Quotes: The Devil is in the Detail
Builder Quotes: While you've been busy compiling a list of prospective builders, hopefully you'll have also been working with an architect or designer on the concept plans for your project. The creative aspect of the design-phase is often stimulating, enjoy it. Once you’ve collaborated with the designers and produced final drawings, it’s time to 'take the project to market' via a tender process.
It’s advisable to have an experienced architect or designer prepare a tender pack that clearly articulates all of the requirements for your project. A word of warning, you should anticipate price variation in the quotes - it's simply the reality of the modern marketplace. To keep variations to a minimum, and to give the builder every chance of providing an accurate cost estimate, it’s essential the tender describes your expectations in comprehensive detail. This will allow you to compare apples with apples. Experienced architects and building designers will be very familiar with the preparation of tender materials - never cut corners when appointing your design professional.
"The quotation is an explicit reflection of the builder. It's also a fair indication of
the way they’re likely to do business. If they’re disorganised, stubborn or hard to communicate with, chances
are that’s how they’ll conduct the build. Instincts can play a part in builder selection"
A tender pack will commonly include drawings, engineering and soil reports for builders. It also includes a scope of works statement that describes the entire expectation of the project. If there are ‘exclusions’, for example, you're a fully registered plumber and want to do all plumbing works, this exclusion will be noted, and the cost will be excluded from the quotes. Your designer will be able to advise, relative to the specifics of your project, what the likely ‘exclusions' will be. Typically exclusions may include:
- traffic control,
- site preparation,
- light fittings,
- window locks,
- flyscreens, etc.
Also included in the tender will be a 'building schedule' - it's vital that it is as comprehensive as is humanly possible. The building schedule contains details of all required fixtures and fittings. 'Cost shocks’ very often originate from oversights or under-estimations associated with fixtures and fittings. You must include precise detail when describing what is required, eg: 1 set Dorf Maxum Bath Set. Specification: Bath Colour: Chrome Material: Chrome Plated / Solid Brass Product Code: 1101.04 - an additional link to the manufacturer will also assist in identifying the item. You cannot include too much detail when specifying fixtures and fittings.
One of the most contentious aspects of the building process is the start and finish date of the project. It’s not uncommon for building projects to exceed the contracted price and to be completed well after the expected handover date. While the tender process allows you to ascertain estimated start and finish dates, it’s the contract process that locks this into place, likewise for progress payments. Make sure you have a well-experienced construction lawyer on your team.
Your lawyer will also be able to guide you on the critical considerations of Prime Cost items, Provisional Sum and Variations. It's essential you're familiar with these terms.
It’s a good protection to ask the builder, in writing, to list all known exclusions. This bit of ‘reverse engineering’ helps identify items that may have been overlooked by you or the designer.
It’s also important to find out who is physically doing the work. Ask if that likable builder (who provided the quote and appears competent) is actually doing the work? If not, is he / she on-site every day? or is the job being handed over to a team that you’ve never met? Best to find this out now.
The more detail you put in the tender document, the more value it will provide in assessing and comparing builders. The more leg-work you do now, particularly around the fixture and fittings, the better the quality and amenity of the final construction. Only after obtaining a sufficient number of quotes will you be able to ascertain a reasonable 'benchmark' of the true cost of the job. A cheap quote should set off alarm bells!
Also, don't be discouraged if some recommended builders elect not to submit a quotation. There's a range of factors that determine who will ultimately pitch for the work. These include: excellent builders are usually busy, the specific challenges of the project, travel time, availability of sub-contractors, etc.
Finally, read the unwritten ‘language’ of your builder. Were you comfortable in their company? Did they miss the tender deadline? Have they overlooked specific instructions in the tender? Are the written materials sloppy or unprofessional? Were they easy to communicate with?
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