You’ll have got the drift, by now, that I like doing most things myself, if I can.  But there are occasions when even my enthusiasm and energy flag.  Such as rendering the outside of my house, re-wiring it, replacing an entire window, and so on.  So there are always times when you need to call in the trades: builders, plumbers, electricians….

As a woman (I hate to say, this, but it’s true), particularly as a woman, I feel I can get bamboozled by guys coming to quote.

It’s kind of like taking my car in.  All kinds of technical issues suddenly arise.  Complicated-sounding jargon makes me feel ignorant.  Large problems seem to be isolated to my particular case, which, of course, is going to increase the price.

I start feeling overwhelmed, confused and out-of-my depth.  And more than anything, I start feeling that they are pulling the wool over my eyes.

I hate getting ripped off.  Don’t you?  So girls (and guys if you’re reading this) – here’s how to get even….

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Firstly, ask lots of questions.  As the quote above so aptly summarises – if you want to save money, you have to use your brain. 

When an electrician/builder/plumber uses a word or phrase you don’t understand, ask!  What does that mean?  Is that isolated to my case only?  Do you come across that often?  Is there a way around it?

If you don’t ask, you’re going to get more lost as the tradeperson continues.  And he knows that.  And he’ll charge you.

If you DO ask, when the next person that comes to quote (because you ARE getting at least three quotes, aren’t you?) you will be very well-informed.  It also means that when the work is underway, you’ll know what’s going on.

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Secondly, be very clear what you do and don’t want done.  It might be easier with that wall knocked out, or with the light hung a metre to the left of centre, but is that what you want?  Stick to your guns.  Ask why they want to do something different.  Ask if there is an easier way.

Thirdly, GET THREE QUOTES.  It’s a hassle isn’t it?  Half the people I call don’t even turn up.  That’s how easy business is here in Australia….  Here are some of my stories as to why you should get three quotes.

When I wanted to get my house rendered on the outside, I asked a reliable building company to quote.  Their figure was $72,000!!!  Well – for that price, I couldn’t afford to have it done.  So I got more quotes.  They came in at $32,000 $14,000 and $7,000.  I was staggered.  I had no idea that quotes could vary so widely.

I discovered why later, when I was going through the debacle with my garden that I wrote about here.  One landscape contractor (who I pummelled with questions) eventually relaxed and admitted that he was really busy, and had more work than he needed.  I’d asked how much a whole swimming pool would cost, as a small garden pond was being quoted at $50,000.  He said,yes, you could do a whole pool for that price, although last week, he hadn’t really wanted a job, so had quoted $500,000 ( yes you read that right – half a million dollars).  He’d been staggered when the client accepted.  He was pleased as punch, and said he’d be happy to squeeze that job into his diary.  I felt for that poor, foolish (rich) client.

So – be warned.  Sometimes the quote is high as they don’t need the work.

Four – if you think the quote sounds good (I liked the $14,000 render quote), but you feel anxious, ask to speak to former clients or to see former work.  I drove round addresses where Mick and his team had rendered houses.  They looked fabulous and my mind was at rest.  I also asked why his quote was less.  It was based around scaffolding (he had his own) – something which costs a lot to hire.

Five – if you don’t like the chap, don’t hire him, even if he’s cheap.  I did this once, and man oh man, I regretted it.  The carpenter (who was building a car port on a house 12 years ago) moaned all day, turned up late, and generally made a meal of the job.  I didn’t like having him around, and that meant the working relationship was never as good as it could have been.

Six – if you have a complex project that involves more than one trade, get a recommendation from the primary hire.  My renderer recommended a painter to paint the render.  My kitchen fitter recommended the sparky he’d prefer to work with.  If strangers work together, one will blame the other for things that go wrong.  Using people who like each other, and work together regularly, means that the painter won’t blame the renderer for a poor surface.   Makes your life a lot easier.

Finally, if your gut tells you it’s not right.  Don’t do it.  There are plenty more tradespeople out there.

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(and if you’re wondering why I’ve put quotes and not pics – it’s because I’m writing about quotes….)