If you are looking for tradesmen or contractors on the internet, with a view to finding one or two to come around to your house to price up some jobs, it is certainly worth choosing the right person to take on the job.
However, dear consumer I have a secret to tell you: It’s a little known fact within the trade that many contractors, mainly the good ones, are also checking YOU out to make sure that YOU are the person they want to work for!
Let’s start by saying that good relations between customer and contractor start from the very first time you contact them, whether in person, or by phone or email, so how can you make sure that you get the right contractor, tradesperson or general builder, and how do you treat them well, to get the most out of them, and the best value for money?
After all if you have several jobs that need doing around the home, and you become a problem customer, with late or no payments and unnecessary hassle and rudeness, for example, you may find word spreads around the trade and you won’t be able to get a good contractor for love nor money!
How to get the very best out of your builder: It’s a two way street
With the greatest respect, the customer is NOT always right you know.
But as the customer pays the wages of the contractor, any good one will bend over backwards to accommodate you, but eccentricity and forgetfulness aside, there is only so far you can push them, and only so many extra bits of work for free will you get out of them.
So how can you get choosing a tradesman right, from the start?
From our own 30 years experience on the job, we decided to put together some handy tips and advice.
Bear in mind that some of this is tongue in cheek and some points here are of course extreme examples, but if you follow these steps, you should come to a win-win situation with your builder or tradesperson.
How to find a good contractor.
The key to finding, and keeping a good tradesman is a question if research really, and is what you should be aiming for all along.
The very best way of finding a recommended builder or tradesman is through word of mouth from people you know. By all means read some online reviews, if they are available, but bear in mind some of these review sites can be gamed with fake reviews, which are surpsingly easy to do, research by WHICH? magazine suggests.
More or less anyone reading this will be able to reach out to someone, even just a friend on facebook, and they should be able to recommend a good tradesperson, but that does not mean you should not do your own checks, after all your friend may have lower standards than you, or may be too polite to say that actually they didn’t do very much work at all, and spent the whole week on premium rate phone calls and looking through the customers knickers draw!
You can approach organisation such as the Federation of master builders, who carry out stringent checks on their members, or you could look at some the various contractor sites such as ratedpeople.com, mybuilder.com or trustatrader.com, most of these have real client reviews too so you can see what other people thought of the work, although again bear in mind the previous point about fake reviews.
Those 50 five star reviews of your local builder may have been written by their mates down the pub.
You should NOT choose a builder who turns up on your doorstep canvassing for work, absolutely NEVER EVER.
Good tradespeople are always working and do NOT need to knock doors, unless they are working on your neighbours house and are just taking a bit of initiative and even so, this is a great way to ask your neighbour what they think of him or her.
Negotiating and sealing the deal.
If you are looking to get some home improvements done like rendering, building an extension or maybe even replacing the roof, it is worth getting 3 or 4 quotes but NO MORE than that as it really is not necessary.
Quote collecting just for the sake of it, is very frustrating when tradesmen go to your home to estimate the job, and you tell them that there are 10 more people that you still want to invite around, especially as he or she may have driven 50 miles in their own time and unpaid, to come and see you.
Do you want the job done or not? LOL! No more than 3 or 4 quotes are needed.
Choose someone you like and would be OK to have around the house for a short while.
Do you feel comfortable with the person? On larger jobs, such as extensions, these people could be a daily fixture of your life for up to 5 or 6 months so it’s important FOR BOTH PARTIES, that you get along with them. The builder may also be in a position where he has to balance jobs from several clients, and if you are unwelcoming and rude, and don’t even offer a cup of tea, he may decline the job!
TV’s Phil Spencer makes a good point on this when he said
“………..It’s not all about what other people say about them and their qualifications however, you need to feel comfortable with having this person in your home. Hire someone who not only comes with a track record and recommendations from previous customers, but also someone who you feel you can trust……..” Source: Ratedpeople.com
Finally always get the quote in writing before going ahead, and if it is an estimated cost, agree boundaries and stipulate that if the job looks like it is going to go over budget they need to tell you immediately and explain why before carrying on with the job.
Deposits and money. How to do it right.
Bear in mind some home improvement companies ask for a deposit upfront, which is normally to pay for materials and possibly the salesman’s commission, after all they don’t work for free.
When handing a deposit over, it should be no more than 30% and should preferably be protected with deposit payment insurance like NPA offer their clients. Never pay a deposit for work in cash, EVER. It’s untraceable. Pay by cheque, credit card or bank transfer so you have added protection and peace of mind.
Also bear in mind that the builder or contractor has every right to check YOU out too, including running a credit check to make sure you are not the sort of person to not pay at the end of the job. National organisations also have secret blacklists (I’m not supposed to tell you this!) where consistent non payers of works, and troublemakers are recorded.
Staged payments and withholding monies.
On larger jobs, some small builders need staged payments (e.g. 10% at the end of each month) which help with cashflow and paying for building materials which on a large job, can run into several £1000’s.
This also helps the builder greatly as they know that you will pay for the work they are doing. There have been many horror stories of people deliberately fleecing builders (yes, customers do it too) and withholding final payments for a completely made up reason and then the client has to be taken to court which is an expensive and lengthy process.
However if you have no grounds and are just trying to be clever as you think consumers have more power because you have seen Matt from Rogue traders on the BBC make out that all builders are scammers, which is NOT the case, then watch out.
This is because if there is no problem and the aggrieved builder or contractor goes on to win the case in his favour, you will be forced to pay them, and on top of that pay them compensation and also yours and theirs court fees, potentially meaning you would end up paying 5 times the cost of the original work, and will be placed on a blacklist too, so treat your builder with respect eh?!
Choose your contractor wisely and treat them with respect and set boundaries and rules from day one.
Always ask for everything in writing and feel free to ask them questions whilst the work is going on.
If a problem arises, don’t lose your rag, speak to them and try and work a solution. If you have chosen wisely, this should never be a problem.
Be very clear with your contractor exactly WHAT work is to be done, and get that in writing, signed by both parties. Remember also that major changes or extra requests by you will need to paid for, your builder will not work for free.
Don’t ever pay anyone in cash under any circumstances. This is actually illegal too and if they get investigated by the HMRC or customs, SO WILL YOU.
Make sure you always offer cups of tea, even if they always say no thank you, it’s just shows you care and respect them! Having someone in your house doing work, is a two way street. You expect the tradesman to respect you, (not just because you are giving them money either) but they appreciate some respect back, some willingness, friendliness and honesty. This has been written after being in the building trade since 1986.
If you can crack this, and let’s face it, it is just common sense, then you and your builder will get along famously and the work you need doing, will be done expertly and everyone will be happy!