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Any tips on getting realistic building quotes?

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BifferBiffer Forumite
172 posts
Does anyone have any advice to give on how to get a reasonable price from builders or tradesmen?

In the past I've not had much luck getting 'competitive' quotes from tradesmen. Normally the quotes I get are way above what other people are paying for the same work.

Eg. I was once quoted £650 to paint a small bedroom. I passed on that and did it myself in just over a day with two pots of paint. By the way I don't live anywhere near London, I must just look like a mug. I find when you get quotes like this there is no point in negotiating. This painter/decorator was not going to halve his price and admit he was overcharging.


I'm now have a renovation project to work on, it's a 3 bedroom shell of a house which makes things a lot easier for trades like plumbers and electricians to do their thing, but the quotes are not getting any better.

I've just had a quote in from a small builder for the structural work on a loft conversion with a small dormer. It was a quote to build the structure only, I've had an architect and an engineer in to do the planning and calcs. I'm also arranging skip hire, crane hire and scaffolding myself.

So all the builder needs to do is build the structure to plan and leave me with a single space, ready for me to add windows, insulation, stud walls, a staircase and fit out a bedroom with ensuite.

I made it clear to the builder that this was an investment property with a limited budget and I would not be living in it. I also asked for a breakdown of material and labour costs.

A week later I got a quote for £40k (no cost breakdown) and he followed up with a phone call and tried to sell me a ground source heat pump. :wall:

I've got a friend in the building trade now and he estimated the materials at no more than £12k which leaves £28k (or £23k+VAT?) for the estimated 7 weeks labour. The builder has a team of 3 people working for him (he's not hand on himself), one of which is a labourer. So that's almost £3.3k per week for this small team!

My friend also questioned the 7 week estimate. He said, with 7 weeks they could probably do the whole loft conversion and not just the structural stuff.

I'm now looking for another quote, what can I do to get a decent price? :(
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Replies

  • oz0707oz0707 Forumite
    619 posts
    Part of the Furniture 500 Posts Name Dropper Combo Breaker
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    What's up with your friend? Can't he price it up?
    Alternatively just keep getting quotes, the more quotes you get you should get a better idea of the going rate. Local, independent, preferably recommended builders.
  • To get comparable quotes, you need to specify exactly what you want and then everyone has to quote on the same things

    You can't rely on the builder itemising the work, because one will be quoting for say a £50 bath from the trade merchant, and the other will quote for a premium £300 bath because he thinks you have got some dosh and it looks nice. Everyone must be quoting like for like

    Others will quote high if they need to guess everything due to poor plans and specifications, or if they are just busy and don't want the work.

    Others will quote low and then make up their money with extras "not on the plans" or suchlike

    If your friend can do it so cheap and so quick, then give him the job

    You don't want to be telling a builder that you have limited budget or else he will either not be interested or will just still try and get what he can out of you while you have some budget left. He is not interested in your budget, that wont affect his costs and how much he needs to be earning every day
  • edited 9 February 2011 at 11:42AM
    BifferBiffer Forumite
    172 posts
    edited 9 February 2011 at 11:42AM
    oz0707 wrote: »
    What's up with your friend? Can't he price it up?
    Alternatively just keep getting quotes, the more quotes you get you should get a better idea of the going rate. Local, independent, preferably recommended builders.

    My friend is in the trade, but does'nt run a building firm.
    To get comparable quotes, you need to specify exactly what you want and then everyone has to quote on the same things

    You can't rely on the builder itemising the work, because one will be quoting for say a £50 bath from the trade merchant, and the other will quote for a premium £300 bath because he thinks you have got some dosh and it looks nice. Everyone must be quoting like for like

    Others will quote high if they need to guess everything due to poor plans and specifications, or if they are just busy and don't want the work.

    Others will quote low and then make up their money with extras "not on the plans" or suchlike

    If your friend can do it so cheap and so quick, then give him the job

    You don't want to be telling a builder that you have limited budget or else he will either not be interested or will just still try and get what he can out of you while you have some budget left. He is not interested in your budget, that wont affect his costs and how much he needs to be earning every day

    If it was all about what builders need to be earning, I think the quote would be lower. If there's no breakdown of labour and materials it is very easy for them to 'try their luck'.

    The plans are full and detailed. I take your point about trade versus premium baths, but this is all structural work. The only variable here, as pointed out by the builder himself is the type of roofing tile and flashing to be used. This was all decided before the quote.

    I will obviously get some more quotes, I was just hoping that someone here would have some advice that would help me to get a realistic quote.
  • ormusormus Forumite
    42.7K posts
    this is the real world. we all sell our goods/services for the maximum price we can get.
    why is Fernando Torres worth more than Steven Fletcher? they both do the same job.


    ps
    some builders will price high cause they dont really want the job. if they get it, then its a bonus.
    Get some gorm.
  • evokeevoke Forumite
    1.3K posts
    Tenth Anniversary Combo Breaker
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    OP: I always get three quotes from local tradesmen. I use MyHammer and MyBuilder for the quotes as you can see the builder's qualifications (which those sites verify), what work they have carried out and what feedback they have got.

    When a builder comes round to do a survey for the quote, never lay your cards on the table. Ask him for a quote with a full breakdown of the costs (time and materials) and ask for a fixed price quote if possible. Also ask for a method statement if possible (how he will do the work if it's a big job). Let him know that you will be getting two other quotes. Ask for references if it's a big job.

    Check for a proper postal address, a liveried van and a landline phone number (call it to check that someone actually answers the phone).

    Any builder not willing to supply the above is probably a cowboy.

    Once you have three quotes, read the terms and conditions carefully. If it's a big job, be wary of builders wanting full payment upfront - it's the norm to pay in two or three installments during the job and at particular milestones.

    Check if the quotes include rubbish clearance and if they specify certain conditions that you must meet for the quote to be valid. Call up each of the three builders to clarify any points and get any modifications to the quote in writing. Absolutely everything must be in writing. Never, ever accept any terms on a verbal agreement.

    When you are happy with the details of the quotes and the terms and conditions you can then negotiate the prices. Call up each builder and see if they can improve their price as you've had better prices from others - but don't reveal any prices. Get revised quotes in writing.

    Be prepared to wait for a good builder to become free. It may take a week to prepare a quote and then several weeks before a good builder can start on a big job. A builder that chases you all day long is likely to not be in demand as is the one who can start tomorrow. Get one who is in demand and can provide references.
    Everyone is entitled to my opinion!
  • 27col27col Forumite
    6.6K posts
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    Sometimes people will quote a very high price because they don't really want to do the job. Why they can't just say that they aren't interested is beyond me.
    I can afford anything that I want.
    Just so long as I don't want much.
  • InnysInnys Forumite
    1.9K posts
    27col wrote: »
    Sometimes people will quote a very high price because they don't really want to do the job. Why they can't just say that they aren't interested is beyond me.

    I guess they still quote in the vain hope the customer is so desperate, they will take up the ludicrous quote.

    Then they can afford to drop anything in the pipeline, but not yet signed for, in return for a megawedge of dosh.
  • danderdander Forumite
    1.6K posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
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    I've always found you get better quotes from smaller companies as well - anyone's that running a fleet of vans and paying out for office/reception staff etc will have much higher overheads to cover. The sole trader running things from his mobile can start from a lower base price.
    Prices also seem to get better if you are getting the builder to do something he can show off later. A well-finished really fashionable kitchen or perfectly matched conservation area extension or something like that is good for using as references and to help get further work - whereas structural work in a loft will just be a job and offer no long-term benefit to him.
  • DevilsAdvocate1DevilsAdvocate1 Forumite
    1.9K posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Name Dropper
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    Biffer wrote: »
    My friend is in the trade, but does'nt run a building firm.



    If it was all about what builders need to be earning, I think the quote would be lower. If there's no breakdown of labour and materials it is very easy for them to 'try their luck'.

    The plans are full and detailed. I take your point about trade versus premium baths, but this is all structural work. The only variable here, as pointed out by the builder himself is the type of roofing tile and flashing to be used. This was all decided before the quote.

    I will obviously get some more quotes, I was just hoping that someone here would have some advice that would help me to get a realistic quote.

    We had a large extension built last year. I made it clear to each builder that I would be getting at least 4 quotes. Like you, I had very detailed plans drawn up. This didn't stop one builder from slagging them off and telling me that he would draw up some better ones for £400! Needless to say, we didn't hire him.

    The other 3 builders complimented the plans and said that nothing had been left to chance.

    Good luck. D.
  • 27col wrote: »
    Sometimes people will quote a very high price because they don't really want to do the job. Why they can't just say that they aren't interested is beyond me.


    When I deal with subbie's who dont really want the job they usually quote to keep face so that you will consider them when they have no work themselves.


    As for getting realistic quotes I would try and bulletpoint what you want doing in a sort of schedule of works format. i.e;

    1.0 site preparation
    1.1 Strip

    etc

    then get them to price against that and then you have the ability to cross section everyone's prices.

    Because I bet a pound to a penny if they miss something they will say, well you didn't tell me.
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