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Whats the story with getting builders' quotes?


builders quotes and tradesmen prices

What’s the story with getting builders’ quotes?

By Conor Pope.
A reader in search of a new roof recently contacted a number of tradesmen plucked randomly from the Golden Pages. Living in a small terraced house in Dublin, she thought getting the tiles replaced would take no more than two days, but the quotes - the details of which looked identical on paper - ranged from less than €3,000 to closer to €10,000.
Confused, but anxious to have the roof fixed before the winter, she played it safe and picked one of the mid-range quotes, getting her roof replaced at a cost of approximately €5,000. But was it a bargain or waste of money? Had she saved €5,000 by not going with the dearest quote or wasted €2,000 by not going with the cheapest? And how could she be sure that the roofers would deliver on the promise contained within the quote and do a quality job? Wildly differing quotations for the same jobs are not uncommon. One reason is that the builders quoting at the higher end might have had no interest in the job but rather than say that straight out, they returned a ridiculous quote. It is “an age-old problem”, according to Pat Doyle, chairman of the National Guild of Master Craftsmen (NGMC), the largest organisation representing skilled tradesmen in Ireland.
PriceWatch contacted the NGMC to find out what our reader should have done. Doyle says that while it was understandable, there may have been no need to be suspicious of the cheapest quote as long as it was thoroughly checked out before any work started. Of particular importance in this instance, he says, was insurance.
He says it would have been essential to ask to see evidence of insurance and not rely on the roofer’s claims remember, if an uninsured roofer falls from your property you can be sued even if they told you they had full public liability insurance.
A shorthand way of checking the bona fides of any builder is asking whether they are members of the NGMC, or checking its register on
Operating for 10 years, the guild has 7,200 members who go through a fairly extensive vetting process including references and site visits before they can be admitted. The guild can reprimand members and if more than two complaints about an individual tradesman are accepted, that member’s status is withdrawn.
Finding a tradesman who will agree to do anything from building an elaborate extension to showing up on time (or indeed at all) to give an initial quote or fix a leaky tap is never easy, thanks to the ongoing construction boom and an apparent shortage of good quality tradesmen in Ireland. This labour shortage is hard to explain as the number of people doing apprenticeships in skilled trades has risen dramatically from around 12,000 10 years ago to closer to 30,000 today. So how’s it done?
In this climate of inflated prices and all-consuming greed, how can you best find someone to carry’ out work on your house in a timely fashion and make sure you’re not being ripped off? Obviously, word of mouth works best, but phoning a builder on the recommendation of a friend means you run the risk of being slapped down for having the temerity to ask if, by any chance at all, they may be available within the next five years.
If that’s not possible, an online service might be the next best bet. A number of websites aimed at helping people track down tradesmen operate in Ireland. People in search of a builder can access tradesmenireland, homewise and, where they can receive quotations, check availability and book tradesmen. Users can also post their impressions of the work carried out by tradesmen although, as many of the ratings sites discussed last week, this can be of limited value.
Just one of the sites, which celebrates its first birth this month, has the backing of the NGMC. According to Doyle, the guild was “happy to get into bed with the site because it has a vetting procedure and a complaints procedure”.
Some other sites, he says, are listings sites and not much different from the Golden Pages.
The site provides access to more than 7,200 accredited tradesmen nationwide and since its launch last year it has processed more than 9,000 requests. PriceWatch was one of them. Earlier this summer, in search of a painter, we posted details of the job on to the site and within 24 hours four painters in our locality had burning sent e-mails offering their services. Just might one had included a quote while the others “but they’d need to carry out a visual inspection before offering a quote. All but one of the painters called round at the agreed time (and the one that didn’t was profuse and seemingly sincere in his apologies), they were all completely professional and none of the quotes was exorbitant.
One of the principal reasons shoddy work at inflated prices is carried out by cowboys is our impatience. In this age of maturing SSIAs, many people are anxious to get home improvements, but when they contact the reputable tradesmen they are told there is a lengthy waiting list so they go in search of people who can do the work immediately. This is a mistake, says Doyle, and consumers should be wary of builders who are available at the drop of a hat to tear down half of your house. “I know that people might have money burning a hole in their pocket and they might be desperate to get the work done “but I would always urge people to be patient and wait for the tradesmen they want.”

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Obviously, word of mouth works best, but phoning a builder on the recommendation of a friend means you run the risk of being slapped down for having the temerity to ask if, by any chance at all, they may be available within the next five years.

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