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Choosing Your Builder: Cheapest Quote Wins?
You have your 3 quotes from each potential builder so choosing the one you are going to trust with your re-modelling, new garage, extension etc. should be easy, shouldn't it? Unfortunately most homeowners would consider this the end of their search for a builder when in fact what you should be doing next is the second most important if your home improvement project is to run smoothly (what's the most important? You will find the answer at the end of this article).
When asking a builder for a quote you should always ask him to include with his reply, the name, address and phone number of the job he is currently working on as well as the last two jobs completed. If you have your quotes but didn't ask for references, do it now.
Why do you need to check references when surely the cheapest quote should get the job? Perhaps your cheapest quote has a habit of adding the dreaded extras on to his final bill where as your second quote does not. Perhaps your dearest quote always finishes his jobs ahead of schedule and time is of the essence to you.
Try to visit at least one of the jobs from each of the three references just to confirm that the work was carried out and your builder hasn't just given you the phone numbers of his cousins!
Write down your questions before visiting or telephoning. This will ensure you ask the same questions of each builder and you will be able to spot any patterns emerging. Using a sheet of A4 write your questions in a column to the left and divide the rest of the page into 3 columns putting the names of the references at the top of each. Do this with 3 sheets, one for each builder.
Your questions should include but are not limited to:
How would you rate your experience with this builder?
How did you rate the builder's communication skills?
Why did you choose him, price, personally recommended or references?
Was the work finished on time? If not, why? Reasons outside of builder's control such as bad weather should be ignored.
Did the final bill match the original quote? If not, why?
Have you had to call him back to correct any faults? If so, was the work done promptly?
Did the builder provide adequate on-site supervision?
Did the builder maintain a safe, neat and tidy site?
Would you use this builder again?
Once you have your 3 sheets of answers, any major problems are staring you in the face. Example, builder 1 never finishes on time and builder 2 always has a large list of extras to add on to his final invoice, where as builder 3 finishes early and within his quote. Builder 3 is the obvious choice even if he is charging a few hundred extra.
It's not always going to be that obvious and sometimes the answers importance will be dependant on your personal circumstances. Example, builders 1 and 3 tend to leave the site in a bit of a mess while builder 2 always puts everything away and makes sure the site is reasonably safe. Not a problem if you live alone but if you have kids, will they be able to play in the back yard at weekends with tools laid around, ditches left exposed etc?
Checking the references of your potential builder's should always be a major factor when choosing the builder for your home improvement work, second only to making sure they sign a building contract before work commences.
If everyone got into the habit of checking references then your average builder would be much more obliging in settling any disputes that arise with clients because he would know that his next customer is likely to be talking to this one in the coming weeks.
Article by Adrian Kinley. Adrian is the author of the now famous e-book, Builder Secrets Exposed which can be found at http://www.building-contract.co.uk He is also editor and chief writer for http://www.uk-builder.com which gives home improvement tips and other advice on employing a builder.
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