Think Again Before Getting Builders In


Building work on your home is a service purchase, just like any other. Or is it?  There is evidence from consumer surveys that says many people pay over the odds for building work because they don’t shop around and they don’t strive for the best deal available. The bigger the building work the bigger the possible overpayments because builders quotes vary so much and the homeowner doesn’t get second and third quotes and doesn’t bargain with builders to bring the costs down.

A recent survey by Which? found huge differences in quoted prices for basic building work. Which? also found regional differences among the 245 builders across the UK, that they called upon to quote for a simple three-sided brick dustbin enclosure. The lowest quote was £346 lower than the highest and this was even with the most extreme quotes taken out of the survey completely. The majority of builders, 66%, further muddied the waters by not including VAT in their quotes.

The Which? study also found buyers of building services often tended to take the first quote they get and not to shop around for better deals. Very few buyers ever bothered to play one quote off against another and drive for a better deal. This financial reticence when it comes to dealing with tradesmen is probably costing many people a lot of money.

The lessons from this survey are clear, if you want to get the best deal when buying building service follow the following recommendations from Which?

  • Never assume the first price quoted is the lowest you can get and always get at least three different tradesmen to quote. Never assume that a builders first offer is the final offer.
  • Be prepared to haggle with your chosen builder even telling them what others have quoted to bring the price down.
  • Always talk with some previous clients of builders to be reassured about the quality of work and service reliability.
  • Itemise all of the details of the work to be done in writing. Be sure to specify the standards expected, the costs in terms of materials and labour and the timeframe for the work.
  • Always insist on VAT being written into the agreement.
  • Never do cash before delivery. Hand over the money at the beginning of each stage and as the builder needs it for YOUR job.
  • Always insist on a receipt for every payment especially cash ones. There will be no redress without one.

Building services are expensive enough without paying for your own reticence.


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2 comments… add one

  • susie 2 March, 5:20 pm

    I run a small pluming and electrical business and agree this makes good sense for a consumer. We always include Vat and are happy to supply references.
    Have you looked at the prices retailers are charging to install bathroom and kitchens as opposed to independants? We have just been asked to join a a high street bathroom retailers installation company and i worked out a recent job we had done for them independantly ( before their scheme was live) and re worked it on their new national installation scheme pricing and it was an extra 35% higher than ours. We are staying independant, So consummers shop around, get references and dont forget the independant plumbers, electricans as some of us take real pride in what we do.

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  • Joanne Lezemore 7 April, 2:17 pm

    Be sure that the quotes obtained are “like for like” – some builders will put in a low quote, or so it seems, only to state later that some items were not included, and then ask for additional payments as “extra’s”. If you do agree any extra work as you go along, make sure to get it confirmed with the cost before continuing.

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