How to utilise the Quoting process
It's not just about price use the process to find your preferred contractor.
The standard get three quotes is a good start but it's not about simply picking the cheapest. If you had nothing else to go on except price there's a lot to be said for picking the middle price. This might be a significant investment and you want to make sure you hire the right contractor for you.
If your job is big enough to warrant the time, why not get 5 quotes then cross of the top and bottom as the outliers. This used to be common practice for building contractors when hiring sub contractors. The jobs not going to go well if you've hired a contractor who cannot estimate the valve of the work, they won't want to lose money on your and something will have to give and it will probably be quality. Equally concerning the estimate may be right but based in cheap labour or materials, you could be paying for this is maintenance sooner rather than later. If three of three quotes are similar that could be ideal, you can chose your contractor based on who is the best person for the job. You can ask your preferred contractor to match the cheapest quote, they may be willing to this to get the work.
Tips on choosing a contractor
Quotes are often not like for like so make sure your getting the quote for what you expect.
Watch out for the little things before hiring. E.g. if a contractor parks his van in front of your neighbours drive don't hire them, he/she won't have consideration for you later.
Negative comments regarding previous clients are a bad sign, especially being 'owed' money.
Be patient, immediate availability for visiting site a quick quote and an urgent start date can be red flags. Generally a busy contractor is a good one.
Ask lots of questions, when they visit or via email after, iron everything out. Genuinely helpful people won't be afraid to answer in full.
Whoever you choose is there to make a profit, so just make sure their reputation is important to them too.
Finding good contractors to quote.
Where do you find these people in the first place? Seek recommendations from friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. Asking local residents associations can be very helpful. Though remember different contractors will be more suited to different types of clients. Otherwise carefully look online How to find a good contractor online
Always do the following;
Expect a full written quote stipulating what is and isn't included
Have a structured payment plan. On larger jobs contractors will need payments as the job progresses but agree a structure first in writing.
Where practicable agree types of materials to be used to guarantee quality.
Insist and verify that all installation work is done by appropriate competent persons. i.e. make sure qualified trades people are used; plumbing, electrical, roofing, structural. That work is notified and your contractor or their sub contractor are appropriately registered
Understand what is guaranteed by the contractor and manufacturers of appliances etc. What the contractors guarantees include. (Insurance backed guarantees are important for certain types of work, what happens if your builder has folded)
Agree a small retention of payment five to ten percent, to be held for three to twelve months. Depending on the type of works done, e.g. for a new roof a twelve month retention would be sensible so it can be tested. Any work involving roofing, plumbing or electrics should have some type of retention.
Have a time line with penalties for late completion. (Extensions aloud for variations). Lots of home owners get caught here as contractors start new projects and leave skeleton staff on theirs.
Try to change as little as possible once work has commenced. This can be expensive and cause delays, especially retrospective changes. Put all requests and variations in writing.
Avoid cash payments, a record of payments is a must
Always carry out background checks.
For any contractor I would always recommend a simply Google search of the company name and another search with the word reviews added. If you cannot find anything do not use them.
It's different if you find someone through word of mount or referral as they simply may have no on line presence. However if find them due to their marketing then you should expect an online presence and reviews. Otherwise I would worry that they may be deliberately avoiding scrutiny. Any company listed on Google Places, Yell, Which? Trusted Traders or Yelp can be reviewed by the public. If they are not there I would not use them. Reviews on some sites such as MyBuilder and Rated people can only be done if the contractor is hired via the site. Referral fees apply to all the contractors who acquire your contact details.