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Searching for home extension advice? Want to know how to get the lowest builders’ quotes? In this blog, the second in our series outlining how best to organise your building project, we’ll pass on experience when it comes to finding and selecting the best builders and then getting the most competitive quotes from them.

Although carrying out a professional competitive tender is a standard approach for commercial building projects it is something which many homeowners no little about. However, investing in professional support at this important stage can save you significant amounts of money and stress later on in your building project! 

If you haven’t done already then we recommend you first read part one in this series of blogs entitled Home Extension Advice : Part 1 Design and Budgeting Stage.

How to Get the Best Builders Quotes : Step 1 Make a Builder Long-list

Assuming you’ve got your architectural designs, have a schedule of works and have established a realistic, affordable budget for your building project (see previous blog above) then you’re ready to begin the process of collecting quotes from builders.

But before you rush into talking to the first builder you know, you need think first about what your building project involves.

We recommend you consider:-

  • What is the scale and likely cost of the build?
  • Is there any specialist work required – such as a basement or loft extension?
  • Is your home listed, or historic? Do you need skilled craftsmen?
  • What is the finish you require – basic, good or highest end quality?

When choosing builders to add to your long-list, you need to match their skills and experience to the needs of your project.

If you approach a builder who is used to doing modest £40,000 kitchen extensions, and ask him to quote to build your modern uber-trendy £250,000 glass double storey side extension he may be out of his depth. Likewise, approach a large construction business with a reputation for doing high-end major historic renovations with a request to look at your simple £30,000 loft conversion, and they are unlikely to be interested.

In order to make your long list you need to look in a variety of different places:-

  • Ask local friends and family which local builders to consider (or avoid!)
  • Look around at who is doing good work in your area and check them out
  • Get recommendations from your architect or designer (but be aware that some designers do take commission from builders so they may not always be 100% independent in their views!)
  • Go online, search for builders, look at the type of work they tend to do, and check independent reviews
  • Check Trade Associations

Once you have a long-list it’s time to do some legwork and move onto the next stage – making a builder shortlist!

How to Get the Lowest Builders Quotes : Step 2 Make a Builder Shortlist

Once you’ve got a builder long-list you need to aim to cut this down to a shortlist of maybe 3 or 4 builders. To do this we recommend you:-

  • Call the builders on your long-list up, and see if they’re interested in coming to meet you. Talk about the project in terms of size and complexity (don’t mention budget yet!) and check they sound as if they would like to work with you.
  • Check their order book. Could they potentially start working with you within a reasonable timescale? Be prepared to wait for the best builders. Be cautious of builders who can start immediately.
  • Meet with them and talk through your plans. Use the meeting to assess how they work. Are they organised, are they open, do you feel you could trust and work with them? Trust your instincts.
  • Ask them if you can go and see a site they are working on at the moment. Check it’s tidy, well organised and that health and safety precautions are being taken.
  • Ask for references from previous clients. It’s important to appreciate things may not have gone 100% to plan (even the best planned building projects will have had a few hiccups!) but you need to be able to speak to old clients to assess how the builder handles problems, and whether they’re good at producing solutions etc.
  • Check online for any negative elements. Look for poor reviews, county court judgments etc.

Use all of the above to help create your tender shortlist.

How to Get the Lowest Builders Quotes : Step 3 Draw up your Tender Documents

This stage of the tender process is crucial to the outcome. Get it right and you’ll get a series of comparable, comprehensive competitive quotes. Get it wrong and you’ll struggle to assess how much your building project will eventually cost you and which builder will be the best choice for your construction project.

Tender documents need to be prepared and then sent out to your chosen shortlist of 3 or 4 potential builders to seek tenders (bids) at tender phase.

Typically, the tender documents you (or your agent, such as CLPM’s cost team) will need to prepare consist of the following documents:-

  1. A covering letter – which invites the builders to tender and tells them the date by when, and where to send their completed tender. It would also tell the builders how the tender documents are to be completed and how the tender returns will be evaluated against each other and how the contract will be awarded.
  2. Form of tender – this is prepared by you the client (or your agent) and is signed by the tendering contractor. It’s a document that is designed to confirm that the builder understands the tender, accepts the various terms and conditions of the contract, and the various other requirements of participating in the tender for the project.
  3. Terms and conditions of contract – this sets out the legal framework and the obligations of both parties signed up to the contract and is designed to be read in conjunction with the other tender documents.
  4. Bill of quantities – this is used as the basis of submitting the tender where all prices for carrying out the work are given. It helps the contractors produce an estimate of costs for their tender.  It also provides a fair and accurate system for tendering as each builder bids against the same list of things to be done, stating their price for each item of the building work.  This means it is possible to compare both the prices directly between each builder’s tender return – and so it enables you to see which elements of a tender are either better or more poorly priced. Having such detailed, itemised tender returns means you can also use it to negotiate with the preferred builder at later stages in the tender process.
  5. Your architectural designs, plans, construction drawings and specifications.
  6.  Any relevant health and safety information

Producing such a comprehensive series of formal documents might seem like overkill, but it’s worth it. The time spent doing this will get you the best outcome. The builders will have gone through a thorough, fair but competitive quotation system, which is in both your and their best interests. Assuming your specifications are accurate and comprehensive (and that you don’t keep changing your mind once onsite!) you should get the reassurance of knowing you’re going to complete your project on budget. Just make sure you add an additional contingency amount (10-15%) for unforeseen expenses.

As you can see, finding and selecting a shortlist of builders and then carrying out a tender process is time-consuming and requires an expert knowledge of construction methodology. It therefore makes sense to get a professional Quantity Surveying professional to do this for you.

Here at CLPM we have a team of experienced construction project managers and Quantity Surveyors who will work with you to draw together all of the relevant details about your project and produce the tender documentation. We’ll then organise the tender process, analyse the returns and help you choose the most appropriate build team for your project. And as CLPM’s cost team are 100% independent of builders and suppliers, we don’t take commission and so the returns will always be the lowest they can be. At CLPM we’re always working with your best interests at heart.

Whilst appointing a construction cost expert like CLPM may seem to add an additional cost to your project, it is more likely that you will save our tender fees several times over by getting more accurate, competitive tender returns, and then avoiding the often ‘unforeseen’ additional variation costs at the construction phase.

We go through the importance of contracts and an explanation of the onsite variations reports in our next blog – Home Extension Advice : Part 3 – Contracts, Onsite Variations and Cost Control.

If you’d like to understand more about how we CLPM help you to get the lowest builders quotes for your home extension or home renovation building project then get in touch.

Simply call 01923 896550, email info@cl-pm.com or complete a contact form.

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Our Construction Project Management and Quantity Surveying Services cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. We provide Energy Efficiency and Heating System Advice across the UK.
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