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what if the home takes longer to build



We sometimes get the question about timing from customers embarking on the journey of getting their new home built, and it’s clearly a justifiable question that needs to be answered – what if the home takes longer to build than promised? So, in line with our policy of being transparent about how things work, we’ll endeavour to spell it out here for everyone’s benefit.


Our first comment is that there are oodles of reasons why something could take longer than promised. Reasons that vary from the obvious to the absurd. But we’re not going to really drill down into any of these in this blog, but instead look at the fundamentals of three things –

1. How was the promised timeline established?

2. The difference between controllable and uncontrollable delays, and

3. How to manage delays.


It’s very important with any project to have a timeline that’s established before it starts. According to Parkinson’s’ law, without some form of deadline things would never ever get done. So a timeline for building a new home is important, and also a legal requirement. Every building contract must have a start and finish date, but then of course, every building contract is full of clauses about delays. This might seem a bit contradictory, but is it??


Let’s say you’re getting a 4 bedroom home built, and the builder has told you it will take 6 months to build. So this must mean that the builder has some form of scheduling tool that they’ve used to give them this duration. Of course, they may not have any such tool, and just be picking a figure out of the air. Or they might be going on gut feel because they’ve done it so many times before.


But whichever way they’ve arrived at the 6 months doesn’t mean you have to swallow it wholesale. You – as the homeowner – should have at least a broad understanding of how the timeline has been calculated.


So ask your builder some questions – how did they arrive at the estimated duration? Have they built homes in this time before? Have they considered for holidays / annual leave? Have they got any contingency built in? Does it vary if there are more features in the home, or if it’s a smaller home? Is there one particular phase that they’re concerned about that might blow out?


Asking these questions won’t necessarily change anything (it may of course!), but it will give you a much better grasp of whether the builder is being realistic about the timeline.


The secret here is to get comfortable yourself with how long it will take. If you’re not comfortable, keep asking questions and discuss it until you either change the timeline to what you feel is realistic, or accept the builders timeline. You’re not a builder, and you won’t be managing the project, but – as you’ll see later in this blog – it will be valuable to have some understanding of how long things take.


And when talking this through with your builder, you’ll start to realise that there’s 2 sorts of delays. By the way, delays – as in any industry – are often a part of life. It’s not necessarily a matter of ‘if’ there are delays, but it’s the ‘what they are and how they’re managed’ that’s the key. So there are the delays that are within the control of the builder, and then there’s those that aren’t.


Some people struggle to accept that delays that are outside the builders control could negatively impact them. But like any undertaking, there’s always an element of risk involved, and delays that could negatively affect you are an inherent risk that you need to be aware of. But, once again, ask questions and be aware of what these uncontrollable delays could be. Examples could be wet weather. Every builder tries to plan around wet weather, but sometimes a bout of very bad weather at the very wrong moment can put a very bad spanner in the works.


Another example could be delays from a pandemic – Covid-19 was a major event that was outside anyone’s control and had a negative impact on the duration of building a home. Or a latent condition in the ground such as finding a mine shaft once digging starts. There are many possibilities. And the reality is that they’re no ones fault, and because of this, the burden of them falls back onto the home owner. This might seem unfair, but it’s part of the risks associated with initiating the project.


Then there are the delays that are within the scope of the builder. Things like ordering materials in time. Or mustering their forces ahead of the starting date. Or finalising the right plans or scope of works for their team. Or deciding that the day would be better spent at the beach. You get the gist – they’re things that are within their ability to get on with to get the job done.


So what really happens when there are delays? That’s the third point to discuss.


There’s a very simple process here: Understand what the delay is; Get clarity around the plan to catch up; Follow up on the plan. And this is where those answers you got from your builder right at the start come in handy.


You might have discussed before the job started that they allow a week of wet weather, but there’s been 2 weeks of really bad weather that’s delayed things, so you have an understanding that about a week has been lost and although you don’t like it and it doesn’t help you, at least it all makes sense. Or it might be the other way around – the delays are simply not stacking up with what you discussed early on, so you need to drill in deeper and find out more.


And then find out what they’re doing about it. Can they make up that time? Or will it be lost and gone forever on the project? A good plan of attack to fix a delay can go a long way towards making it up.


But always bear in mind that undue pressure on a team that’s running behind can cause them to take shortcuts and quality can deteriorate, so it’s often a juggling act as to how much pressure to put on them. So you may have to go gently, because cracking the whip unduly could come around to bite you later on.


See there’s one thing to remember in all of this – a builder builds home to make a profit. Delays often erode profit. So if you look at it as a formula, it goes like this: good time management = profit = good time management. In other words, it’s in the builders best interests to get it done as quickly as possible so they can get their profits. So builders don’t like delays, and they don’t purposely create or prolong delays. Well, good builders don’t anyway!


So the recipe for managing a delay is understanding & communication. No one likes delays, and no one wants to take the blame for them, but find out about it, discuss a plan to get it sorted and then keep the channels of communication open, and it’s amazing what can happen.


As always, feel free to ask for more information.


Disclaimer. This blog is our opinion only. The information provided in our blogs is accurate and true to the best of our knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. The information presented in our blogs is for informational purposes only and we are not professionals, so the content we provide shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. We strongly recommend consulting with a professional before taking any sort of action. We reserve the right to change how we manage our blog and we may change the focus or content at any time.

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