BUILDERS are trawling through planning applications and targeting small-scale home projects as competition intensifies to secure every scrap of work remaining in construction.

Most house-builds are now one-off projects instead of larger housing estates or property schemes. Figures show that the number of homes completed in the first five months of 2010 was just 6,112, which compares to 12,162 in the same period of 2009 – considered a very slow year.

That level is set to be halved again in 2011, based on commencement notices filed with local authorities.

With a massive shift towards individual projects, developers are increasingly targeting homeowners, many of whom do not employ project managers.

One told the Sunday Tribune he received in the region of three dozen letters from builders offering quotes on plans for a modest extension to his south Dublin house.

Anthony McMahon said when he filed initial planning requests he received a handful of letters but these increased dramatically once planning was granted.

"One sent us a teabag in a plastic sleeve with their logo on it and they said 'we are sending you this because we won't be needing it'," he said – the promise of no tea breaks just one approach to attracting interest.

"One person I spoke to during the boom who was trying to do an extension said it was very hard to get someone in because extensions were the smaller jobs," he said.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) pointed out that, while there is nothing new in builders checking planning applications, there is now more interest in all kinds of jobs.

"The volume of construction activity has declined from in excess of €38bn to, in 2010, potentially as low as €10bn. This has a corresponding effect on competition for projects," said a spokesman.