Thus, it is silly to go with the advice that "X builder does my house very nice, no problems at all." If you do not see problems, it doesn't mean they do not exist. Instead, be mentally prepared that every, any builder is going to have their share of stuff-ups. Go for the builder who is honest and very proactive in fixing mistakes. A builder with a single owner is a good place to look. Corporate builders don't give as much fuck because none of the people working there own that company. Basically you want an owner to diao and the owner will diao his staff so badly that things happen in double quick speed redone until the quality you expect.

From the time the stab was cast, they took 5 months to build and handover. That was decent, if you consider the period included the long Summer holidays that had the builder shutdown for 2 weeks and some tradies taking as long as 4 weeks to come back to work.