How to choose a trader

30 Jun 2017
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United Kingdom
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I'm looking for advice and general do's and don'ts on how to choose a company to do some work in our house.

I found it quite difficult to actually find traders in the first place, but after searching on which trusted traders, yell, federation of master builders websites I came up with a few.

We need a new roof, pointing of the whole house and a few other smaller things doing. Would you base your decision on who to employ on good reviews on which? Would you choose someone who isn't VAT registered and who gives you a verbal quote only and would you choose someone who seems to have absolutely no online reviews - although you have seen them doing a lot of work in the local area?

I'm really quite confused on who to choose and who would be best, any tips or advice greatly appreciated.
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If you've seen a builder/roofer/company working locally, knock on a few doors and ask people how the experience was- did they turn up on time, did they ask for cash up front, stuff like that. Your local council may have a local scheme for trustworthy trades- check their website. Verbal quote in some circumstances is fine, if you decide to go with that chap just ask him to write it down (or email it to you). Word of mouth is how good trades get their work, lots of the online sites charge the tradesman for entries (quite big chunks of cash as well) so a small firm with a good reputation in their area may not bother with them.

VAT registered- advantage is they won't be charging you VAT on labour so should be cheaper

Online reviews- do you believe everything you read on T'Internet?
My only reservation about using someone who isn't VAT registered is how to effects me if things go wrong. Don't I have potentially more rights as a consumer with a VAT registered company?
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Nope. Only criteria for a business to be VAT registered is that they're turning over in excess of £70k PA (or that sort of area, may have increased since I last looked). A company with a large turnover is less likely to do a Phoenix just because of one customer but many still do reinvent themselves so it isn't much of a guarantee. Your rights are identical whether you buy goods and services from a large company or a sole trader- what happens when you try to exercise those rights in a dispute will vary. By far the best way to select your trades is by recommendations from people you know and trust- even then you can get burned (the good roofer might have left & the new boy could still be learning, for instance).

If you've got the time you might want to break the job into 2 (pointing and smaller jobs as Phase 1, roof as Phase 2). get your bloke onto Phase 1 and see how he does and how you get on with him.