14 Essential tips to help homeowners and builders with projects

Collaboration with builders is easier with billntrade.com

1. Some positive news for building and home development projects

Research is something we at billntrade.com enjoy doing. Research helps us understand what is happening in the trade space and helps us to share that with our customers and communities. One interesting piece of research we found was a survey by Nationwide UK. The study indicated that many homeowners were able to make savings during the Covid-19 period. This was a result of the safety measure put in place by governments and employers, to keep people safe, and prevent the spread. These measures were about prioritizing safety, starting with employees and their families. By introducing a regional and a national lockdown experiment, rapid control of the spread of Covid, was established. The goal was to significantly and at scale, reduce the risk and rate of infections, transmissions and evolution the C-19 virus, This saved countless lives, by enabling emergency services and the NHS to increase on patient care, while reducing competing needs for their services, in other areas, associated with a non-lockdown arrangement in place. This is where safety has also brought benefits in other areas beyond, being prepared for a return to business work environment when it was deemed less risky to do so. Working from home for non-essential staff, was a real game-changer both as Governments protected non-essential employees, but broader restrictions on movement, gatherings, households occupancy, bubbles, distance management and mask wearing; were also key to supporting the prevention of the mass spread of the Covid virus. This also meant, employees were still able to earn their salaries, supported by government and business efforts. This one the one hand reduced the stress and uncertainty over income and protection for homeowners, whilst also reducing costs associated with attending work, like travel, food and vehicle running costs. For employees, this not only took a significant amount of pressure off, commuting time and stress, but the benefited them in being able to spend time being more productive and less in stressed situations associated with commuting. Beyond that, with the closure of entertainment, restaurant and re-creation facilities, people have also saved money on discretionary spend, which has also contributed to overall monthly available disposable income. What does this all mean? Well; it depends on the household, but over 15 months, homeowners have managed to save, an average of 26% of their monthly income, by working from home and, unsurprisingly, through saving money by not spending on other leisure and recreational activities.

2. How much did households potentially save through lockdown

If the average combined household income is approximately £2,400 per month, then a 26% saving per month would equate to £624 per month. As lockdown duration was a minimum of 16 months, we could assume household were able to make a potential total saving of £9,984 per household, over this time frame. Wow! That is a lot of money, and homeowners, are noticing the accumulation of this type of saving. Beyond putting some aside for a rainy day, they are looking at opportunities to improve their homes, through collaborative value add build projects

3. New emerging trends in home development and how this means homeowners can save money

At billntrade.com our analysis shows that going forward, spend on refurbishment and development will make a come-back, over the long term, in a major way. Projects that homeowners have put off due to finances and affordability, have become an affordable realization, with the savings, which is really good news! Homeowners can now look at cost optimized projects, which they can take on, to make these home improvement goals a reality. Let's not forget, larger development, building and renovation type projects, will also make a strong recovery, Homeowners will also be looking to work with expert builders on projects to improve or develop their properties. Bottom line, there is a lot of work coming, which will be stretched over the long term, and this is good news for homeowners and builders. To meet this demand, builders will need to be on standby, and be ready to cope with the pent up demand for building, renovation, and reparation project work. We move to solve by enabling communication of projects or work via the platform, and builders can manage work in the simplest way. Using a technology platform like can grow potential revenue by > 70%, this is huge when compared to other channels which are not technology enabled. Still you may ask, how can builders and homeowners work on a project? Using technology to connect in the right way, will become increasingly important, and with billntrade.com presenting, organizing and delivering information to facilitate a collaboration project, will come to define how builders and customers work together on projects. Moreover, on-going maintenance and development projects, particularly in commercial, business, office, factory and real estate. Will require a degree of Covid proofing and supports specifications requiring this. The need to adapt offices, and work areas, has created a new market with adaption of existing and emerging technologies to solve these and other challenges in HSE and Occupational Health related modifications at work. Why is this important? This means, new health and safety directives, as well as guidelines, they will need to be drafted, assessed, validated and implemented, this means there may be a few more months where employees, can potentially save more money, during this process, ahead of returning to work en-masse.

4. Trends in residential builds

Working from home is largely going to continue until certain safety criteria is met in the return to office arrangements, and new health and safety provisions, directives are already being communicated to staff when they look to returning to an office based work environment. Without question, working from home is the safest approach employees can take to prevent them from catching new strains of Covid. In coastal towns like Southampton and Portsmouth, their has been a substantial increase in the requirement for builders to work on home renovation and development projects, driven by homeowners who own a second residence and are looking to spend more time there, for two primary reasons

a. To escape the health risks associated with working in the city.

b. To better appreciate the location of their second home.

This has meant that coastal towns have seen an increase in the number of development and renovation projects, along with an increase in both property ownership and buy to let activity. This increase could indicate the start of a trend for more people to own second properties in coastal cities and towns, both as an escape, but also, more importantly a way for people to avoid the risk of being exposed to the health risks associated with working in cities, which were exacerbated by covid, and contagion is found central cities and suburban areas, where the concentration of people in close proximity tends to be much higher.

5. Good news for builders

In cities like London, the increase in demand for builders has been driven by redevelopment, restoration and home improvement. That is not to say that the demand for new properties is down, but that existing builds also require work, and this is based on the existing labor force complying with covid spread prevention guidelines. In Sheffield and Birmingham, as well as a shortage of properties to meet demand, the government Is driving initiatives to create more commercial and financial opportunities in northern cities, this has garnered an increase in homeownership, as jobs migrate to, and; are created in these northern cities.

6. Collaboration on build projects is on the up

With homeowners having more disposable income, they may choose to spend money on high-ticket items in home development and home renovation, in the UK home development and renovation is a huge industry. A survey by Hiscox reported in the independent suggests the number of homeowners looking to home improvement stood at around 15% in 2019, up from 3% in 2013. Builders in Southampton are both advising and collaborating with homeowners both to help them reduce costs, but also allow homeowners to participate in different types of building projects in a more hands on manner. These projects range from property renovations and improvements, to installations, extensions and conversions. This can be both rewarding for the homeowner as the project sponsor and stakeholder, but also empower the homeowner to learn and develop new skills as well as help with gaining new experiences, that are memorable and exciting.

7. Being covid safe is how builders are building trust

Alvin a builder from Birmingham has noted that he has worked on several projects with customers, and whilst Covid has meant he has had to change some of his practices to be compliant with homeowners requests, and government guidelines, he has been more than happy to adapt, as this keeps both him and his customers safe, which everyone he thinks prefers. Some of the things he has had to adapt to include:

- Working on fewer projects that require interacting with large groups of people outside of his bubble

- Working with homeowners to ensure he understands if there are vulnerable people in the property who are shielding or isolating because of the higher risk Covid presents due to their age or health or because they have reason to believe they should be isolating due to ping on Track and Trace or government guidelines given their recent activity and where their is a reasonable assessment to do so

- Being vaccinated to protect himself from suffering the more severe effects and treatments required if he were to catch Covid

- Ensuring that he is wearing the right Preventative Protective Equipment (PPE) as required on each job, on a case by case basis this includes face masks and the use of hand sanitizers

- Taking lateral flow tests after a given project, if in his reasonable assessment he deems it necessary, and then determining

- Signing up to the government Track and Trace initiative as well

8. What should you consider with a build project

As with any project there may be more than one party that is involved, but the principle processes that all builds should cover include:

- Planning and Designing

- Permissions

- Building and Development

- Planning for the unexpected

- Paperwork

- Materials and equipment

Builder's Depots

On the topic of materials, builders have access to a strong network of builder's merchants and builder's depots. builder's merchants tend to be more specialist and typically cater for commercial or specific material requirement projects. But builder's depot's are equally essential for builders and home DIY enthusiasts, as they can offer a range of materials and solutions in one large central location. The fact that the advent of online booking, ordering and collections, means that efficiencies can be offered by builder's depots, such that they can also support bill of material, scheduled orders from builders for projects, and subsequently booking collections, or delivery slot, means more flexibility and productivity solutions for builders. Projects can be supported in a JIT (Just in Time) way as well as financially viable for the builder, to aid cash management. Materials are delivered in a JIY way are available when needed and not before, enabling better resource and Cash-flow management for businesses, these are typically smaller or independent business, which need to hold onto cash until it is needed to be called up. Builder's depots also have very experienced and well trained staff who support the builder trades, and as such the staff can work better and in a more agile way, with the different trades and their approaches.

On our platform billntrade.com when you create your quote, ensure your include some or all of these process points as to where you expect the expert to come in, this can be in separate quotes or a single quote, but effectively should ensure that when you go through the tendering process on the platform, by creating your project overview, with a clear structure, will ensure your trade builder, knows what area they will be responsible for from the outset, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

9. Planning and Designing

One of the first things to do is research what previous similar projects have cost and how much you need to spend, this will help establish both what you can afford and what you can expect for your budget. The next step is to secure the funding this could be in the form of your own savings, leveraged debt (loan), mortgage or consortium fund, a mortgage broker can help establish what kind of funding is appropriate, and how you can access it as well as the payment schedule. Depending on the complexity you may need to bring in an architect, and/or a designer, or it may well be that you can do the planning and designing yourself. In which case you can save time and money, and to some extent really communicating the idea or concept that you want to achieve. Use the Request for Quote response from billntrade.com to arrange a time for your builder to visit your property to determine what work needs to be done, (with the architect and designer) how long it will take, what it will cost, and potentially when and how you want to work. This should be documented on the RFQ, that the builder has printed off and brought with him, this ensures any topics discussed are summarized, costs are worked and pre=agreed, and any aspects and details agreed will make their way into the final draft of the contract, which the builder can complete and send back to you electronically on our platform.

10. Permissions

It is essential that you apply for planning permission via your LPA or Local Planning Authority, if you are either/or

(1) Building something new

(2) Making a change to the building or

(3) Changing the use of the building

If you do not seek planning permission and get permission for the work as per the application, you risk having all the changes undone by way of being served an enforcement notice. On billntrade.com once you are happy with the provisional quote that the builder has given you, you can electronically agree to proceeding with the activity of converting the RFQ to a formal quote, which is an agreement to proceed with the work. This will enable your builder to produce a clear documented Quote, with anything agreed in a structured and auditable way, your builder simply needs to fill in the details using the creation of quote screen, and at each stage they will be able to check the detailed evolution of the quote to completion to ensure that the collaboration agreement, translates into a formal document of work.

11. Building and Development

A lot of the work that is done to a high standard will add value to the property by way of the new build. This will typically add more value than the cost of the work all in, to the value of the property, therefore, this is a big incentive to look to a build solution. The build should be consistent with the permission received from the LPA and reflect the material realisation of the plans submitted. Using billntrade.com your builder should be able to create a clear quote for work, based on the your customer requirements is a good place to start.

12. Planning for the unexpected

As with any project, there will be unforeseen and unplanned things that arise. One of the best ways to deal with this is the need to have a contingency budget of at least 10% of the original project budget, in the event that the unforeseen arises and requires that this money be reserved, for allocation to this eventuality, this should not be the result of a change in scope, but in the event that anything comes up that the original budget did not cover for, but is essential to ensuring the project success. This is typically something that comes up when the project has started, and is a roadblock to ensuring the continuation of the project. Additionally, always get the right insurance for the development or renovation. Ensure the policy complies with your development or renovation else it could be left null and void, if the policy was ever to be called upon. Ensure the builders are compliant with health and safety standards on site, which include things like tidying up, using scaffolding, dust protection etc.

13. Paperwork

This is probably one of the more important aspects of the project and includes having records of quotes, invoices, work completed, costs, notes taken etc. This will help with any discussions or disputes that may arise in the undertaking of the work or any issues that result before, during or after the assignment or project.

14. Build projects work better in the summer months

Over 80% of builders surveyed prefer to work in the summer months, on outdoor projects like extensions and conversions. There is a big incentive for builders to work in better weather and this helps both with progress of the project, project attendance, but also, commitment to delivery on time, all this ahead of the change in the weather.

We hope these tips can help you with your projects and help you on your way to a successful build. You may also want to read our blogs, How to find a builder which guides you through finding a builder and Hire a builder which helps you understand how to hire a builder with technology, but also in the traditional way.


About the Author

Tom Cakebread
Hi, I'm Tom I enjoy writing about the trades, and supporting tradespeople and customers where I can as an independent consultant.