When using contractors at a property, whether a handy-man for a small repair, a gardener for regular works, or a builder for bigger jobs, people will understandably tend to focus on more local tradesman and contractors. They’re often seen as good, reliable, and very good value, therefore surly there’s no other reason to look elsewhere.
This is often the view of the end-payers of the services, whether a property owner direct or tenants indirectly through a service charge. Just the sniff of a high cost from a large corporate contractor with no signs of actually successfully completing the job on site can soon cause a property manager to be in the firing line.
After all, prices do tend to be very good from local contractors who have smaller overhead costs and are happy to simply charge fair rates rather than exaggerated fees and costs on top. And if they’re under the VAT threshold and you have, say, a residential interest where VAT can’t be accounted for, then you can have an automatic 20% saving simply by having a local contractor who doesn’t need to charge VAT.
And of course it’s nice to get that good hands-on service as well. Not only being done with least fuss, but easily amenable to any issues such as emergency call outs, access arrangements, and liaising with other occupiers and interests.
From a property management perspective this of course makes sense, although in reality as you look at other issues such as health and safety compliance and the efficiency of a larger contract, you can soon begin looking at bigger contractors and lose the local touch and feel.
Therefore on the basis of wanting to keep local ones on board for whatever reason, here are 3 particular factors that you need to consider in order to make sure this is on the best possible basis.
When You Need Them
But before we launch into these local-contractor factors, it’s first worth seeing when you actually need them at all.
Often these are when you have quantity and quality issues at stake. So when you have big jobs on like a new roof, or if it’s going to take expertise and competence like a qualified electrician – these are when you need the right contractor.
This means that there can be genuine cases where you don’t need a contractor at all, as others could actually complete, for example the property or facilities manager, and any on-site help. This might be straight-forward monthly emergency light testing, or an easy handyman repair that with the correct procedures and documentation may not even need an external contractor.
Or if you do need or prefer one in these circumstances, then possibly a more cheap-and-cheerful local one
The 3 Saving Factors
Back to the question of using a local contractor, here are 3 factors to be aware of. These are all coming from the pro-local position, and genuinely wanting to use the best local ones where possible.
1. Stable Pricing
Make sure that the great local-price you first see is what sticks. Check of course that you’re using the same spec and assumptions with all types of contractors, but on the basis that local ones do tend to come in cheaper with lower overheads and possibly no VAT implications, you’re going to head localwards.
However make you don’t get any nasty surprises, for example emergency and call-out rates being misunderstood. Also, that they don’t have any immediate plans for, say, VAT registration if that is key, or such rapid growth that in their attempts to reap the bigger-company benefits they start creeping up prices.
Also, watch out for any extras suddenly costing, as they may not have the resources or tools for these and have to factor in hire or purchase costs.
And if they’re your local contractor already at the property then they may operate under the assumption that they will always get this work and not need to make the effort to sharpen the price pencil.
2. Clear Documentation
This is certainly an issue in this health-and-safety conscious world nowadays, to have all the right back-up paperwork not only for the actual job and spec, but regarding the way it is carried out with all the necessary insurance cover, accreditations schemes, and risk assessments.
Of course the biggest companies tend to cover this better, although saying that it can be just a smokescreen with fancy standard templates that actually show little thought into the actual tasks at hand.
So benefit from the expertise and often common-sense approach of a local contractor, and work with them to get this right. Maybe it means going through a risk assessment with them on site; it can all make sure the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.
3. Swift Service
A final point is always making sure they provide a good swift service with no hassle or delays. This should be standard for most cases anyway, particularly compared to the red-tape of the bigger contractor, but don’t always assume that this is the case.
An example is urgent gritting and snow clearance, where they may have trouble in reacting quick enough when the temperature drops or is bad enough to effect cover. In the meantime the well-oiled machine of the larger contractor can appear to save the day.
Keeping it Local
Using good local contractors at your property is a popular thing, and in a lot of cases preferable, particularly for the end users who want to see a good service at the best price.
Often this means looking at ones just around the corner, often more smaller tradesmen rather than larger outfits, but not necessarily. Either way, they’re favoured over the larger corporate ones who can be perceived as simply not delivering value for money.
However, make sure you go into things open-eyed. So even with the best local contractor in the world, just make sure it stays like that and you don’t have to resort to the often perceived ease of the bigger-boy ones.
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