Last night I spoke at the Stoke Newington WI group and the most common question in the room was ‘how do I find good tradespeople’. It’s a tough challenge but one most of us will have to face at some point in our home owning lives, after all we all know a builder horror story and the TV is certainly full of them. But not all builders are bad people out to rip you off, sometimes fall outs occur due to bad communication (see previous post on speaking to builders).
So how do you find good tradespeople; well you probably know this already but ask around, the best recommendation is a personal one. And if you don’t have anyone to ask in person try social media, ask friends on Facebook or twitter to share your request for a recommendation. The beauty of social media means that requests like these can be extended far beyond your own personal network, you may have 100 friends on Facebook but if half of them have 100 friends and share your request imagine how many people that can reach.
However you may not have the luxury of personal recommendations so what then. In the olden days the first port of call would be the yellow pages and Yell.com is still very useful today. I would avoid the big glossy adverts and the small one liners and go for a mid-size advert. They are usually placed by people who are conscientious about their business but don’t make huge profit margins to afford the big glossy ads.
Trade auction style sites where you place a job and people bid on it can seem very tempting. But unless a person has seen the job ‘in the flesh’ it will be very difficult for them to quote on it accurately. So if someone just drops a price on your job without seeing it in detail you may end up with them doing a poor job or the job costing more then you signed up for. The ratings sites work well as previous customers can go on and rate their tradesperson. Obviously there can be people who cheat the system but once you have chosen someone and read the reviews you can tell if you want to work with them after you have spoken in person.
Once you have made initial contact you will be able to see the customer service quality of that person immediately through the way they communicate with you. Are they prompt with any follow ups? Do they call back in appropriate timeframes? Are they clear on the phone? This initial call will give you a first good indicator of how they are to deal with which will be crucial throughout the course of the project.
It’s always a good idea to get at least three quotes for comparison purposes, and if it’s a really large job I would suggest getting five. When the tradesperson is at your house doing the quote talk them through everything that you want doing, from the largest to the smallest detail. Don’t leave anything out that you think is assumed it’s better to lay everything out now then have additions or questions crop up later. If you have forgotten anything make sure you email your tradesperson after you’ve met so they can write it into the quote.
Once they have sent you the quote make sure you read it carefully and ensure everything you wanted is in there, if its not ask them to revise it with any additions. If the quote is much higher than your budget ask the tradesperson for suggestions on how to reduce to cost. Ensure that everything is broken down into sections, this may be particularly useful later on if there are disputes and you want to withhold money for elements you think have not been completed satisfactorily. Read any terms and conditions that are sent with the quote as their may be stipulations that could lead to additional charges (for example rubbish removal and parking charges).
Always get references and where you can ask to speak to previous clients, if the job is large you may even want to visit previous clients to see the quality of the work done.
Finally once you have chosen your person, talk through the logistics of the job, start dates approximate finish dates and even anything problematic that they think may come up throughout the course of the job.
Finding good tradespeople needn’t always be a challenge, you need to plan ahead so you have plenty of time and I firmly believe you need to go with your gut instinct it can tell you a lot about a person. If you feel you’ve made a bad choice and things are going well talk to the tradesperson about it before it gets out of hand, its easy to rectify a situation if dealt with quickly. But if you really feel like things aren’t going to plan don’t be afraid to stop the job, after all its your house and your money so you need to be comfortable with what is going on.