The five-step plan to good homeowner relations

Mark Caulfield, founder of The Oakfields Group, shares advice on what questions you need to ask before taking on a domestic project...

With people spending more time at home than ever before, it perhaps comes as little surprise that almost two thirds of homeowners (65%) have been inspired to invest in property renovations, and a high proportion of these include garden upgrades such as conservatories and winter gardens. It’s great news for the industry at what is a worrying time for everyone, but does that mean you should accept every job that comes your way? Of course not.

Taking the time to ask your potential client enough questions at the outset helps determine whether or not it’s the right job for both of you, potentially avoiding a situation that costs you time and money. Expectations need to be clear amongst both parties from the beginning to make sure the relationship gets off to the best possible start. Here are five conversations you’ll want to have sooner rather than later.

Time expectations
It’s possibly the most important conversation to have, as it’s where so many disputes and frustrations stem from. Unrealistic expectations for completions should be a red flag. Learning from previous projects and being completely upfront about your expected timeframes simply alleviates unnecessary stress on both parts. You might not be able to predict accidents or delays, but planning for unforeseen circumstances will certainly go a long way towards a smoother delivery.

Talk money
The other important, and obvious, discussion is of course costs. You’ll likely have the conversation about budgets early on, but what’s really important is to thrash out some of the finer details to avoid any unpleasant surprises. For example, making it clear whether you’re providing an estimated or fixed-price quote is really important. It may be obvious to you when it’s what you do day-in day-out, but it might not be for your client, and if the project runs over budget you risk the relationship going sour. You should also be clear about whether you expect a deposit and how much.

Planning permissions
Depending on the level of work you’re carrying out, it’s important to establish early on whether your client has all the relevant planning permissions. At best this could delay the project and affect your time estimates, at worst, you could find yourself halfway through a project that should never have been started in the first place. The same goes for any other restrictions you might need to bear in mind, for conservation limitations, listed buildings or even just issues with drainage problems.

Working with other traders
Before work gets underway, it’s a good idea to be aware of any other contractors on the scene. This could impact timeframes and working hours, and also helps to establish where everyone’s responsibilities lie so that no toes get trodden on, and no area is left forgotten. If there aren’t any other contractors working on the project, ask if you will be expected to coordinate any related services, or whether you can help by suggesting any trusted traders.

Maintenance and aftercare
Taking a moment to look ahead at the bigger picture is really important when considering whether or not to take a job. While you may have moved on to a new job, if something goes wrong after completion, or your client has questions, your customer might not see it that way. Are you contactable? Will any future work or maintenance be free of charge? The answers to these questions could impact your client’s decision of who to go with, so it’s worth talking about if you think it could be an issue. The Oakfields Group is a long-established family-run business specialising in bespoke, out of the ordinary spaces for commercial and residential use, including conservatories, orangeries and winter gardens.


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