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How do I get the best builders quotes and how can I continue to control my build costs during the construction phase of my building project?

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips and explain how taking a methodical, step by step approach will get you more accurate quotations and so will prevent your costs escalating once your builder starts on site. We’ll explain how appointing a Quantity Surveyor to carry out a tender can help prevent your project running into financial difficulties – and save you a lot of stress too.

Tip 1 – Do Your Financial Planning Early

The key to get the best builders’ quotes is thorough financial planning.

Building is an exciting process, and it can be tempting to find a build team and get started onsite as quickly as you can. But before you start talking to any builders it’s important to do your financial planning and then make sure you are clear about what you want your builder to quote against. Otherwise there’s a real risk your building project will overspend.

Every week, our Quantity Surveying team talk to people who have run into financial difficulties midway through their construction works – usually due to escalating costs from their build.

Typically, it’s down to a combination of 3 things:

  1. The work now being carried out is different – or much greater than the original quotation.
  2. The original quotation was incomplete and so they are being charged for missing extras – often at a very high rate.
  3. The client has incurred other additional unforeseen expenses as a result of changes or delays.

Whatever the situation, the real reason they’ve run into problems is a lack of financial planning in the pre-construction phase.

Tip 2 – Check Your Designs are Affordable

It’s important to highlight that even if you get the best builders’ quotes they still need to be affordable!

We’ve written previously about the importance of understanding and budgeting for all of the costs involved in carrying out building works. It’s vital to set your Maximum Total Project Budget, and within that, your Construction Budget.

Before you start talking to any builders it’s a good idea to get an accurate figure of how much your designs will actually cost to build – and to check that this sum is well within your Construction Budget.

Getting a Quantity Surveyor to prepare a line by line estimate for how much your project will cost will help make sure that you don’t miss anything and will give you a feel for where your costs come from. If your design have grown beyond your budget it will give you the information you need to trim them back. It will also give you a benchmark to compare your builders’ quotations against too.

Tip 3 – How You Approach Your Build is Important

Once you’ve checked your designs are affordable you need to decide how to approach your build.

Who will carry out your construction works? Do you want to use a single, main contractor, or do you wish to carry out the build using a series of tradespersons or suppliers – or perhaps a mixture or both?

There are pros and cons to the different approaches – and often a trade-off between upfront cost and risk. The self-buld option is usually the cheapest build route so may get the best builders’ quotes, but it also carries the greatest risk in terms of quality, financial certainty and time. Using a main contractor may cost more but the builder is taking most of the financial risk.

How you approach your build is important so if you are not experienced in this field it’s usually a good idea to chat the options through with your Quantity Surveyor.

Tip 4 – Match Your Builders With Your Project

Once you have decided on the best way forward your Quantity Surveyor can help you to prepare a shortlist of builders or suppliers to approach.

You need to get the best builders’ quotes from the most appropriate team for your construction project.

It’s important that the skills and experience of build team match your project. A Grade 2 listed renovation project build team should be full of tradespeople who are experienced in working with historic buildings. An energy efficient timber frame new build will need people who are used to working with modern methods of construction and high levels of air-tightness.

Likewise try to ensure that the builders you approach are used to working on projects of your size, complexity and budget.

Your Quantity Surveyor can help you do all of this and will start the tender process by going through your designs and preparing a thorough breakdown of the different elements of work, splitting it into ‘packages’ for different trades or suppliers to quote against as required.

Tip 5 – Tender via a Detailed Brief

The more accurate and comprehensive your tender brief, the more likely you will get the best builders’ quotes.

Carrying out a formal tender means you’ll get back much more accurate quotations. And demanding the builders send in their quotations using a set format means all of the quotations you get back will be complete and much easier to understand, compare and challenge.

Not many self-builders have the skills or experience to prepare the documentation a proper competitive tender requires so appointing an experienced Quantity Surveyor to tender your project can make a lot of sense.

Tip 6 – Check and Analyse Your Tender Returns

Once all the tender returns have been received back, your Quantity Surveyor will check them through.

Remember if your builders’ quotations have grown a bit too high, having all of this information from your Quantity Surveyor will help you understand where, and how, to trim your designs – or your specifications – to get your costs back in line with your budget.

This can be a useful exercise even if you have not gone over budget – as it can show you how and where to make savings and build more cost-effectively.

Tip 7 – Appoint Your Build Team Via A Contract

The next step to get the best builders’ quotes is to decide who to appoint. Getting a professional to prepare and analyse your tender documentation – and then set up your building contract – will help you to keep your finances on track.

Your choice of build team should not always be based purely on cost. Consider the builder or supplier’s reputation, the quality of their work, how local they are to your project, how confident you feel about their organisational skills, whether you trust and feel comfortable with them personally, and lastly their professionalism and willingness to sign a contract.

Once you have chosen a builder, it is time to formalise the arrangements using a building contract. Your Quantity Surveyor will advise you which contract is suitable for your project – but it is likely to be either a JCT Homeowner Contract or a JCT Minor Works Contract.

A building contract plays an important part in helping you control your building costs, and will protect both you and your builder. It will formalise your agreement – in terms of the price, the works to be done, the completion date, and how much and when your builder will invoice you and receive payment from you.

It will help you both plan better too. Having a clear programme in place will help you both schedule to keep your project on track – and will also enable you to organise financially, and prevent any major cost issues. Should there be any changes to the works mid-construction it also gives a legal framework to help ensure any price variations quoted are fair and reasonable.

We hope you have found this blog useful. If you want any more information on how to.get the best builders’ quotes then we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us an email, complete a contact form or give us a call on 01923 896550.

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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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