I'm a property expert – here's how to spot a cowboy builder a mile away and avoid losing your life savings | The Sun

A PROPERTY expert has revealed how to spot a cowboy builder a mile away and avoid losing your life savings.

More and more people are becoming targets in the wake of rising costs for building materials as cash-strapped consumers look to save their pennies.

Cowboy builders are a homeowner's worst nightmare – but is there any reliable way to tell if a tradesman is dodgy?

Thankfully, Self Build and Renovations Ireland have come up with a handy guide when looking to find your next builder.

If your current builder is showing any of these red flags, it might be time to back out.

Here are some of the best tell-tale signs:

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Lack of customers & references

A well-established business will have a busy calendar, so be wary of anyone who says they are available first thing tomorrow.

If the availability looks too good to be true then it probably is.

Likewise, any professional and reputable builder can provide you with prior customers' names and some contact information.

A cowboy builder will likely either reject or be unwilling to do so.

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Low-cost quote

Anyone looking to do work will probably shop around for a builder's quotation to save money.

But the cheapest price may be a cowboy builder whose prices are based on how much they can cheat you.

Materials and costs should be explained, and a payment schedule should be created to either pay in instalments or upon completion of the work.

Extremely low-cost quotes and a request to be paid upfront mean you are probably dealing with a dodgy builder.

No license or address

The experts advise to always ask for credentials. Builders must register with national registrations or organisations to be legally recognised.

Look up your builder's registration and make sure they have it – if they don't, you probably dodged a bullet.

Similarly, a cowboy builder won't tell you his location as a strategy. If your builder cannot produce a landline or a fixed address, he may be hiding.

The lack of a company address is a major red flag and experts say you should not do business with them.

Cash payments

While many businesses do still use cash, a cowboy builder will frequently ask for cash payments for nefarious reasons.

This avoids paying taxes or claiming the money as income. It also stops you from keeping track of your payments which means you could be left in severe debt.

Experts insist that a transaction with a paper trail protects you in case of a poor or incomplete job and allows you to obtain a refund.

No clear deadline

Any builder worth his salt give you an estimate of how long your project will take from start to finish, outlining what will be achieved at each stage.

If your builder won't commit to a timeline or looks indecisive, then they either lacks experience or doesn't plan to finish the job.

Experts advise to get a timeline in writing, and even after hiring your builder, remember to review it to ensure he's on track.

Don't explain work

A good tradesman will speak with a customer about project objectives.

If you ask your builder about the project, the materials and how they will build and you don't get any clear answers – it's a bad sign.

You ma very likely be dealing with a cowboy builder who's using jargon to hide his credentials or bad intentions.

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Refuse to sign a contract

As building work often involves lots of money, materials and time, it makes sense any deal should start with a contract.

Payment methods, building plans, and deadlines must all be documented so you know your money is going to be well spent.

However, if your builder is unwilling to sign a contract, they are trying to protect themselves, not you.

Customers and trustworthy builders benefit from contracts. If your builder is terrified of contracts, then they are likely a cowboy builder.

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