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Tricks of the trade so that the price is right

When I was a child, my mother relished the task of teaching me the art of negotiation. She would stand at the entrance to whichever shop had the misfortune to sell her something faulty and send us in to ask for the manager and plead our cases.

At the time I was mortified, wondering what had I done to deserve such a mother. It's only now that I appreciate the grounding it gave me in getting value for my money, especially in the area of property, building and interiors. Here we have some tips and tricks to getting the right tradesman at the right price.

1 Get several quotes It's the leverage which you can use to get the price down. Always get at least three quotes and let each tradesman know that they have competition.

2 Be friendly If you come across as pushy, the tradesman may add on money to the quote in anticipation of having to work with a difficult person. So smile and try to have some fun. It will give you a better insight into their personality, which will help you decide if you could work together.

3 Do your research There's no point in negotiating over something when you're not sure of the different models/sizes/colours/finishes it comes in, or how much on average they should cost. Let the tradesman know that you know your stuff.

4 Get references Talk to people who have used the tradesman before and go to see their previous projects. You will see the quality of their work and find out what they were like to work with.

5 Pay as you go Never pay upfront. As work is completed pay in increments. There are times, however, when this is not possible, such if you're ordering something that requires a deposit. Always negotiate. Always leave a little owing at the end, until you're happy with the result.

6 Stand up for yourself I once had a number of plumbers quote for a job and one came in with a price three or four times the fair rate. I asked him if he thought I'd come floating down the Liffey in a bubble with two oars, one called 'stupid' and the other called 'gullible'? I'm still waiting for his reply . . .


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