#TuesdayTips - Choose the right trader for your new home project

Posted 16 August 2016 by Ben Salisbury

Selecting the right trader is critical to making your project a success, WhatHouse? takes you through this minefield to help you make the right choice..

When you move into a new home one of the most exciting aspects is transforming the property to exactly how you would like your new home to be.

Inevitably, for bigger projects, you will need to employ some expert help. During the research phase, it is likely that you will receive various advice and recommendations from friends and family about who you should get to help you.

This well-meant but conflicting advice can be confusing and add to the pressure on your household at this crucial time, because selecting the right trader to work on your home can save lots of heartache as well as cold, hard cash.

Selecting the right tradesperson

We have all heard of horror stories about rogue traders coming into a property and actually making it worse rather than doing the job they are hired to do.

Although these instances are rare, there is no doubt that some traders are better than others, in terms of quality of work, appearing when they say they will and completing a project on time and to budget.

Finding an honest, trusted trader who will perform a quality job at a fair price can be a minefield, particularly if you are fairly ignorant about the work involved. 

It’s the same with traders. Pick someone with a good local reputation, who you can see has genuinely good online reviews. A word of warning though on choosing friends or family who are traders themselves; this can work but there are plenty of broken friendships and even broken family ties from employing someone you know really well to work on your home.

Checklist for selecting a supplier

  • Get at least three quotes before you start a project to check on price, what each trader actually plans to do and if they have included all aspects of the job in the quote.
  • Be flexible on when the work can be done. Good traders will be booked up, so you may have to wait.
  • Research the history of what projects and specialisms each of the traders on your short list have. If they have plenty of experience in the area you need, this is a good sign. Do they hold relevant qualifications? Are they registered with the relevant trade organisations? Will they use sub-contractors or employees for the job? Are they fully insured for the work they will carry out? Is there a formal procedure they have explained to you if you are not happy with the work?

Checklist on what to do after selecting a supplier

It is important to have a detailed conversation with your tradesperson and effectively get across what you want and to be up front about any difficult or potentially tricky aspects of the project.

After this you should draw up a formal contract or for smaller projects, a letter of agreement. This should include details on the cost, the start and end date of the job, what work will be carried out and details of the structure of payments, including whether a deposit is required to start with, whether staged payments are needed and what happens in the event of a dispute arising between the parties, if any part of the payment can be withheld. This is known as set-off and traders are required by law to offer this.

A deposit payment is normal, particularly on larger jobs where the tradesperson will have to make an initial outlay for materials and labour. However, you should not agree to pay more than 25% of the value of the whole project at the outset.

Equally, don’t make the final balancing payment until you are happy that the work has been completed as it should and that the trader has tidied up the property and taken away all the rubbish.

For very large jobs you should check to see that there is insurance backed deposit protection available in case the trader goes bust.

Protecting yourself from rogue traders

Check that you are dealing with a reputable company by ensuring the business or trader is registered, has a company number and a legal business address, telephone numbers, emails and other contact details.

Find out what are the possible implications if something goes wrong with the project. Are you making structural changes? Could there be a leak or is the gas or electricity supply being tampered with. Check that the trader is insured and also check your own home insurance policy.

Depending on the project, you may also require planning permission, before you go ahead or you might need to carry out preparation work before the trader can begin.

Find a trusted supplier using the WhatHouse? Supplier directory


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