Your project is making real progress, by now you will probably have spent a considerable amount of time, and resources, working with your professional team on the design of your home. It is time to select the most important party to your project, even more, important than your architect, (though they hate to admit it) the contractor.

Your architect will have had plenty of experience dealing with contractors so they can lead and advise you during the selection process. Ultimately, however, the decision is in your hands. A right or a wrong choice could mean a difference between success and potentially a real flop. It is a decision that should not be taken lightly. So what should you expect?

What is a tender?
In construction/architectural terms, tendering is the process by which a client or architect selects a builder for a certain project.

When will it take place?
Traditionally tenders are completed after you receive the requisite approvals. You gained planning approval, and now the architect can prepare all the information for contractors for pricing. The time it takes to prepare tender packages will depend on the complexity of your build. You should also allow reasonable time for contractors to price the work as accurately as possible which will save both time and money at a later stage.

Why should you tender the work and not just choose a contractor that was recommended to you?
Your friend has completed a loft conversion and suggested their builder to you for your house refurbishment. Despite the glowing recommendation, they may not be best for your project. How do you know that you are getting the best value for money, the best quality for your budget or that they have the relevant experience for your project? It is always recommended to receive and compare prices from different companies. By all means, include your friend’s contractor in the tender, but have them compete with others for the contract.

How does the tender process work?
In a nutshell, an invitation to tender will be sent to a selected list of prospective contractors. You would want to be able to compare prices and make an educated decision, and it is a regular occurrence that one or even two contractors fail to return a price. Therefore, while you do not want to have too many contractors in the mix, it is a good idea to have four tendering contractors.
During the pricing period, nominated contractors should be invited to visit the existing property, understand the context and meet with the client. The architect is available to answer questions, making all parties aware of the answers to ensure the process is fair and unbiased. A return date is specified, and tenders are not opened until after this deadline.
After receiving tenders, your architect will collate all the information and query any prices or inconsistencies identified, and a handy report will then be prepared for the clients to compare. It is encouraged to meet and view the contractor’s works in progress, or a recently completed project, and assess the quality of work, and at this point, it is down to price, time, and quality and in many cases gut reaction.

What if tenders come back over budget?
Even though the tender may come back over your expected budget, it is important to remember that this is not yet a contract and should be viewed as a “shopping basket” whereby you can still adjust the contents until you are happy with the outcome. That being said, contractors are often open to negotiations and may allow a client some discount on the works.
Once the contractor is selected, the cost and duration of the build are agreed, and the building contract is signed, it is time to proceed to construction.