September 21, 2023

Do You Do Free Estimates?

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You have a project in mind. You’re ready to renovate. How can you help yourself by helping your builder-renovator?

To begin with, you can do some research before even contacting them. Sure, a good builder-renovator will offer you some assistance with design ideas and product samples. However, you can motivate them to work even harder for you through some simple basic preparations. The classic phone call, ‘Do you do free estimates?’, does little to inspire anyone to jump for you.

Begin by examining some design magazines or books to find a picture that resembles what you want. Having a picture to show can mean the difference between getting what you want versus getting what someone else thought you wanted. You can also visit home shows and various product showrooms to become familiar with what you like and what is available or popular. Do this research before asking for competitive prices. When you can show your builder-renovator that you have done your homework, you’ll see how fast they will respond to your call. The pricing process can now be a more exacting endeavour. Your builder-renovator can now price exactly what products, materials, finishes and fixtures you want.

Yes, you hope to know if you can afford the project before delving in too deep; and of course, for that you need prices. But most competent builder-renovators, having work experience in your area of inquiry, are able to quickly and accurately give you some budgets at your first encounter. From these budget prices you can then determine if this is something you will pursue or can afford. Don’t be afraid to tell the builder-renovator if your budget is being exceeded. Don’t waste your time or theirs, if there is no possible way to fit this project into your desired budget.

Remember, the issue is simply this. You choose how much of your money you are willing to spend, and where and when you want to spend it. You should feel no embarrassment taking charge of your affairs in this manner. Besides, your builder-renovator can help you to mix and match to meet a set budget figure. They can give you advice on where you can cut back and what you should keep. By explaining what is most cost-effective and essential to tackle now, and what is practical or possible to do later, you as the customer can then make the best informed decisions for yourself.

Once several builder-renovators have aligned you with what fits into your budget, you are now ready to phone each one back and ask for an accurate written project estimate, fully detailing what work will be done and how much it will cost. You have established a focus for your project, and because of this focus the builder-renovators can now sharpen their pencils and get down to detailed and competitive estimates.

Make sure that each quotation bears a fixed or stipulated price, not merely cost allowances that the builder-renovator feels could be adequate to perform various facets of the work. Beware that when the cost of the actual work performed exceeds the allowance amount, then it falls upon the customer’s shoulders to make up the monetary shortfall. Allowances can become an easy way for a builder-renovator to throw an estimate together without much effort, and should only be permitted when it is virtually impossible to accurately determine the exact extent of work necessary. Allowances are also used in situations where the customer has not yet finalized all the products, materials and/or details. However, this kind of open-endedness is precisely what we are trying to get away from, wherever possible.

By holding your finalized choices firm, and then shopping the marketplace for only true and stipulated price comparisons, you are now able to command the most competitive price, even after having divulged your budget. Through insisting on an uncompromised end result, you remain in control of the situation and command fair play from your competitive bidders. How else can you, the customer, ever determine the best value for your hard earned money?

It is not enough to ask for the proverbial ‘free estimate’ anymore. In fact, the better thing to do is to establish your budget first, then work the design, products, finishes and fixtures into this budget, and finally call for competitive bid quotations. By not leaving the playing field wide-open, no one can attempt to capitalize on your potential ignorance. No one can offer you something of supposed equal value for less, in order to win your favour through a deceptively low bid.

To the extent that we all get what we pay for, the real trick is not to pay any more than we have to for the same thing. By leveling the playing field through following the steps outlined herein, you command the quality you choose, and get the best possible price at the same time. This sort of informed competitive shopping will truly bear out the real value differences.

Do not be premature by asking your renovator to simply give you a free quote. Comparing prices is not a useful endeavour unless you hold all other variables constant. Decide what that constant should be for your particular situation and your particular budget. Hold true to your choices. The oldest trick in the book is to price the customer something different from what was originally established or specified, thereby distorting the customer’s perception.

By following this advice you will save yourself and your builder-renovator valuable time during the pre-project process, and you will ensure a mutually beneficial long-lasting working relationship between you and your builder-renovator moving forward.

Working smart in this way will save you time and money!

If you are interested in more information about what we do and how we can help you, please contact us.

Robert J. Fleming (President)
Apple Creek Building Group Inc.

Contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.