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Common building mistakes first-time buyers should avoid

·6-min read
Photo credit: SolStock - Getty Images
Photo credit: SolStock - Getty Images

With the rising interest in fixer uppers, it's not uncommon for house hunters to seek a property that needs some renovating, reflecting a desire to obtain premises that double up as an investment as well as a home.

As first-time buyers get on the property ladder, many are taking on DIY tasks for the first time and some may hire tradespeople to complete jobs, but there are some common building mistakes that could cost a lot of money and time.

There are many pitfalls to avoid, such as choosing unreliable tradespeople. TV builder Tommy Walsh previously told us: 'Be cautious of anyone who can start straightaway. When I was trading, clients would often have to wait six months to a year.' Choosing the best possible tradeperson for the job is key, as well as knowing when to turn down a 'too good to be true' cheaper option.

And, as with any renovation project, finance is essential, yet home buyers who set an unrealistic budget can find their dream home is nothing more than an unfinished project. Read on for the biggest common building mistakes to avoid.

Mistake number one: Not researching tradespeople

Once you have decided on the work you want to do, the next and most important thing to do is choose the best tradesperson for the job. It's a top tip from Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud who says this is often a common mistake when renovating.

Whether you need a painter or an architect, the right person for the job can make your life much easier, yet choosing the best possible tradesperson can be difficult, with 40 per cent of people in the UK admitting they have had a bad experience with a tradesperson.

Photo credit: simonkr - Giphy
Photo credit: simonkr - Giphy

'Firstly, you must check prospective tradespeople's accreditation. If they themselves, or the company they are registered to, do not have any sign of legitimacy then that should be a red flag,' Thomas Goodman, building and construction expert at MyJobQuote, says. 'Look out for certification from the National Federation of Builders, Federation of Master Builders and TrustMark and ensure all plumbers are Gas Safe Registered. In addition, find the company number and registered business address. If they can't give you this, then best to avoid this business.'

But what if you find halfway through the job that the tradespeople you have chosen are not delivering the job which you agreed on? Luckily, there are ways to rectify this. First of all, try speaking to them – if they are reputable then they will work to sort out any issues or potential misunderstandings as early as possible. Remember, communication is always key.

Thomas adds: 'If, however, this does not solve any issues, or in other circumstances of unprofessional behaviour or mistreatment, then contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. CAB will look through evidence and inform you of anything you are entitled to.'

Mistake number two: Taking the cheaper option

The saying 'if it's too good to be true, then it probably is' can, unfortunately, ring true in many building circumstances. When choosing a builder, you should always shop around and get around 3-5 quotes from different companies and compare them.

Photo credit: tolgart - Getty Images
Photo credit: tolgart - Getty Images

'If you find, say, four of the five are within similar price ranges, but one is much cheaper, then you must try and resist temptation in booking that company straight away,' Thomas warns. 'Research more about the company, the tradespeople and read reviews about them. More often than not, the much cheaper price can reflect the quality of work, or not be inclusive of all the labour required.

'If, after substantial research, you still feel as though the cheaper company may be the best, then it would be worth asking them outright why their prices are so low. A reputable company will be able to offer a cost breakdown and explanation to support their pricing strategy.'

Mistake number three: Setting an unrealistic budget

How will you finance your project? Setting a realistic and healthy budget, and ensuring you have the funds to complete your home project for building costs and extra materials, is key.

Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images
Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images

'Two in five house renovators overspend their budget by an average of 20 per cent, and this is something which can easily be avoided by planning prior to starting the work,' Thomas says. 'Before starting any work, you should itemise all the costs involved and also, ideally, include a bit extra in case of an emergency. By doing this, you are avoiding yourself being halfway through a job and finding yourself out of money.'

Mistake number four: Buying the wrong building materials

To save money and avoid company or tradesperson mark-ups, many renovators opt to buy materials themselves, from materials for structure to paints and carpets.

Photo credit: KarinaBost - Getty Images
Photo credit: KarinaBost - Getty Images

'While this can be a good way to save a bit of money, buying your own building materials requires extensive research and a solid understanding of the work which needs to be done,' Thomas warns. 'You must also purchase the right amounts of the materials and ensure they arrive in good time for the builders.'

If materials do not arrive in time when the tradespeople turn up to work, you could be charged a 'standing time' and then you will need to pay for them to turn up another day, which means more money will be spent than you originally planned.

If you know you can get supplies cheaper and they can arrive correctly and on time, then there is no harm in doing this, however if you are only doing this to save money, you might be better off allowing your tradespeople to buy the materials themselves.

Mistake number five: Rushing in

Once you have moved into your home, it is easy to become too excited about potential plans and wanting to rush and get everything completed as quickly as possible, however, rushing in can result in improper work and you may change your mind and realise something doesn't look as nice as originally imagined.

'44 per cent of home renovators said they were unhappy with the results of their work, which is estimated to be worth £4.9 billion in wasted money,' Thomas reveals. 'If you change your mind soon after, then not only is that a waste of money, but you will then end up spending more to change the design, resulting in you definitely over spending.'

To avoid this, think the plans over and discuss with builders what will work logistically and aesthetically, before any work commences. Thomas adds: 'A reputable builder will be honest and tell you whether your ideas will work on a day-to-day basis, and not just look nice. Changes in aesthetic is less detrimental than changes to structure and floor plans, however the cost of aesthetic work can still cost a lot more money.'

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