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#12049 07/30/02 05:04 PM
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 9
Don W Offline OP
Junior Member
How many of you charge for estimates and what is a average charge?

My problem is that people seem to be taking advantage of free estimates. The last job estimate I was called for was a city inspection on a rental house which turned up the outside outlets were not GFCI. The owner was told that they needed a permit to change the outlets to GFCI by the city. I looked at the job and the meet with the inspector. We both agreed that this was considered maintenance and didn't require a permit. I called the home owner and informed them of what the inspector said. They were happy with this and we set a work date. The next day I get a message "Since we didn't need a permit my brother took care of the work, so we don't need you, but thanks any way." Now what about the time I lost on another job that I pulled off to meet these people in the middle of the day? Do they think we all just sit around and twiddle our thumbs?
Thanks for any advice.

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,382
Likes: 7
Estimates are a part of doing business.
Our policy is estimates are "free"
We do primarilly commercial work, and don't get a lot of residential estimate calls.
"How much to install a paddle fan"?

The situation you referenced was a bummer alright; you did the leg work, and were 100% upfront in stating "no permit was needed"

I probably would have told the "customer", we would handle it as a service call, with the hourly rates, materials costs, and any permit fees billed at completion.


Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
We don't charge for estimates, but we do try minimize situations where it can be a waste of time. I estimate anything I can over the phone and if it's for outlets not working I tell the people how to find and reset all the GFI's on the phone. (I can't bring myself to charge $75 to push a button). If the estimate is for something not working I tell them that if I can fix the problem while troubleshooting, I will charge $75 plus materials. Many times I give a rough estimate on the phone and tell them I will give the an exact price when we show up to do the work(always works, but I'm fair also).

I have a few competitors that charge $29 -$59 for an estimate, but their prices are so high they rarely get the work, so I guess they just go around all day collecting $29 and occasionally screwing some old lady by charging $450 to install a ceiling fan(true story).

Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 163
estimates? I've got a sweet scenario for you. In Calif. (due to the extreme screwing homeowners got from contractors after the Berkeley Hills fire a few years ago)there is now a Home Improvement Contractor certificate (HIC) required (through the state contractor board) for EVERY contractor doing ANY dwelling work. This mandates (for work $500 and over [this includes materials]) the contract must be in writing, there are about 5-6 pages of disclosures required to be explained to the customer and signed (this can take well over 2 hrs.). The contract must include a FULL detailed description of the work, including diagrams, part numbers, color codes (get my drift?...makes it real easy for the next contractor to save a lot of time by using all your leg-work)...THEN, the homeowner has to be given 3 days opportunity to change his mind BEFORE you can start any work! This now requires a minimum of 3 trips out to the residence (1 to inspect, 2nd to delivery quote and disclosures, and third trip before work begins) estimates??? not any more! This law has just added a minimum of 4 hrs. labor for a simple job....of course this only applies to those contractors who comply with the law.....example: Guy calls up and says "I just bought a new $500 Casa Blanca ceiling fan...I already have the fan rated box in the ceiling from a previous much will you charge me?"...Bingo! HIC contract required.....oh...did I mention - part of the disclosures include information on how best to find another contractor to do the work!

Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 122
I am with Electric Eagle on this one I always try and walk them through the GFI's and making sure there gentrans switches are in the proper position. I think estimates are a necessary evil. It is always a gamble. I have never charged for an estimate or worked for any one who has. You always wonder if you will get the job. Sometimes you loose 30 minutes sometimes more. It's just a cost of doing business. I have heard of some contractors applying the cost of the estimate to the job if they get it. Maybe thats an option.

Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
I always give free estimates, but I like to go out and actually see the place first.

Trying to estimate a job without visiting can be very difficult here with our stock of very old houses and their store of potential problems.

Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 466
Likes: 1
I learned this at a seminar last year. It has helped me save on the wheel spinning of several hours on estimates on jobs that never happen.

The speaker basically stated " Find out how serious they are be asking the following questions - What is your budget? When is your timeframe? Do you wnat to work for these people or are they already a pain? Will they let you do your job or are they going to tell you what to do?

If they want a several thousand dollar job for a couple of hundred or you can't fit it in your schedule, you have only lost 15 minutes instead of several hours. This has helped me cut down on the ?free? paperwork.

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