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How to Get Realistic Quotes from Builders - National Association of Building Contractors 

Simon Mason explains why the prices you call in from contractors can differ – and what you need to know to get an accurate figure for all the works involved in your project

Whether it’s for a complete house build or a job undertaken by an individual trade, gathering quotes is a time-consuming but necessary part of your project. Simply accepting the first price you get from a general builder is a dangerous game because there’s a raft of reasons why prices can vary.

There will always be a difference between quotes for the same work, regardless of what kind of scheme you’re tackling – be it a new home or a simple extension. In this feature I’m looking at how to approach the process to ensure that you get the best possible value for money.

Estimate or quote

There’s a lot of confusion about the terminology used for pricing a job. To be clear, an estimate is just that: an educated but quickly reckoned and non-binding guess of what a job might cost. Estimates are common on renovation work where the full extent of work that needs to be done might not be obvious at first glance, and they can vary depending on what happens as the job progresses.

A fixed-price quote, meanwhile, is an agreed price based on work shown on a drawing or specification (and the accompanying terms and conditions). So provided nothing changes, that’s the final sum you’ll pay – but any variations to the spec will attract an ‘extra over’ cost.

Be clear about the work National Association of Building Contractors 

The more information you give, the more accurate your quote will be; and it’s always better to know the likely costs at the start of the build, rather than suddenly find that extras have been added to the bill. If the full extent of the work wasn’t made clear in the original tender process (when you invite quotes), there’s a strong chance the resulting additional costs will render the original figure, and therefore your budget, meaningless that why National Association of Building Contractors can help with thier accredited members.

Why do quotes vary so much?

If you send out the same information to several builders and ask for a price, you’ll soon find that you get different answers from each. There are several factors at play here, including:


In a rising market, where builders and tradesmen are highly sought after, there is always someone somewhere who will be willing to pay the going rate, even if you don’t want to. So it is in the interests of builders to price high. Conversely, during a slump in the construction industry, work can be hard to come by and prices reduce – so some trades will take anything they can get to keep their business afloat. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a recession is a great time to be a self-builder.

Single quotes

Contractors know some people only ask for one quote, typically from a local firm they trust. If they are particularly busy, these companies can offer a high quotation with impunity. Should it be accepted by the client, they make a lot of profit; or they might even sub-contract the job to another builder, taking a cut of the profit themselves. If their price is rejected, they will still have plenty of work to get on with elsewhere.

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National Association of Building Contractors - Find Accredited Builders Near You