While building the home of your dreams is an exhilarating project, it can also become a nightmare if you haven’t hired a reliable contractor.

To make sure that this doesn’t happen to you, it’s imperative that you verify that any potential contractor you consider is in fact registered either with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) or the Master Builders Association of SA (MBASA).

These, says Simphiwe Majozi, co-founder of construction and architecture firm Majozi Bros, are SA’s leading building regulators who protect homeowners from poor workmanship.

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Start your search by asking your friends, colleagues and family members for recommendations.

“Word of mouth of course is always the best referral. Always opt to view their previous work or even their current projects,” Majozi advises.

The Gauteng Master Builders Association says it’s not a bad idea to round up a list of at least three contractors to conduct telephonic interviews with, asking them questions like how many projects they’ve worked on, whether they have ever completed similar work to that which you seek, whether they can provide you with references and examples of their previous work ,and whether they are able to furnish you with proof of insurance.

Majozi says any good contractor worth their salt will have public liability insurance which will cover your contractor against personal injury or third party claims that arise as a result of your business activities.

If a contractor is able to tick all these boxes, then you’re already halfway there.

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When it comes to negotiating a contract, Majozi says it’s critical to capture your agreement in writing, making sure that all work that needs to be carried out is detailed. This also pertains to knowing how your money is being used.

“You must always ask the building contractor to provide you with a cost estimate. Ask him or her to provide you with a cost estimate for each line item, for example framing, roofing, siding, foundation, plumbing and electrical,” the association advises.

The biggest thing to watch out for is the contractor’s payment schedule.

If a contractor insists on a large upfront deposit before they begin the job, then this should set off alarm bells, Mojozi warns.