Home design? Sorted.
Planning permission? Nailed it.
Building regulations? Don’t even worry about it.
It looks like you’re all ready to go into construction, there’s just one problem: you don’t have a builder. But how long can it take to find the right one?
This, unfortunately, is where a lot of homeowners fall foul. In a rush to start their build, corners are cut during the tendering stage, most commonly when it comes to approaching the right amount of contractors. This leaves people at risk of cowboys and dodgy payment plans.
So, how can you avoid this? Follow this advice from our Connect team…
How many quotes should you be getting from potential builders?
We recommend 3
By having at least 3 contractors, ideally from different sized companies, you’re giving yourself enough scope to get an accurate idea of what is reasonable for your project. It should let you paint a picture of what the average price might be and whether or not one contractor is offering dramatically more or less.
For instance, if you’re creating a rear extension in London, you might see quotes for…
or you might see...
In each of these cases, two of these quotes are pretty evenly matched, but one stands out. One is very cheap and one very expensive.
Quotes that come up a lot higher could be from a larger construction company. Though the price might be off putting, these kind of businesses do offer more security, so it might be worth asking what the money gets you. However, don't rule them out as just chancing it with that quote!
And then there's the cheap quote. Oh, how tempting it is! But before you sign on the dotted line, hold on just a second. Cheap quotes aren't always as good as they seem...
Picking the right quote
We say this a lot but if a quote sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t forget, contractors are unregulated. They don’t need any qualification to become one, nor are they legally required to join any quality scheme. This is why the industry is known for its cowboy horror stories.
If you’re presented with a temptingly low quote, ask yourself these questions:
Are they pricing for every element? A big giveaway that they’re not will be if their quote is vaguer than the others.
What about the payment plan? A good contractor should have the capital to fund your construction upfront and receive payment either at the end or at certain milestones. In order to protect your finances, we always recommend getting a JCT contract.
Are they following your designs correctly? Have your architect check to make sure.
Are they including the work of hired labours or subcontractors? Remember, no one person can complete an extension on their own.
Consider the timeframe the contractor has advised for the project, is this comparable to other contractors? As with price, anyone who's taking significantly longer or shorter time should make you raise an eyebrow.
If you’ve got the sleuthing power, try to find out if the company has any other projects on the go. Often cheap quotes are only possible because the builder is taking on side projects to compensate.
Ask if they’re part of any quality scheme. TrustMark is the best one, as its the only one to be government-endorsed, but FMB (Federation of Master Builders) is also a good sign. When part of these schemes, the contractor has to hold up a certain set of standards.
How did you get on with the contractor? The rapport between you and the contractor will be just as important to them as it is for you. A lot of our contractors are busy and if they are offered two potential contracts of similar value and start date, their decision will then be based on the relationship with the client. This is simply because it’s not uncommon for projects to encounter potential complications and a proactive relationship is the strongest factor in resolving these for the best outcome for the project.
And, most importantly of all, don’t forget the references!
References, references, references
At Resi, we recommend keeping the rule of three. Meaning, for the three (or more!) contractors you've approached, and you want to be visiting at least three references before committing.
When it comes to checking references, ideally you’ll want to talk to previous clients away from your considered professional. This can either be done over the phone or ideally done by visiting the site to see the work for yourself.
Make sure you see both something recent, and a project that was completed at least a year ago. This will give you the best idea of their current skill level, and show how their work stands the test of time.
Protecting your build
Even if you follow all these rules (and especially if you don’t) you’ll want to make sure your home is properly protected from foul play.
The easiest way to achieve this is by getting the right insurance in place. Some of the best to ensure are included in your contract are…
- Public liability
- Product liability
- Employer liability
- Contractors all risk
- Professional indemnity
- Structural warranty
- Home renovation insurance
Learn more about construction and insurance.
And don’t forget to take out life insurance, if you haven’t already. Should the worst happen, at least you know the rest of your family won’t be saddled with debt from this project.
Want to learn more about picking the right contractor? At Resi, we run a complimentary Connect service for our customers, giving you a choice between vetted contractors in your area. To understand how this could help your build, book a call with our team. We offer free advice calls so every homeowner can build with confidence.