As property prices fall, more people are deciding not to move house, leaving many turning to builders to help them get more out of their current home. But as anyone who has ever had the builders in knows, it can be a traumatic experience. And that's if you are lucky enough to find one.
Barclays recently created a trade map of Britain showing how tradespeople are distributed around the country. The results showed that while Doncaster boasts one plumber for every 1,606 residents twice the national average if you live in Kensington and Chelsea and have a leaky tap, you'd better brush up on your DIY skills: there is just one plumber to every 6,137 residents.
So how do you find a reliable tradesperson? As with so much these days, the solution lies online, with the launch of Mybuilder. You simply post the details of the job you need doing whether it's getting your garden fence repaired or building an extension. The website then emails all the registered tradespeople in your area and they bid for your job. You get a range of quotes for the work and you can also see how other people have rated the builders, as the site operates an eBay-style rating and feedback system. Only time will tell if the website successfully separates the cowboys from the good builders, but in principle it seems a great idea.
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Meanwhile, you could try contacting your local council. Some operate an assured-trader scheme, where they list tradespeople approved by the local trading standards services. Failing that, "always try to get at least three quotes and chase up references", says Steve Playle of Trading Standards in The Times.
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