A common misconception is that every home built to lock-up is the same. Hence, builders are flooded with plans for "quotes to lock-up". This is very much incorrect.
Starting from the ground up:
1. earthworks. the amount allocated by each builder could be very different:
* have sufficient earthworks been allowed for?
* have you provided sufficient information about your block for the builder to calculate earthworks eg, soil test and contours?
2. slab. design and classification:
* is the slab a raft slab or waffle pod system and what soil type has it been designed for. There are legitimate arguments for and against waffle pods and many builders refer a raft slab.
* have you provided sufficient information about the soil ie. a soil report? Obtaining quotes without a soil report is like writing a blank cheque.
3. framing. this is a big one and there are many factors that differ from builder to builder:
* are the frames termite treated? It seems obvious, but many owners have discovered that their frames are not treated, when they assumed they were.
* some framers have wider spaces between the studs and some don't have noggings.
* framing quality. It is a good idea to look at the quality of the framing the builder is using on current jobs. Look for timber that hasn't cured and is twisted or cracking, or has large knots in it.
4. quality of materials
* what brand of windows (company and range) has been allowed for? Some cheap imported windows are very flimsy with cheap rollers and locks, resulting in sticking and flexing.
* render is a big one. The render should be from a reputable supplier and quality render is finished in a protective coating. Owners often realise that their homes have faded, have 'runs' in their walls and that cleaning the walls leaves marks.
5. PC Items
Most builders take pride in their work and build a quality home. However, there are many that target the cheap market with a cheap product. If quoting to completion, there are many items to look at also:
* tiles: cheap tiles are made differently to quality tiles and are usually more porous and can scratch and crack easily.
* carpets: cheap carpets don't last. You can spend $25/sqm and get 1-2 years out of it, or spend $45/sqm and get 5-10 years+.
* kitchen PC allowance: often owners discover that their kitchen is not what they expected and have to spend thousands to get what they thought they were getting. If a plan does not specify overhead cupboards, you can be sure they have not been costed in.
* electrical: does your Contract include electrical fittings and the type you want? Look out for words like 'fan connections' or 'light connections' which usually mean just the connection - not the item itself!
There are many difference in products used up to lock-up stage. A quality builder will be upfront and explain what products they use and how they differ from cheaper quality products because they take pride in their work.