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#5843 12/10/01 08:30 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 37
stan Offline OP
Well i posted something on here the other day (BILLING ) thanks for some of your comments well appreciated.
But come on some of u other guys and gals this is a site to help each other out with whatever and i couldnt name the times when ive posted and havent recieved any responces or maybe one or two which i always appreciate. But lets all stop this crap i do it myself .When someone takes the time to post we should all help out no matter how stupid or small it sounds to us. Because guess what it was inportant to them to post so lets try to help out no matter what.

Im a new contractor and this estimating thing is killing me I tried to price a job today and I thought the GC was going to pass out but i tried a diffrent way of EST this time. HE may of just been a cheap @@@@ but ill never know.

#5844 12/10/01 10:15 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 449
Stan, Estimating in residential new construction is like walking a kitestring over hell. You're always either too cheap or too high and you don't know which from one job to the next. I learned how to price my jobs the hard way. Starting out, I agonized over every job I didn't get and kicked myself for working so cheap on the ones I did get. To make any money I had to go code minimum and run my wife all over buying the cheapest materials available. I finally decided there were some things I just wouldn't do, like wire to bare-bones code, and I set a price I just wouldn't go below. I wasn't charging top dollar but I wasn't low-balling either. It wasn't long before I was busier than I wanted to be. The cut-rate guys who were getting the low bid started thinning out until they have all but disappeared. Cutting corners and doing sloppy, sometimes non-compliant work, and not being around to finish punch lists finally caught up with them.
I charged $30.00 an opening plus $950.00 for a 200A service(add $250.00 if disconnect is required)and supplied no light fixtures except recessed light housings and bath fan/lights @ cost plus 15%. I used Leviton BR-15 backwired recepts. and comm grade switches. I only install copper buss panels. Extra home runs pulled to the crawl and attic for the inevitable add-ons at the end of the job. Plenty of lights in the attic for the insulating crew and in the crawl for the HVAC and plumbing guys got me lots of referrals to other GCs from the other tradesmen. It didn't take GCs long to find out that I may cost a little more but the quality was worth it. Not to mention that I could be counted on to be there when I said and be finished when I was supposed to be.
In short, figure a price you can make money with and stick to it. You don't want the jobs if you'll only be paying yourself minimum wage. You'll find yourself either loosing money or cutting corners or both.

#5845 12/11/01 02:12 PM
Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 328
You're right, this is a great forum to get info and help in and it can be frustrating when no response is forthcoming. OTOH, I'm a poster from the fringe and might only ask more questions than giving answers or I might give a less-qualified response since I'm not an electrician or a contractor.

What I might be able to add of value, is the consumer's perspective and a marketing tip here and there (that's one of my areas of interest). I'm also adding the perspective of a customer who knows the value of good contractors, understands the costs involved, and is involved in the QA process. (I used to be a dispatcher for 8-12 telecomm. techs and then an analyst for contracts and project controls)

In that light, I would agree with Fred. Do the best you can with realistic estimates, ensure the quality of the install is consistently high, do a few extras for the buyer, the GC, and the craftsmen (& women) who may follow behind you like the lighting they'll need near their equipment, and make time commitments that are both reasonable and that you can keep, prevent unnecessary 'follow-on' costs like fixes or code or fire risks, and then your reasonable, well-thought out price will serve both you and your customer well.

Also, set your sights on the long-term needs you might forecast for my location, especially if I'd like future bells and whistles but can't immediately afford them, and say you can either pre-wire stuff or allow some expansion options in the design. As a customer, I'd be thrilled that someone who is 'in the know' was advocating for my longer-term interests.

I totally agree with the 'set a minimum price and stick to it' concept as well. There's a minimum cost of you driving your truck out of the driveway and doing any work, find the cost out and add a reasonable profit margin to it.

**Novel concept coming right up**

As a new contractor, you'll be wiser yet to include a small amount into your estimating equation as 'investment or retirement' - a portion of every estimate (a 1% or less even) or every sale that you'll intentionally take out first and put into a retirement fund or education fund for yourself or your kids (existing or future kids). Consider looking back when you're 65 or older and still having 1% or more (with accrued interest or even compounded dividends, of course) of every sale you've ever made. Whoa, nice yacht, rv, or second home, pardner!

Anyway, bottom line, from a customer's perspective is: give me great service, a high quality install, and don't gouge me on the price, and I'll still be shocked at the price but will pay it and be (eventually) happy that I didn't go with the low-bid guy that my neighbor or brother-in-law did.

#5846 12/11/01 03:47 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 37
stan Offline OP
thanks guys great advice!!! by the way fred what if the gc is purchsing the supplies 30.00 per open doesnt work then does it ??? I dont know.

#5847 12/11/01 05:39 PM
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
A GC that has to buy supplies for his subs ventures from the usual realm of GC into 'glorified middleman' for lack of better term.

The methology of [$ per sq. ft]-or-[$ per stop] to the end user will not change if the math is done right, but the T&M, communication & education it takes will,
because we are the trade of a bizillion widgets....

#5848 12/11/01 07:15 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 449
Stan, I haven't done a job where the GC supplied all the materials. I tell them up front that I won't install $.39 receptacles and switches, aluminum buss panels,junky bath fans or a mixture of #14 and #12 branch wiring. If you do agree to install materials supplied by the GC let him know up front that HE will have to stand by them and if he calls you back to replace a cheap recept. or switch it will cost $40.00 an hour plus material with the clock running port to port. I always sold it as part of my service that I stood behind the materials I supplied for 1 year from the date of final payment. Unless the GC is math-impaired he'll figure out the $200.00-$300.00 he might save by furnishing cheap devices is better spent on you as an insurance policy not to pay for call-backs.

#5849 12/13/01 11:27 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 151
Yep, Fred's got it right. I might add that in the area of "customer service", don't just ask the new homeowner what they want where; walk them through the house, asking them to visualize their completed house, and where everything fits and works for them. Then suggest items they might not know about, or have thought about. Additional indirect lighting, 3-ways, small can lighting, LV lighting, all the things that most people having houses built never think about or know about being available. You impress the homeowner and the GC, and make a decent amount on top of a standard install package with the small extras. I still get a lot of referrals from people I've done this with through the years.
Take a few classes offered by mfg. reps, especially lighting, and some late reading of catalogs and spec sheets, along with a little practical experience knowing what it will look like, and you provide a good service that makes you money to boot.

Good luck, and ask anything!

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