Site visits, perhaps the most important stage in the garden office buying prcess
A key step in buying a garden office is inviting suppliers to visit you and conduct a site visit. Not all garden office suppliers offer them, but in our experience, they are an essential part of the buying process for both the customer and the supplier.
Why don't all suppliers offer site visits?
The argument is that their designs and building systems are so flexible that they don't need to see the site before they start work. As any problems can easily be overcome. Also, they argue that site visits are expensive and by not offering them they can pass on the saving to you the customer. Making their buildings cheaper to buy. Instead, they ask their customers to conduct a virtual survey.
Companies who offer virtual surveys rely heavily on you taking accurate measurements and informing them of any site issues and access obstacles. In many cases, you will be asked to make a video showing the passage from where a van will park to the intended site, for the company to see. These tasks place the onus on you should there be a problem during the installation phase.
The arguments for not conducting a physical site survey are persuasive, but we still feel there is only so much that can be communicated on the phone and by email, and sometimes face to face dealings are best.
Who conducts a site visit
Who actually visits you will vary from supplier to supplier, in some cases it will be the owner of the business, in other cases, it will be the designer of the offices. Some firms have dedicated sales reps, and others might send a qualified surveyor.
Whoever visits the procedure and aim of the site visit will be the same - to ascertain what you are expecting from a garden office. What size, design and features you are looking for, and to survey the site, particularly regarding the foundations and access.
The pattern a site visit takes
The site visit will start with a chat about what you are expecting from a garden office. The surveyor will probably want to look at the site early on in the conversation so they can make suggestions on orientation and the positioning of doors and windows and other elements of the design.
The surveyor may mark out the size of the office during the site survey
Some companies, particularly the modular specialists, have measuring sticks that they can lay out on the ground to clearly show you the space you can achieve.
The surveyor will no doubt bring examples of their previous builds to show you. They often will also bring material samples for you to choose from.
Once you have discussed the design elements, the surveyor will go back outside and measure the site, take photos and assess the ground conditions. Some surveyors will dig a small hole to see how deep down solid ground is.
The surveyor will also assess the access to the site. It's important that you identify any obstacles to avoid problems on the delivery day.
What happens next?
The next stage of the visit will depend on the type of garden office you are buying. If you are buying a fairly standard design with limited options, the supplier may well quote you for the building while they are with you. If you are happy with the quote, you could place the order there and then.
Some companies have configuration tools on their computers or tablets. This allows them to create and tweak the design of your office while they are sat with you. Other companies will use paper and pen to work out a floor plan and maybe do some sketches of what the building will look like.
The surveyor will go away with this information and design the building based on the conversation you have had, and the knowledge gained from surveying your site. They will put together a package for you which will include drawings, computer-generated images of the proposed design, along with a detailed specification and a quote.
Site visits are normally free
Site visits are generally free, but because most suppliers offer nationwide coverage, it is good practice to only request site visits from suppliers who are on your shortlist. We would recommend asking about three companies to visit. We hear that some buyers are requesting five plus visits, and this is making it difficult to decide which company to work with. There is a fine line between being an informed buyer and muddying the water.
As you can see a lot happens during a site visit. It is a valuable part of the buying process.