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How to avoid appearing as a cowboy

Upgrading the home is an exciting and nerve-racking process.

The customer has decided which areas need improving, spent time planning their refurbishments, and might even have a specific image in their head of what they want the end result to look like. Below, home specialist CR Smith discusses a few of the ways contractors can assure potential customers of their legitimacy

There is often a fear that, for whatever reason, the outcome of a home renovation project won’t live up to expectations. Frequent stories about contractors leaving homeowners with unfinished work or disastrous results don’t help, and can even put people off undertaking a project in the first place. According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the UK economy misses out on £10bn every year because homeowners are afraid of hiring the wrong contractors. To avoid disappointment, they would rather not commission building work at all.

Therefore, we’ve explored some ideas to help make sure you aren’t dismissed from the outset. By knowing what homeowners are looking at when selecting a contractor, you can offer peace of mind and increase your chances of securing the job.

Check your online presence
Looking up any company you intend to hire on the internet is always a wise choice. The online world has the answer to many of our questions, and customers will use it to understand whether a contractor is the right tradesperson for the job. Websites such as Trustpilot and Google are a common starting point because they feature independent reviews, illustrating the experiences of previous customers.

If you have no registered business address, no landline telephone or contact number, or are unknown in the area, homeowners may be sceptical. A lack of contact details mean they will be unable to reach out for help during or after the refurbishments, which could affect your likelihood of being chosen for the job.

When quoting the price for a job, it’s best to be upfront about the full price of the project rather than adding cost later, this can assure the customer you’re using quality materials and taking the proper level of care.

Be ready to provide examples of previous projects
Photography of previous work can be a good indication of the quality of work you can provide. Reliable professionals will always be happy to show examples of successful projects, and it will demonstrate the kind of work you are used to undertaking, as well as potentially providing ideas for the customer’s own build.

Think about your availability
Reliable builders tend to be busy, as they are in high demand. As a result, customers may be wary of contractors who are able to start on a project immediately. Of course, tradespeople who carry emergency repairs are more likely to respond straight away due to the type of job.

It’s also worth remembering that building an extension will normally need planning permission and/or a building warrant, so this should factor into any proposed timelines.

Sign a contract
Another factor customers may be looking for is whether you are prepared to sign a contract. Putting things on paper is fundamental when it comes to building work, as it means the specification, costs and sometimes timeframes can be agreed by both parties

A legally-binding contract means you can clearly set out the work included in the project and avoids any misunderstandings once work commences. With no contract or paperwork in place, you will have nothing to fall back on.

Offer flexibility for payment methods
Customers may be put off if you are unable to accept payments outside of upfront cash. While staged payments are common-place to cover the cost of materials as and when you use them, paying cash upfront is not.

Refurbishing and updating a home involves an array of important decisions, which homeowners will understandably be cautious in making. By demonstrating your reliability and integrity, you can offer potential customers confidence and improve your chances of successfully securing jobs.

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