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Free Estimates and Bids – What is the Value?

nsplashOver the years, we’ve met with many different homeowners, considering many different types of remodeling projects. In most cases, the homeowner was “pre-programmed” to meet with 2-3 contractors and get 2-3 “bids” in order to decide with whom they would work.

First, a bid typically means an estimate to do the work. At this stage of the process, most homeowners want a FREE bid or estimate, which is fine, but what is it that they’re really estimating? If you don’t already have a set of plans, you’re really expecting a contractor to estimate an idea you have in your head. When you discuss this idea with 2-3 different contractors, you’re probably going to get 2-3 interpretations of what your idea may entail.

The only responsible way to estimate a project is to analyze a detailed set of plans and specifications, from which to examine and price out. So what if you DO already have a set of plans with which to work? Do you still want a FREE estimate? What is the value of a FREE estimate? Well, from a contractor’s perspective, I can tell you the value of a PROFESSIONAL estimate. In our experience, in order to provide an accurate, detailed, professional estimate, we invest approximately 20-30 hours of pricing research and cost analysis.

If a contractor claims they can provide a FREE estimate, then how much time do you think they will invest in your FREE estimate? Will they invest the 20-30 hours of pricing research we know it requires? What if YOUR free estimate is one of MANY they’ve already promised to provide? Is it realistic to expect a contractor to invest 20-30 hours of pricing research for every single homeowner they meet? The answer is, probably not. There’s just not enough hours in the day.

The bottom line – a free estimate is just an educated guess. A professional estimate is something of value and substance. You may have to pay for this value and substance, but that upfront cost far outweighs the unforeseen costs that come with incomplete information. Plus, it’s a show of good faith to the contractor that you value their time, which in turn, will allow them to value your project. It’s a win-win.

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