Actually Getting Quotes
Now you have a list of builders and tradesmen you need to get them around to inspect the property, and then to give you quotes (known as ‘devis’).
This is often in itself a tricky process. You will often need to ring someone two or three times before they will come to your property to look around. Try flattery – “Madame Vernier suggested I call you because she was so pleased with the work you did for her” or persistence.
After they have been to inspect your property, and taken a copy of your plans away, it will usually be at least two or three weeks before an estimate arrives. And this will be only after you have phoned once or twice to ask how long it will be and mentioned again how keen you are for them to do the work. It takes a long time to prepare a complicated devis and it isn’t always top of the priority list for someone who already has a six month backlog of work.
The good news is that this is where your problems with French workers will usually finish. After you have accepted a quote, the very large majority of workers will do a good quality job (they have served a long apprenticeship), more or less at the time promised, and will work late in the evening if it is necessary, to get the job finished on time.
It is necessary that you go through the quote very carefully. You need to understand all the items and terms listed, if you are to be sure that the work quoted for is the same as the work you want doing. This is not always straightforward – the quote from your mason will not say ‘build house – 150,000 euros. It will be a multiple-page document specifying everything from doorway sizes to the colour of the stonework. Or the plumber might charge a reasonable price for the plumbing work, but be proposing very expensive taps and fittings. This is the best stage to resolve any misunderstandings, not when the roofer is halfway through laying the wrong colour tiles eight months later.
Similarly, if you think something has been omitted from the quote you will need to discuss it at this stage. Do not assume that it forms part of one of the other ‘hard to understand because they are technical’ items on the quote. If you ask why pouring a concrete floor has been left off the quote, and it is already on there, the tradesmen is not going to think ‘Ah good, I can add it on again and make a fortune’ he will explain to you where on the devis it appears. And if it isn’t on there, it probably isn’t going to happen, and if it does you will still be charged for it.
Now you have received the quotes – and you should allow at least six to eight weeks for this process – and checked that you will be able to afford to pay all the bills when they arrive, and that you have a clear understanding of the work specified, you are now able to accept the quote.