Avoid Pistols At Dawn: How To Spot A Cowboy Builder

Hint number 1: is he wearing a builder’s hat or a cowboy hat?

Hint number 1: is he wearing a builder’s hat or a cowboy hat?

The next time you are thinking about calling in the builders to carry out renovation work on your home, stop and think before you hire somebody. We have all heard about ‘cowboy builders,’ those disreputable conmen who are only interested in making a fast buck, rather than providing a quality service to their customer. You don’t want to get involved in a legal battle after hiring one of these rogues, so you need to know how to spot them before your house is laid to waste.

When you next speak to a builder, these are the signs that the person you are thinking about hiring is not necessarily the best person for the job.

– The builder wants cash up-front. This is a big no-no, as you should only pay for their work when you are satisfied they have completed the task to a satisfactory standard. Generally, this is on completion of the job, though some people do pay in stages. However, if the builder is insistent on receiving money before work begins, they are probably not to be trusted.

– The price for the builder’s services is suspiciously low. While they may offer you a tempting offer, it may also be reflective of their shoddy work ethic and standards. They may also surprise you with hidden or unexpected costs down the line to make up the shortfall. In life, if you want something of good quality, you need to pay for it. Therefore, beware of cheap quotes.

– There is no contract to sign. This is clearly a worry, as if you don’t have a legally bound contract between you, it will be difficult to challenge the builder in real estate disputes should anything go wrong with the building work. There needs to be a contract, with a written estimate and a rough time schedule for when the work will begin and end. Be sure to check the fine print too for any hidden fees. In short, if there’s no contract, tell the rogue where to go. Hint: nowhere near your house.

– The builder is unable to provide you with references. If this is the case, you have to ask yourself one question. What are they trying to hide? Most reputable builders will have references to back-up their word, showing you that they have the experience to get the job done. Of course, if they do have a reference, you may still want to double-check and contact the referee for extra peace of mind. Your alarm bells need to ring if the referee turns out to be the builder’s mother!

– You have heard negative feedback from other people. When hiring a builder, you should try and get recommendations from your friends and neighbours. If they warn you against a particular individual, heed their advice. When you shut their door, and their walls vibrate, you will have a good idea why!

– The builder has no registered business address. Who are they? Where have they come from? Your builder needs to have some contact details, including an email address, phone number, and place of operations. A website would be a boost of confidence too. If they are unable to provide any of this essential information, tell them to climb back under whatever rock they were unable to provide an address for!


We hope our advice helped. When you are next looking for your builder, look for somebody who is trusted. Speak to people you know, head online, and talk to local estate agents and property managers for advice. Otherwise, it’s pistols at dawn as you may have a legal battle on your hands if you hire a cowboy builder.

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