Steering clear of dodgy contractors

With the costs to transfer property being what they are and the rising costs of building a new house, many home-owners are choosing to alter or extend their existing homes now rather than moving home, while others may be making improvements in order to get their homes looking their best before putting them on the market.

But whatever the reason for making changes, they may well have to hire a contractor or two – and should take the extra time that may be necessary to find a contractor that will do a great job.

"After all," says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, "the completed work is something they are either going to have to look at and live with every day, or which could have a significant effect on the resale value of their property."

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says it’s not enough, for example, just to find out when the contractor can start, how long the project is likely to take and how much it will cost.

"There are many other important things to establish, such as how long the contractor has been in business, what the company’s track record is and whether it can provide references from previous clients.

"For insurance purposes and in order to comply with occupational health and safety legislation, home owners must also ensure that the contractor will have a properly qualified and full-time supervisor on the project, and that the company carries proper insurance in the event of any of its employees or subcontractors being injured on the site."

For peace of mind, Everitt says, it is also recommended than homeowners get the contractor to provide a written "project plan" detailing the work to be done and containing dates for the completion of the various stages, rather than just a quotation or estimate of costs.

"And finally, homeowners should establish at the outset that they will not pay the contractor any money in advance. They may well be able to save money by purchasing the project materials themselves and just paying the contractor for labour and expertise, but in that case they must be sure to pay the material suppliers directly."

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