How To Find & Keep A Builder

A recent survey suggests that almost 50% of British homeowners are planning home improvements. We know that improvements can add value to a home, but to maximise that value it is important to consider what kind of home you live in,

  • a first-time-buyer apartment,

  • a family semi,

  • or a downsizer cottage for retirees.

Homeowners should invest in renovations that not only improve their day-to-day lives but give them a better chance of selling the property in the future.

So for example, if you currently live in an apartment that would be ideal for a first-time buyer, improvements could include, fast internet, open plan, home office, a shower instead of a bath.

Currently, 79 % of homeowners in Britain have run into obstacles when doing home improvements and failing to find a decent builder has stopped 42% of renovations in their tracks. A diminishing number of construction workers is leaving home improvers vulnerable by employing poor workmen out of desperation.

So how do you find a builder? Here’s McCoy's guide:

Check their credentials

Make sure that your builder is registered with the Federation of Master Builders. It’s also worth asking friends who have completed projects, which companies they used. Check how long a contractor has been trading through the Companies House website. Ask your builder about homes on which they have worked and speak to the owners privately. A builder should also be properly insured. Employers’ liability insurance of at least £10 million and an excess of loss public liability insurance of at least £5 million. Ask the builder to show evidence he is well insured.

Preferred payment

Alarm bells should ring if a builder asks for substantial cash-in-hand payments upfront. This may indicate that they have insufficient funds available to start a project, or they could be planning to flee with your money.

How Big is the Builder

A good small to medium-sized building company should have three or four projects on the go, with at least two or three full-time workers at each site, about ten employees on the payroll. Any fewer might mean that the company is overly reliant on subcontractors, potentially putting your home at risk.

Draw up a contract

Draw up all financial arrangements in a formal contract. JCT, which draws up contracts for use in the construction industry, has a “how-to” on its website.

Be clear on costs. The best way to avoid being overcharged is to be clear on the projected cost at the outset. Do some research, ask builder merchants the cost of materials, ask friends who have had work done what the costs were.

So you have now found your builder who is reputable, reliable and trustworthy, it’s now in your best interests to keep them happy.

So what’s the secret to cultivating a successful relationship? Here are McCoys seven top tips for keeping everyone happy, but especially your builder. After all, a happy builder means a happy life and an extension that doesn't leak.

Number One

Don’t mess about over money

A refusal to be upfront about payment, or avoiding it, is the No 1 bugbear for builders.

Number Two

Don’t hover in the background

Granted, it’s your home and your money, and you have a right to ensure that a job is being carried out to your expectations. However, it’s a fine line between taking an interest and hypervigilance.

Number Three

Don’t disappear for too long

Going on an extended holiday while work on big projects, which involve the loss of cooking facilities and or water, is often recommended, especially if you have young children.

However, being incommunicado is not ideal, and neither is liaising by text messages. Regular site meetings at an allotted weekly time are vital. Make yourself available during daylight hours. It’s impossible to take a proper look at a project in the dark.

Number Four

Don’t ask for added extras

Despite the stereotype that builders are raking it in, most small to medium-sized companies operate on very tight profit margins. This means that at busy times their schedules are timed to the hour. Don’t ask for extras such as garden walls being built or steps being moved without offering to pay for them.

Number Five

Don’t change your mind

One of the biggest sources of client-builder disputes are changes to the project after work has started. If any changes have to be made, confirm them in writing, and understand the impact on costs and timings to your builder.

Number Six

Do co-operate

A good builder will be on-site by 8 am, but they can only work until 6 pm, Monday to Friday, under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Its bad luck if you don't like these times.

Put the effort into developing a good working relationship, and things needn’t be so harsh. Ensure that the hire of toilet facilities are included in the costs, or offer the use of one of your own. Likewise parking and skip permits. Make space for storage of materials on-site, and sort out sensible security and access.

Number Seven

Don’t ignore the rules

In their haste to get a job done, many homeowners are guilty of avoiding “petty” issues such as organising and paying for building-regulation inspections. These are the legal standards that must be met to ensure that a home is safe and comfortable. A builder or architect will usually book the inspection, but it’s a homeowner’s responsibility to meet the cost.

And as they say, that's all there is to it. Contact me if you are considering a home improvement and need to finance the project. CLICK HERE to contact me

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McCoy Mortgages does not charge a fee for a residential mortgage or protection insurance advice and applications. Other charges by lenders or insurance providers may apply. Please ask for a personalised illustration. McCoy Mortgages is a trading style of Keith McCoy Associates Limited. Keith McCoy Associates Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, FCA number: 450724. Registered office: Unit 77 Cariocca Business Park, Sawley Road, Manchester M40 8BB. 

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