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How to find the right builder for your refurbishment project

If you look anywhere online most likely the advice you will find will tell you to ask at least 5-10 builders for quotes. Well. If you like wasting time - sure, have a try. However if you happen to be an interior designer doing this on behalf of your clients you probably know that time is money. And talking to 10 different builders, explaining the project, allowing them to see the job, chasing, checking… it’s just not sustainable. It’s just not what normally happens.

Below I have gathered some tips on getting quotes and choosing the right builder for the job. Let’s get going!

Context, Well let’s start with a little bit of a context first. If we have met before you probably know by now that whatever we choose, whatever we think is best always depends on many factors. Let’s say that you are a designer working on a project with Joe and Jane Bloggs. They are looking to have some extensive work done to their property based in North London and the budget has been set at £800k.

You have spent months designing the property, finally all the permissions are in place and the works can start. The last missing component is the right builder.

The process of selecting the builder is called a tender. Depending on how you intend to choose someone it can either be a single stage competitive tender or it can be a negotiated tender etc etc. The most popular of course is competitive tender. Traditionally that would mean putting the project out on the market and asking for tender returns (quotes). These would then be analysed and the most suitable contractor would get the job. That’s the process we are going to analyse here.

Documents ready for tender 99.9% of the time when people think they have all the ‘paperwork’ ready for tender, they really don’t. Well, that is if we look at it from the perspective of having a relatively certain price prior entering the contract. For example: Planning drawings are not enough for accurate pricing. Electrical layout is not enough for accurate pricing. Schedule of finishes is not enough for accurate pricing. Because in order to provide an accurate price someone needs to know how the new layout is constructed, what systems the house is to be fitted with, how the finishes will be installed, on what substrate etc.

If you only have limited information - the tender returns you will receive will also be limited. And worse. They will most likely be incomparable. Because one builder will allow for A, the other one will allow B and another one won’t allow neither A nor B thinking it’s not necessary. And that may apply to several elements within the quote. So if you then try comparing the quotes received you may find yourself in a position where you are comparing completely different responses.

So what is the right way of doing it then? Great question. I’d love to have a perfect answer to it and be able to say here are 8 points you should follow, these always work and best of luck. The thing is that the one thing that changes all the time is the market. And the best thing we can do is to adapt to it. So I will share with you the process that I have tried and tested on tens if not hundreds of projects and that has worked for me.

  1. Assess information provided for any gaps, work out significance of the missing information and inform the client of the level of price certainty we can achieve.

  2. Fill any gaps and provide an overall budget to the client. Not only one line saying ‘All in £800k’. A proper broken down cost plan as per NRM by RICS.

  3. Send out PQQs (Pre Qualification Questionnaires) to test the market. These can be as simple as - provide your financial information, relevant experience and anything that makes you suitable for a job. This process allows two things to happen. Firstly you can see the appetite for the project before wasting anyone's time on pricing. Are companies out there interested? If so great. If not, why? Analyse and adapt. Secondly it allows you to filter through the responses received and pick the right builders for the scheme. There is no point asking for quotes from massive companies doing £20M + projects alongside one man band, Bob the Builders because the price difference will be huge. Using my way you can select people best geared up for the job.

  4. Send tenders out and allow 3-4 weeks for pricing. If you think a week or two is enough… well. Good luck.

  5. I like including a 30 minutes mid tender meeting over zoom. Again this allows two things to happen. The tenderers get to ask you questions around the project so you can clarify any issues there and then (just make sure that you distribute the same information around to everybody!). You also get to meet the tenderers. Their team. You get to judge how professional they are from the questions they are asking.

  6. Once you get quotes, acknowledge receipt to all people returning the tender. It takes a lot of time to prepare a tender so a simple thank you and when they can expect a response is simply polite and appreciated. You may not use them for this project but you may need them in future.

  7. Compare responses. Not only numbers. Overall quality of the return, programme, size of the company, financial situation etc. you will see that a shortlist clarifies quickly. Pick 2-3. At that point I would present the results to the client and organise interviews with shortlisted candidates. It’s important that the client likes the people as well!

  8. Finally choose the people you will work with.

That is my recipe. Tried and tailored to work. It’s still a process that is admin heavy but it’s at least organised.

If you would like to outsource this part of the work - we have a fixed fee offer that you can find here 👇👇👇

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