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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Anyone using an estimating program that they like? I'm currently using Xactimate and am happy with the results, but know there are other programs that are similar, like RS Means and BEST 7.5, to name a couple. So if there is one that does a good job of including the whole scope of the project, I'm all ears. And just a heads up, no, I don't want to use a spreadsheet.
 

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I see your a general contractor. What type of work do you mostly do that you need a program to help you do you quotes? I ask because I'm just curious. I know my numbers, where my subs will be, materials ect so I just use my head to write up quotes. If it's a real big job I can get quotes from subs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I do mostly residential interior remodeling/re-construction. Some of my work has been insurance claim work which initially made me try Xactimate. One thing I realized after using my spreadsheet method for a few years, then trying an estimating program, I was leaving a lot of money on the table for Misc. things that could get missed. I have done the route of getting information from Subs and it has backfired in the past. i.e.-Get a bid for drywall work, only to have the sub be too busy and you realized his bid was lower than the rest of the competition. So now, I can bid almost any item on a project, even if I have limited knowledge about it. Then I can go to the subs and tell them what the job will pay. This approach has worked out much better for me in the recent past.

So overall, if there is another program that works better/faster, I'm all ears. I just want to make sure I'm not leaving any money out and if there is a program that works better than Xactimate.
 

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Xactimate is ok... version 28 is a little better since BSC's are factored in...but the factored numbers are wrong (low) and in my area xactimate is 15-25% higher than local customary charges so you lose most if not all bids.

If you are looking for an estimating software that has bigger "per line item" cost than try Simbility or possibly Iscope.
 

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I tried Xactimate

These are the problems I had and you need to be careful taking my advice because I probably know just about nothing about how to charge insurance companies the right prices. I'm always willing to listen and learn. This may seem to wander into another area, but it is all related to whether or not Xactimate is good and how I charge for jobs vs. using Xactimate.

Last year, I downloaded the trial version for Xactimate and I could not figure out how the software worked. There were too many screens, too many entry fields, and I could not navigate the program.

The problem I found was the prices suggested were for the national average. For example the software suggests that plumbers charge something like $92 per hour (maybe not exact) and that may me a good price in another state, but not California. Then, you have the ability to add a higher percent and this makes be ask why I need the software in the first place. The same is true for the prices for materials.

Another problem I found was I could never find the exact product that I needed and at the same time there were too many products to choose from. I kept scrolling, scrolling, and could not find the exact furnace nor molding I wanted to install. So, eventually I chose something I was not sure about. Then, again, you have the opportunity to create your own product and if I can add (or create) fields for my own products then I don't see any reason why I need to use the software in the first place.

I do about 20 to 30 jobs for insurance companies every year and I get paid the amount I want by charging the hourly rate that I want. I keep a daily log and track the exact number of hours including travel time and I charge for the time it takes to procure materials. I charge fairly close to the exact price I pay for the materials, but I always tack on miscellaneous charges for $300 to $500 for gloves, Tyvek suits, rags, plastic, cleaners, etc.

I charge $42 to $52 per hour for general laborers, $75 per hour for carpentry, $95 per hour for plumbing and heating, and $52 to $75 per hour for mold and asbestos abatement.

While it doesn't sound like a lot of money the hourly charges add up fast and when I present the bills to the insurance companies I never have an agent argue about a bill.

A few weeks ago, a customer had a pinhole leak in a copper water pipe. The water leaked into a bedroom closet and damaged 60 square feet of drywall. We had to packout the contents of the bedroom and put them in a temporary storage container on the street. We did the asbestos abatement and mold remediation for the closet, replaced the drywall, painted the bedroom and closet, installed a new carpet, and the total was $13,000. The testing and clearance for the mold and asbestos cost me $1800. Materials, the storage container, carpet, and labor cost about $1800. The profit was about $9400 and that is not bad considering we charge fairly low hourly rates.

I think Xactimate has too many variables and a person needs to change the variables based on his personal opinions and preferences. This creates a huge difference in prices and a concern regarding whether or not the software has any merit. The software is probably good to give insurance adjusters a benchmark, but I don't think it is necessary for contractors to determine the price they want to charge. My opinion is; let the insurance adjusters use the program to get their benchmark and when your price is too high they will let you know, but when you break the job down by the hour and you are honest it is hard for the adjuster to argue and win.

I often bid against contractors who use Xactimate and I get copies of their Xactimate breakdowns. I always find that the Xactimate breakdowns have too many line items and this makes the scope of the work difficult to understand. The Xactimate breakdown will include small details like the number of hours to put plastic and tape on the floor for painting and then the cost to remove the tape. I think all these details are ridiculous to break down when you only need to write the total number of hours it takes to paint a bedroom, but I suppose the theory is to jack up the number of hours by itemizing every tiny detail.

I charge 6 to 8 hours for each coat of paint for one bedroom, or one bathroom because I include for every coat of paint the travel time, preparation, painting, and cleanup. So, the total cost to prime a bedroom and apply two coats of paint at $42 per hour is about $1,000 to $1,400, and I haven't seen where Xactimate can get me more money.

So, rather than using Xactimate, my breakdown will say:

Apply 1 coat of primer on bedroom walls and closet, cover and tape walls, floors, and windows, sand walls, procure materials, travel (transportation), and cleanup - 6 Hours - $252.

2 Gallons of PVC primer $80

Plastic, tape, rags, protective clothing, masks, cleaning materials, solvent cleaners, etc. $100

Add similar costs for 2nd and 3rd coats of paint.

The truth is, if I worked by myself and had to do the work I would not be happy with getting the $42 per hour, or the $1400 to paint a bedroom if it really took me 3 days and 3 separate trips to the job. The only way I can make good money is by piecing the job to my employees. So, rather than paying my employees an hourly rate I pay them $300 to $400 to paint the room plus the actual cost for the materials and I will make about 50% minus my overhead.
 

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Pcplumber,



Nice post! Actually a "good" estimator can get to your numbers but thats not the point. I always got to wonder why nearly everyone uses xactimate on insurance work when its common knowledge that xactimate was built/designed by and for the insurance companies...

My answer is:
1)Adjusters are to busy and/or lazy to do thier own scopes/estimates and want the contractor to do them on xactimate and supply the .esx file so they can put their own letterhead to it.

2) By using xactimate the can see all the individual line items and see where to cut reimburseables.

3) Sketch. Probably the hardest part to figure out and the most time consuming. The estimate figures automatically off sketch measurements. Easy for adjusters to cut your estimate for door and window openings since its on xactimate.

The T & M is the hardest for the adjuster to combat on pricing. The flipside (as an adjuster also) is most company adjusters will steer the work to the contractors who make the adjusters life easier...
 

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Gallden said:
Is this crazy to anyone else?
It is crazy but easily pays for itself when dealing with lots of insurance claims. Two claims I was dealing with this week I was able to raise the adjusters scope by 800.00 and 600.00 give or take. I know this is possible with doing line items but I have a lot less headache this way. Also getting over head and profit seems a lot easier when using xactimate.
 

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It is crazy but easily pays for itself when dealing with lots of insurance claims. Two claims I was dealing with this week I was able to raise the adjusters scope by 800.00 and 600.00 give or take. I know this is possible with doing line items but I have a lot less headache this way. Also getting over head and profit seems a lot easier when using xactimate.
Yeah we use it constantly for insurance work, I guess %95 of adjusters use this.
 

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I've used RoofEstimators.com $49 a estimate. They find things you probably won't. For those who come at the Adjuster with "20 square at [email protected]& a square =$contravt price" are the ones hurting this side of the industry and then turn to the homeowner and eat the deductible.

PC Plumber has it nailed down as it's been said tough for an Adjuster argue with real time and material accounting.

Independent line item estimates are also accepted if you are within 10-15% of the XM pricing.
 
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