This year local builders Rick and Susan Fischer celebrate a business milestone – a decade as builders with G.J. Gardner Homes. FOCUS caught up with Rick to find out what’s changed in the building industry and home design since he started out.
How long have you been working in the building industry?
I’m actually a fifth-generation builder, and I started my apprenticeship in my father’s building company almost 25 years ago. My father and grandfather both had very successful building companies, and that was a strong influence in my choice to join the building industry.
My wife, Susan, and I ran the G.J. Gardner Clarence Valley franchise for six years, and the opportunity came up to buy the G.J. Gardner Coffs Harbour franchise four years ago, and we jumped at it. We had lived on the Coffs Coast about 15 years ago and absolutely loved the lifestyle, so we decided to come back. It’s been the best decision we’ve ever made, both professionally and personally. Our business is thriving, and we and our three kids love the Coffs lifestyle.
What changes have you seen in building design over the past 25 years?
Houses are definitely bigger than they were 25 years ago. New home builders are looking for more space – they want a bedroom for each of their children, as well as a study and a spare room for guests.
The climate in Coffs makes outdoor living desirable, and with many properties boasting amazing outlooks, people are willing to spend the budget to maximise these features. There’s definitely a focus on making the most of outdoor spaces by including outdoor entertaining areas and kitchens and bringing the outdoors in.
Building materials have also changed, and we’ve moved away from the traditional brick home and we’re using materials like lightweight cladding and polished concrete sheeting, which give homes a fresh, new look. It’s exciting to work with new materials that allow us to personalise our clients’ houses to suit their tastes.
What changes have you seen in terms of fixtures and fittings?
Sleek design is on trend, and black fixtures and fittings are popular, like black taps and showerheads. The commercial look is also popular in house design – exposed steel and concrete finishes on benchtops.
Coloured feature walls were popular in house interiors in the past, but we’ve moved right away from that, and people are choosing light colours like white and grey and then bringing colour in through their furniture.
You have won a number of awards for your homes – what’s the secret to your success?
It’s important to design homes that make the most of your location and environment. Last year we won the G.J. Gardner International Display Home of the Year award for our Stillwater house at Sapphire Beach. It is a design exclusive to G.J. Gardner and features two living zones that wrap around a central courtyard, making it an ideal style to maximise coastal living. It is a beautiful modern design with a resort style façade and features highlights of nature in the use of natural materials such as wood and stone.
What makes a good builder?
In every home we build, no matter if the detail is small or significant, every element is important to the client. Treating every request and detail with this ethos in mind is how a project should be handled by a builder and is what builds trust with the owner.
Are you positive about the future of the building industry?
We’ve seen a strong upturn in the housing market on the Coffs Coast since late last year, and we’re extremely busy at the moment. Around 70 per cent of our online inquiries for house and land packages are from Sydneysiders who are looking to move to the Coffs Coast. They are moving for a number of reasons – of course, the lifestyle benefits of living here, and also because they can buy much larger blocks and build bigger houses than they can in the Sydney metro area. We’re seeing a lot of young working families move here, as well as retirees.
Developers have seen the potential and the strong demand in the region and have pushed ahead with a number of new estates. This has increased interest in new homes and buoyed the building industry and local employment opportunities here. As a business we’ve boosted our staff numbers, and we now have six staff working in the business. As a result of the upswing in the housing market, we’ve also had the opportunity to hire more building contractors in the last six months. We have an amazing array of talented local tradespeople we work with. Coffs truly has some of the best tradies in the country, and we’re proud to work with them; we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.