This isnt an exhaustive list, but here are 10 tips for dealing with tradesmen in UK Property.
When it comes to Property Investing at some stage we have to work with Tradesmen. They can make or break your project, budget, timescale and sanity!
Now fortunately for you all & rather unluckily for me (at least when I first started) dealing with tradesmen was not something I was any good at.
In fact, I was probably a cowboy builders dream.
They saw me coming a mile off.
A young man, who looked like a young kid, enthusiastic, overly friendly & naive enough to think business can be done via a handshake.
Yup that's how silly I was.
In fact, I laugh in hindsight at my own stupidity, thinking all people are stick to their word.
Sadly, not however, rather than bore you with my past life I thought id post some 'simple' tips for you all to do.
Now before you say these are so obvious, remind yourself how many times you have done something knowing deep down it wasn't right or ignoring the actual better option..
So over to the tips:
1. E x p e r i e n c e
Try to see their work in progress or completed work. This will give you a good indication of how their finish is, their conduct on site and the skills they have to hand.
2. R e f e r e n c e
Try to speak to the current client, or a past client at the very least and ask for an honest opinion or recommendation. If a past client, hasn't used them again, why not? If their current client would not recommend them again why not?
3. C o n t r a c t
Have a clear, concise and signed contract between you and the parties. This should include the schedule of works, or the items being delivered, who pays for what, the timescales, the contact details, bank details, stage payment information, contingencies and any other things that you may feel are useful when setting expectations. Remember if you are unsure about something, or haven't clarified something you are leaving yourself open to a grey area if something goes wrong. It is always good to ask the simplest and trivial questions to just clarify who takes responsibility. I would also make sure this is signed and terms and conditions are written about contingencies.
4. B e R e a l i s t i c
Set realistic contingencies within your contract. If the work is going to take 8 weeks, then let it take 8 weeks + contingency. Do not expect your builders to miraculously finish the work to the standard you desire in 4 weeks. Now I am not saying certain things can't be moved quicker, but you will likely have to take on a larger cost (resource allocation) or a poorer finish (rushed job). At the same time, over bargaining with the price can cause issues too. Some builders may find themselves struggling for work and as a result of this may just say yes. But sooner or later if cash-flow becomes a problem, or they pick up another job which pays better they could well leave you in the lurch knowing their time is better spent elsewhere.
5. P M
Get a project manager. Yes of course you can do this yourself. But it is a skill. It usually requires you to look after different personalities, skill-sets and manage the time and budget constraints within a project. You also want to ensure you don't let too much scope creep occur, as this can affect the desirability of the project.
6. D o c u m e n t
Document and learn from your process. Every project has its own challenges and each time you do something you will learn something new. Cheaper ways to do things, more cost effective material or labourers, better ways to stage homes etc. By documenting your process of all the good and bad things over time you would have built up your own bible of how to do renovations and deal with tradesmen. After being burnt by tradesmen so often initially, I became so meticulous with my costings and watching them, I managed to get a refurbishment job I had estimated costs of £15,500 to £15,550! £50 away. Now my previous ones prior to this, I was £1,000s off, but it was the documenting of materials, usage and costs over time that allowed me to get accurate figures!
7. P r e p a r e
Always have some level of preparation for the worst. Contractors not turning up, leaks, electric failing, roofs collapsing, houses being broken into, structural issues popping up after stripping back projects etc. Sounds a little extreme right? Well these have all happened to me over many projects. In this case I would urge everyone to write all of these down and have contingencies in place. For example, money set aside, extra time to complete the project, tradesmen on standby etc.
8. T e a m w o r k
Be a team player. Let the tradesmen know you want to work with them. You do not need to be a dictator when working with them, but at the same time you don't need to become best friends. Let them know that any problems that occur, irrespective of having a fixed price or time and materials contract in place, that you are approachable. Let them know you will actively look for solutions and help them solve their problems that arise, especially if they aren't their fault.
9. C h e a p
Cheap is expensive. I have written about this many times. Going for cheap materials in the wrong places, or opting for cheap labourers can cost you more in the long term. It can cost you more time, more headache and more money to rectify and replace with better products or services. So be mindful of this when you start.
10. I n c e n t i v e
Offer incentives. I always offer my builders incentives that if they finish the job earlier than expected to the desired finish, they will receive a slight bonus. At the same time, once we have both agreed realistic time constraints, I always ask inform them that penalties are possible if they overrun excessively too. It is all about being transparent throughout the process, rather than playing the blame game when something crops up.
So, that's just a quick 10 tips I hope help you when working with Investors. Reach out if we can ever be of assistance too, as we do undertake refurbishments for clients here and there too.
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