I get asked all kinds of things by all types of people and I try to answer them as best I can, but sometimes I just have to throw one "out on the floor" for Comments. Now, I know that this will be a sore point for some, but if you comment please try and be objective as possible.
What is a FREE estimate and what should that include?
Yes, the estimate is free to the person who requests it, but only if he doesn't hire you. I have always had an allowance in my material and labor markup to cover non-income producing activity such as giving an estimate. In effect, all my customers pay for those free estimates.
If the estimate requires a lot of design work, I need to see the color of your money or you can go hire an architect/engineer.
The estimate should contain the scope of the work & who is responsible for what, such as permits, clean up (how clean is clean), plaster damage exclusion, furniture moving in an occupied building, normal work hours, and so forth. The estimate should also clearly state when it expires, I typically use 10 days.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
I am not the greatest estimator around, and only quote prices on smaller, personal jobs [fortunately I haven't lost my shirt!]. Profit was meager from them, however the experience and lessons learned kind of made up for the "just breaking even" aspect .
Seems to me, though, when I hear the words "Free Estimates", it's referring to Residential Service work, and to a customer that both has little or no idea what needs to be done and wants 10 days worth of labor for 1/2 days price.
I personally do not do any Residential Service work - only the occasional Friend or Relative that is in immediate danger gets my attention, so I am unsure of all this stuff.
When it comes to Commercial Service, I have never heard the term "Free Estimates".
Even when I do PC / LAN workstations Service and troubleshooting, there is no "Free Estimates". This is work I do solely by myself. The only ones that get free services are the friends and family that bring their complete system to me for troubleshooting. These usually result in a complete hard disk format, because the OS is completely hung!
[AKA - Blue Screen O' Death ]
Just my thoughts - let the flames begin!!!
Scott " 35 " Thompson Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!
I spend 80 hours a week trying to get 35 to 40 hours of billable labor time. Estimates and bids take up most of this extra time.
It's next to impossible to bid residential renovation work, but that's what they want. Little do they realize that a cost-plus contract would save them money, because an estimate or bid would have to include all possible worst-case scenarios.
I end up being 150% or more on some of my estimates, and we won't talk about similar bidded jobs. So lately, I've taken my figures and doubled them, and I give people sticker shock or loose the bid. If I had enough work going on, I'd stick with cost-plus contracts.
Seems in business that when you need a certain knowledge the most, is just when you haven't received it yet...
-Virgil Residential/Commercial Inspector 5 Star Inspections Member IAEI
First off, let me say that it is understandable that a potential Customer would want to know approximate costs involved with a project. Especially a Homeowner or someone on a limited budget.
The way I always figured it was that Estimates on installation or replacement are usually straightforward and easier to make a more accurately estimate. And it can usually be figured rather quickly. Estimates on repairs (small job) would have to have some upfront agreement as to a minimum charge if a simple remedy was found or a price range or Labor + Material charge for others.
For those not in the trade that may be reading this and not really understand why - I say a minimum amount (service call charge) to cover time spent commuting and troubleshooting. Look at it this way, Imagine after traveling 20 miles and spending 45 minutes troubleshooting to find a loose wire that the owner doesn't want to pay 'that much?' for tightening a screw. You're down a couple hours and a gallon of gas and haven't made a dime yet that day.
[This message has been edited by Bill Addiss (edited 03-02-2001).]
WHAT IS A REASONABLE SERVICE CHARGE IN THE DIFFERANT AREAS ? ANY GOOD IDEAS ON A BASIC HOURLY CHARGE AFTER THE FIRST HOUR? IT GETS INTERESTING SOME TIMES DEALING WITH PEOPLE , SOME THINK YOU ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THEM WHEN YOU GIVE A PRICE TO DO A JOB. (STICKER-SHOCK)THEY FUSS ABOUT A REASONABLE SERVICE CALL CHARGE THEN PAY 45 OR 50 DOLLARS FOR WASH AND WAX ON THEIR CAR AND THINK THEY ARE GETTING A DEAL!!! THEM GREEDY ELECTRICIANS HA HA ENOUGH ABOUT THAT I FEEL BETTER NOW