Planning some home improvements? Ten expert tips for spending wisely

Planning Some Home Improvements? Ten Expert Tips For Spending Wisely
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Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

Spring is a popular time for home improvements – but when you’re doing up a property, it can be all too easy to end up with regrets.

The pandemic has given many people the opportunity to get around to those jobs which they had previously been putting off, and with household savings at an all-time high, it's likely the rate of home improvements will remain high when restrictions allow for work to recommence and while homeowners have that extra bit of money to spend.


Paul Went, managing director for consumer at Shawbrook Bank, says: “You should be prepared for any unexpected costs, and avoid stretching your finances to the limit by not having set aside some money to cover all eventualities.

“If you’re thinking about borrowing money to help fund your project, then explore all of your options and don’t rush into any decisions. If you want to maximise the return on your investment, it’s important to try and minimise any unnecessary costs,” Went adds.

Want to ensure your money is being well spent before getting stuck into new projects? Shawbrook Bank teamed up with DIY expert Chris Rice to share the following tips…

1. Call your builder early


Rice says: “A mistake people often make is assuming a tradesperson will be available the next day, when some of us will be booked up a year in advance during peak seasons. It’s better to call as far in advance as you can to avoid missing out.”

2. A good builder is worth waiting for

“I’d say up to six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to wait for someone to come in [during] off-peak periods,” says Rice.

3. Recommendations are worth their weight in gold


“If you have friends or family who rely on someone, they’ll probably be your best bet,” adds Rice. “Before getting started with any new builder, it’s also worth trying to look at what they’ve done previously. I often let new clients know where they can go locally to get an idea of my work.”

4. Safety first


As the pandemic is still with us, you’ll need to factor this in when making any arrangements. Rice urges people to stay mindful of social distancing guidelines and public health guidance.

5. Make sure a cheap quote isn’t a ‘foot-in-the-door price’

If you’re tempted by a cheap quote, consider how much any “extras” may cost. Rice explains: “For jobs like kitchen re-fits in particular, it can be hard to give a truly accurate estimate. For example, you may uncover a whole load of rotten plaster that needs to be redone once the old units have been torn out.

“If a price seems too good to be true, ask your builder to provide a list of what it covers, and any added extras they think may come up. This acts as a good indicator of how honest the trades person is, and could avoid you getting into financial difficulty.”


6. Get several estimates

A general rule of thumb is to aim for three quotes per job, but Rice says getting as many as possible will increase the chances of finding someone you like.

With the pandemic in mind, you may want to consider doing some thorough research online first.

Rice says: “If you’re able to get a few quotes, you’ll get a much better sense of the sort of person you want to have working on your home and what a fair price looks like.”

7. Set a clear budget and plan for any potential overspend

Rice says: “Typically, I try to price for a ‘worst-case scenario’ and if it doesn’t come to that, I can take money off. It’s very unlikely that I have to say something is going to cost extra, and I know those are the words that any client hates to hear.”

8. Let the builder handle materials

Rice says many builders will get preferential rates on materials – so buying them yourself may not actually save money.

9. Communicate if you’re unhappy

If you let a contractor know you are not 100 per cent happy with the work, they may well go straight back and fix it to a high standard.

To help guard against rogue traders, Rice adds: “The best precaution anyone can take is ensuring they have a legitimate home or office address for someone, so that they are able to find them if something goes wrong. Be careful if someone is only offering a telephone number or email address.”

10.  Leave it to the experts

Rice adds: “Find someone you get along with and trust their expertise. Having that chemistry feeds into the whole client/builder relationship.”

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