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Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?

 
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Old 06-05-2013, 01:46 PM   #1
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Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


I started this thread under the "Poll" Do you charge for estimates but a new thread would better suite it as that thread is older and has many posts before it. Here goes...

Yes, I do believe we should charge for estimates. I just received this email requesting a quote. Does he seriously think we will do all this for free? An "ESTIMATE" is free, not as shopping list. They didn't even provide their phone number.

How would you respond?

"Hello,

We would like to reno our condo (1300 sqft). Since we will be getting possession of the condo on the 21st, I am unable to give you precise measurements of the cabinets and areas. However, I have some photos which will hopefully give you an idea of the work involved.

We have a list of things we would like to have done.

Task Area
Replace tiles with laminate Foyer
Change main door locks Foyer
Paint walls Foyer
Adjust entrance door level / frame Foyer
Paint walls Laundry
Change laundry piping to braided piping Laundry
Kitchen Cabinet refinishing / re-glazing Kitchen
Install new hardware (door handles, slow close hinges and sliders) Kitchen
Update appliances (fridge, dishwasher and range) Kitchen
Install over the hood microwave Kitchen
Install backsplash / reglaze Kitchen
Replace countertops (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Kitchen
Replace garburator Kitchen
Replace sink with zero degree double SS sinks Kitchen
Replace undersink plumbing fittings Kitchen
Replace Flooring with Porcelain tiles Kitchen
Replace light fixtures Kitchen
Install GFCI Kitchen
Paint walls Kitchen
Reglazing tub + surround Main bath
Reglaze Wall tiles Main bath
Paint walls Main bath
Refinish / reglaze vanity Main bath
Install counter tops (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Main bath
Install sink + faucets Main bath
Install toilet Main bath
Reglaze floor tiles Main bath
Install GFCI Main bath
Replace light fittings Main bath
Reglazing tub + surround Guest bath
Reglaze Wall tiles Guest bath
Paint walls Guest bath
Refinish / reglaze vanity Guest bath
Install counter top (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Guest bath
Install sink + faucets Guest bath
Install toilet Guest bath
Reglaze floor tiles Guest bath
Replace light fittings Guest bath
Install GFCI Guest bath
Paint walls Living room
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Living room
Replace light fittings Living room
Replace fireplace tiles Living room
Replace electrical fixtures (sockets, dimmer switch) Living room
Remove fireplace mantle and replace with brick tiles for the entire wall Living room
Replace fireplace glass Living room
Replace blinds Living room
Paint walls Den
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Den
Replace blinds Den
Adjust door / door frame Den
Paint walls Master bedroom + closet
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Master bedroom + closet
Replace blinds Master bedroom
Paint walls Bedroom
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Bedroom
Replace blinds Bedroom
Replace door and adjust Bedroom
Replace electrical socket with Outdoor outlet Decks

Please provide estimates of the cost and time that would be required for each of these projects. Also quote with and without materials. Does the cost include removing and disposing the old fixtures/cabinets etc?

Do let me know if you have any questions that I can help with."
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Old 06-05-2013, 01:50 PM   #2
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Here's the old thread
http://www.contractortalk.com/f11/po...2/#post1783916

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Old 06-05-2013, 02:12 PM   #3
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


So not only did you bring back a thread from 2007, you now created a new thread based on a topic that has been covered many times. That's not how to make friends around here
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Old 06-05-2013, 02:22 PM   #4
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by schaefercs View Post
So not only did you bring back a thread from 2007, you now created a new thread based on a topic that has been covered many times. That's not how to make friends around here
Yikes, when I searched estimates, the old thread was the first one to show up and I didn't even notice the date.
Then someone suggested I start another thread.
Should I try and find another existing thread and delete this one?
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Old 06-05-2013, 02:24 PM   #5
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Okay, I've had my hands slapped. As such, I'll move this post to this "existing" thread...
http://www.contractortalk.com/f16/th...amount-132310/

Please "DO NOT" respond here (to my posts anyway).
THANK YOU

Last edited by doby; 06-05-2013 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 06-06-2013, 04:47 AM   #6
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by schaefercs View Post
So not only did you bring back a thread from 2007, you now created a new thread based on a topic that has been covered many times. That's not how to make friends around here
Every topic under the sun has been discussed around here over and over......

get over it and if you see a thread title you don't like, don't click on it.
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:52 AM   #7
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


If your copying the email exactly to us, my big red flag is: we don't take possession until 21st.

I deal with plenty of these situations and I am always able to access the home or condo to take measurements and what not no matter who owns the place.

On top of that 70% of these types of jobs never happen or I don't get, mostly because of price or the homeowner is over their head with debt and can't throw down another 10 to 20k.

I just got burned by a potential customer, bailed when I sent the contract, after wasting tons of time and already paying some building dept fees etc, plus subs wasted time.

Almost have a pre contractual agreement worked out with the lawyer. That way if I think a customer is going to be difficult or waste my time after the initial free estimate. In my case the scope of work is really never known fully at the time of the initial proposal and discussions. Remodeling. I give them a ballpark price, what you listed could take me 3-6 hrs to price out. ROUGH PRICE. after that if they like me, they like my price, then make them sign a contract stating you will get paid for all your time and prep work to make the job happen or it will be rebated into the final bid. if they balk walk. If you do the prep and they back out, you get paid, might not be easy, but you will eventually.
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Old 06-06-2013, 12:26 PM   #8
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by fast fred View Post
Almost have a pre contractual agreement worked out with the lawyer. That way if I think a customer is going to be difficult or waste my time after the initial free estimate. In my case the scope of work is really never known fully at the time of the initial proposal and discussions. Remodeling. I give them a ballpark price, what you listed could take me 3-6 hrs to price out. ROUGH PRICE. after that if they like me, they like my price, then make them sign a contract stating you will get paid for all your time and prep work to make the job happen or it will be rebated into the final bid. if they balk walk. If you do the prep and they back out, you get paid, might not be easy, but you will eventually.
And THIS is exactly why you charge for estimates. And charge again (and MORE) for a full on breakdown and exact price. Roll all of it (or some of it) into the contract price if you want to, but then you don't need a "pre-contractual agreement" or any other such nonsense...you got paid up front for the time you were about to spend getting them a price.

If they don't like you, for whatever reason...you got paid.

Charging for estimate will eliminate 95% of people that "are looking to do some work someday (someday??? ) and just wanted an idea of what we were up against as far as pricing" too.

If people can't understand that it costs money to generate prices, even 'ballpark prices', then they can just F off...and you can move on to someone who's worth your time.
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Old 06-06-2013, 01:41 PM   #9
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


There should not be any need to charge for a basic bid if you..
1.) qualify your customers
2.) have a basic handle on your overhead costs for the year and your expected sales volume. I look at time spent estimating as an overhead expense that gets spread over all the jobs we actually complete. It is part of marketing our business so we treat it as such.

Now, for detailed cost breakdowns, we tend not to. Occasionally we are asked, and sometimes we have said yes, but generally those who ask are either tire kicking or hardcore price shopping. And if drawings are not available and we would have to produce them, then of course that is design, and gets charged.

As for the OP's email from home-owner-to-be, I would wipe the tears from my eyes after laughing my frickin butt off, and send them a quick little reply to the effect of

"Thank you for the detailed list of home improvements that you wish to have done. Please send me a detailed specification list with part numbers, colors, etc. of each of the items (tiles, plugs, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, blinds, etc.) you would like installed, and a detailed description, with measurements, of each of the assemblies that need removal or adjustment, along with architectural drawings showing the location of existing items to be removed, replaced, or installed. For tile and wall surfaces I will need the total square footage of tile needs, broken down by tile type, and a thorough evaluation and report detailing the condition of the walls and sub-floor beneath the existing tiles. I will also need a detailed report of the condition of the existing painted wall surfaces, the square footage of paint needed, how much trim there is and what size, whether there is existing lead paint, and the level of finish you will be desiring on the walls. Once I have the list and the drawings I would be happy to meet with you at no charge to go over pricing."
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Old 06-06-2013, 01:50 PM   #10
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Abbott View Post
As for the OP's email from home-owner-to-be, I would wipe the tears from my eyes after laughing my frickin butt off, and send them a quick little reply to the effect of

"Thank you for the detailed list of home improvements that you wish to have done. Please send me a detailed specification list with part numbers, colors, etc. of each of the items (tiles, plugs, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, blinds, etc.) you would like installed, and a detailed description, with measurements, of each of the assemblies that need removal or adjustment, along with architectural drawings showing the location of existing items to be removed, replaced, or installed. For tile and wall surfaces I will need the total square footage of tile needs, broken down by tile type, and a thorough evaluation and report detailing the condition of the walls and sub-floor beneath the existing tiles. I will also need a detailed report of the condition of the existing painted wall surfaces, the square footage of paint needed, how much trim there is and what size, whether there is existing lead paint, and the level of finish you will be desiring on the walls. Once I have the list and the drawings I would be happy to meet with you at no charge to go over pricing."



With my luck, though...they'd send me all that shizz and then I'd have to tell 'em the truth.... "I lied...this is STILL going to cost you"

OTOH, if they're willing to pay the RIGHT people to generate all those reports (with the exception of the "condition inside the walls" report, which I realize is impossible ), then I may just play along anyway....just for my own entertainment.
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Old 06-06-2013, 02:06 PM   #11
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Oh how I wish I saw your post before I responded. It's a great one to keep on file for sure.
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Old 06-06-2013, 07:37 PM   #12
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Abbott View Post

"Thank you for the detailed list of home improvements that you wish to have done. Please send me a detailed specification list with part numbers, colors, etc. of each of the items (tiles, plugs, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, blinds, etc.) you would like installed, and a detailed description, with measurements, of each of the assemblies that need removal or adjustment, along with architectural drawings showing the location of existing items to be removed, replaced, or installed. For tile and wall surfaces I will need the total square footage of tile needs, broken down by tile type, and a thorough evaluation and report detailing the condition of the walls and sub-floor beneath the existing tiles. I will also need a detailed report of the condition of the existing painted wall surfaces, the square footage of paint needed, how much trim there is and what size, whether there is existing lead paint, and the level of finish you will be desiring on the walls. Once I have the list and the drawings I would be happy to meet with you at no charge to go over pricing."

Man that is a great one!!


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Old 06-07-2013, 05:41 PM   #13
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Abbott View Post

"Thank you for the detailed list of home improvements that you wish to have done. Please send me a detailed specification list with part numbers, colors, etc. of each of the items (tiles, plugs, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, blinds, etc.) you would like installed, and a detailed description, with measurements, of each of the assemblies that need removal or adjustment, along with architectural drawings showing the location of existing items to be removed, replaced, or installed. For tile and wall surfaces I will need the total square footage of tile needs, broken down by tile type, and a thorough evaluation and report detailing the condition of the walls and sub-floor beneath the existing tiles. I will also need a detailed report of the condition of the existing painted wall surfaces, the square footage of paint needed, how much trim there is and what size, whether there is existing lead paint, and the level of finish you will be desiring on the walls. Once I have the list and the drawings I would be happy to meet with you at no charge to go over pricing."
"Or if you prefer I can do this for you for a FEE!"
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:34 PM   #14
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Has anybody ever really got paid for estimates?
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:35 AM   #15
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


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Has anybody ever really got paid for estimates?
good question

for example: I looked at a very basic deck project, the homeowner has drawn a picture spec'd it out and so forth. (had to do the drawing for HOA approval)

BUT there is no engineering so how do I know what to bid on? I know what I want to do I know how my engineer works BUT

because no one charges for estimates where I live, I'll get told to get lost if I request money to do an estimate.

So between a site visit, 20 min. an estimate which I'll do in one hour, phone calls, and emails, meeting with my supplier another half hour.

I'll send my proposal off with a disclaimer that states: I don't really know what this is going to cost until it's engineered, my engineer costs X amount of dollars included in the bid and I reserve the right to change my proposal number based on his spec's

I'll provide the customer with one number labor and materials and then we're done. if he wants to move forward I will, but if he starts being difficult I walk. I don't price out a door, I don't price out decking, I don't price out labor for them.

This project is guessed at 7-8 k. Pretty basic. BUT if the project is a whole house remodel or addition it does make sense to ask for money to provide an estimate. You can easily put 20-30 hrs into that type of estimate.

BUT again, in my area I can't do that because every hack is climbing over one another to do a free estimate. As said before you need to prescreen your client or get them to sign a design development contract

I'll email one on monday to a prospective client because I know they are going to be difficult, BUT if I can make it worth my time and money, I'm charging him a premium, I'll suck up the difficult factor and get paid for the 10 hrs I'll put into the project to provide him a price.
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Old 06-08-2013, 06:04 PM   #16
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


I think I'd respond with " I drank an entire cup of coffee while reading your email and now I need a warmup. Always begin with humour. They must have some money or they would have asked for so much stuff,,,, I'd say I am using the list as a guideline to what you are looking for but cannot offer more than three choices , what is your proposed budget ? Who knows maybe they've been blown off many times because they haven't a clue as how to go about it. They definitely messed it up but they shouldn't need to take lessons and yet it does seem fishy.
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Old 06-09-2013, 07:04 AM   #17
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Re: Charging For Estimates? When Should You And How Much Is Reasonable?


Quote:
Originally Posted by knucklehead View Post
Has anybody ever really got paid for estimates?
Kucklehead,- that is a good question.

I can tell you that we routinely get paid for an estimate-most recently we got paid for an estimate on friday 6-7-13.

It is not as straight forward as it sounds, however.

If a contractor is asked to quote a vinyl siding job, or a simple deck build, or replacement windows-something like that?--- well it's going to be tough to charge for an estimate because in practice there is an UN-limited supply of competitors who don't charge for estimates.

when we were involved in asphalt shingles we were not consistently able to charge for estimates.

But if you have a specialty- one that is in fairly short supply-one that requires something out of the ordinary--- you can actually charge.....

We specialize in Slate & Tile roofing projects-almost entirely repairs------------- and we effectively market for those.

Let's use last fridays paid estimate as an example.
First- we don't call it an estimate-we call it a "roof inspection" or a "Roof survey"

The customer called us earlier in May with a problem on a tile roof. The customer had received one of our post cards- checked out our web site-and then called us.
From our initial phone conversation I knew the area the customer was calling us to--- so I knew it was a very affluent household AND I knew they had what for them was a challenging problem.

We do the initial visit for free- but any actual work, anything of value such as research, writing proposals, detailed inspections etc.-- gets charged.

the reason for the initial visit was that some rake pieces on the tile roof had fallen off and broken and the customer also wanted us to check out the roof and make suggestions.

We do quite a bit of work with what is called "obsolete tile"- which is ceramic roof tile that is out of production- typically it hasn't been made since the early 1930's. In this area tile roofs are rare- but when you DO find them they are almost always "obsolete"- this particular customers roof was a modern cement tile-which in this area makes it more "rare" than a 80 year old obsolete tile.

the way the deal evolved was------- we had the rake pieces made by hand by the original roof tile company,out of state-had the rake pieces shipped to us-- charged for the rake pieces( 10 hand made pieces)-charged for the detailed roof inspection $450 installed 3 rake pieces and left 7 extra rake pieces--------- the roof inspection generated sales of an additional $4319( that project to be done in August) and at the time of the August project we are to work out pricing for replacing 2 smaller custom made skylights and one absolutely huge skylight which will almost certainley require a crane for installation and a rooftop consultation with Velux rep to have the unit manufactured and sized correctly.

the skylight project will certainley be many multiples of the August project.

so that is how WE get paid for estimates- the estimate is a buy-product of the detailed inspection which we charge for.

not everyone will pay-we still get calls from people who want us to "inspect" their roof for free and then replace 2 broken slates for $25 each. those people are pretty easy to screen out over the phone- you get a feel for them and when we mention we charge a $110 service call and $45/slate replaced with a 10 slate minimum that weeds them out quick.

We do a lot of slate and tile work- but it is much easier to charge for tile estimates because there are very few local contractors who specialize in that and virtually none who actually stock obsolete pieces.( We get calls from about a 5 hour radius from people wanting to buy our tile- but we really don't sell our stock unless it is for OUR installations)

supply and demand.

Very best wishes,
stephen

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