Building a foundation of trust

The most daunting decisions we’ve had to make throughout this process has been who is going to actually build the damn thing! Fancy plans are all well and good but they may as well be toilet paper if you haven’t got a decent builder who can make sense of the plan and match that to your dream. While that may sound like the same thing, working through the process with a builder is much different that putting down your designs on a piece of paper – he or she will need to get YOU!

As we were a bit clueless where to start, we asked the hapless technician if he could recommend any good builders and he provided us with a name. While the man in question was lovely, early in the relationship he provided a verbal quote for our work after having “examined” our plans and then when it came time to submit something formal, he upped the quote by £20,000. While our works have come closer to his second quote, we felt really bruised by his initial duplicity: it felt like he was trying to reel us in with a cheaper quote before dropping a bomb on us and that made me question whether he would be honest about the costs throughout the build. Starting a relationship by setting such a bad precedent could only lead to bad things. So it was back to the drawing board for us, unfortunately.

This time, we decided to drive around and take stock of who was completing works in our general area. We were hesitant to google search “builder Cambridge” as the result would have been overwhelming – the Cambridge housing and refurbishment market is booming. Taking note of a few contractors whose work we liked, we then tried to do a bit of sleuthing and online research.

We also asked family and friends for recommendations, as several friends have siblings that work in the trades. We figured a recommendation from a trusted tradesman was as good place to start as any.

In the end, we asked a total of four builders to come around and discuss our project, to get a feel for their style and whether or not at first meeting, there was potential for a good match. Let me say they were a very mixed bunch!

Builder number one: Very professional, knowledgable, experienced, sure of himself. He came across well and you felt as if you would be safe in his hands. Looking at his work on his website, you knew it would be incredibly high quality, to a standard you could be proud of. He also came in at £40,000 MORE than his nearest competitors. Now people, there is a reason I talk about small spaces and that’s because my house isn’t big. For what he wanted to charge we could have built a new house!

Builder number two: Reluctantly came out, barely spoke, but did say he would have to bring his business partner with him the next time to survey the property. And then we never heard from him again, despite numerous attempts on our part to get in touch. Odd, right?

Builder number three: While professional, his demeanour came across as very gruff and a bit grumpy? He was never overtly rude or anything of the like, but you also knew that he wouldn’t be the type of builder you could ever be comfortable with. His bid was competitive though, and so we gave him serious consideration.

Builder number four: Showed up an hour late to our meeting and had his young son in tow. He’s only young himself, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that being “organised” wasn’t one of his key skills. But in that initial conversation there was a confidence and a willingness to listen to what we wanted and what we had to say, that we hadn’t come across yet. He was also highly recommended by an acquaintance and we had seen some of his work.

So who do you think we picked and who would you have gone for…?

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