Finding the right tradespeople

Finding a tradesperson with the right skill set and the right approach to your job can save you time, money and frustration. Admittedly this is easier said than done.

We’ve all been there, sat in front of a computer, looking for a local tradesperson with the type of feedback that doesn’t look as though it’s been written by the vendor himself. Gavin Jenkins felt the same way when he started up HomeForce in May 2004.

HomeForce markets itself as a one stop shop for reliable Edinburgh tradespeople, but one with a difference. “We take the time to individually assess and consider each potential tradesperson before they earn a place on the HomeForce roster,” he says. This is a key differentiator from the likes of and those with similar offerings.

“One of our main stipulations is that our tradespeople must agree to adhere to our service level agreement,” he adds. “We also verify all appropriate documentation such as insurance and qualifications.” And if the standards of their tradespeople fall below acceptable levels, HomeForce are quick to act.

“We understand that in the age of social media, negative publicity can quickly get out of control. That’s why we also rely on the feedback of our customers to help us make sure we only have the best specialists available. We operate a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy, meaning if we receive questionable feedback from our customers on more than two occasions, we won’t use that particular tradesperson again.”

It’s an approach that has paid dividends for Gavin and the HomeForce team, as the business moves from strength to strength and more Edinburgh homeowners reap the benefit of their specialised service.

So, what can you do to ensure you have a positive experience when dealing with tradespeople? HomeForce offers the following advice:

Be prepared

Planning is a vital part of getting the best result for any job or task. Before asking a tradesperson to prepare a quote or estimate, be clear in your mind what work you would like them to do. Write down a full list of all the jobs to be done, thinking about the sizes and the volume of work. If it’s just one large job, it might be worth trying to break it down into component parts. The tradesperson will have suggestions for the best way to achieve the end result, as well as ways to save money. Giving the tradesperson a clear brief of your requirements means they can give you a more accurate – and possibly lower - price.

Ask outright

Sometimes you simply may not know what’s possible or where to begin a project. Instead of requesting multiple variations of the same quote, acknowledge that you are just at a planning stage but would like some advice. If it’s just a ball park price you are looking for, say so - but don’t ask for this in writing. Speak to the tradesperson either face to face, over the phone, or by email to help firm up your ideas. When you’ve had time to think about it, provide clear instructions. Don’t put pressure, even subconsciously, on a tradesperson to do something they aren’t comfortable with. The end result is likely to be unsatisfactory to both parties.

Manage your own expectations

When dealing with buildings, expect the unexpected. No one can see through walls, floors or ceilings. A quotation may make an allowance for the unforeseeable but don’t chastise a tradesperson (or expect work to be done for free) when additional work is unavoidable. Do, however, ensure they keep you informed if this situation does arise. They should advise you of potential additional costs and explain why the work must be done or offer alternatives.

You should also be prepared to pay ‘market rates’ as it’s fair to say you really do get what you pay for. Quotes that are significantly cheaper than others may seem attractive but can mean that a tradesperson doesn’t fully understand the work required because they lack the skills. This may lead them to encounter snags that were foreseeable, cut corners or rush work.

A tradesperson should tell you if they are going to be delayed – even it is just by 10 minutes. A delay can be due to heavy traffic, a job over running or other uncontrollable factors. If you can, try to be flexible when scheduling an appointment, the tradesperson will certainly appreciate it. Of course, if you simply have to be gone by a certain time, ensure you tell them when the appointment is booked.

Ensure everything is included

You may not receive a full breakdown of the costs of a job at the initial quote stage. However, once you’ve selected the tradesperson you’d like to use there is no harm in asking for a breakdown of the costs including materials and/or a schedule of works for larger jobs.

Pay promptly

Perhaps the number one complaint against tradespeople is that they are late. Unsurprisingly the main complaint many tradespeople have is that they are paid late. If you are happy with the work carried out, make payment as soon as the invoice arrives. Don’t forget, you may need to use them again and they’ll be far more likely to come sooner if their last bill was paid promptly.

Another major factor that determines a tradesperson's suitability to carry out a job is the size of the project. One candidate may really enjoy meeting new people and so want to do lots of small jobs, while another might have weaker ‘people skills’, and may be shy, so would rather get their head down on a longer lasting job.

From a financial perspective, larger more established companies may be in a better position to carry out bigger jobs where they are paid large sums at the end of a job, whereas a small firm or a single operator may require the fast turnaround and increased cashflow of multiple smaller jobs.

A lot depends on your level of comfort. It’s reassuring, therefore, that there are established local options whatever route you decide to take.