Etiquette for not accepting bids?
I got 6 bids for some work at my house. Since I am only choosing one, do I send out a letter explaining that I have chosen not to hire the other 5? – Jason
I got 6 bids for some work at my house. Since I am only choosing one, do I send out a letter explaining that I have chosen not to hire the other 5? – Jason
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And why 6 bids?
(I hope ya never call me........and people wonder why I no longer "give" bids)
And on a scale of 1 to 6, 6 being the highest, which one did you give?
Thanks, I believe I will contact a couple of the contractors. They were extremely personable and I was impressed with what they offered - Just not as impressed as the contractor we chose.
Why 6 bids? Because it wasn't until the 6th that any rhyme or reason for them could be figured out. All the contractors estimates (in the order I received them) were for the same work, siding , brand, house prep, etc. -
Bid #1 - 16,986.00
Bid #2 - 9876.00
Bid #3 - Answering Machine Message: "I drove by your house this evening. How much do you plan to spend. Please give me a call so I can put together a package that best fits your budget."
Bid #4 - 8650.00 - Gave me a false license number - called me 3 times after I asked if this was an error. He eventually offered to lower the price by $500 - but never provided a "correct" license number!
Bid #5 - $9569.37
Bid #6 - $10,550.00
If I only got 3 estimates, how would I choose? If I got 4, how would I choose? There was no rhyme or reason to them until I had 6. I certainly will not hire someone who will create an estimate that best uses all the money I have and I will not hire a contractor who is not licensed and legally permitted to work in my state. If you condone either, please don't come to my house!
If you don't want to take the time to give me an estimate, allow me to meet you (the person whose hands will be working on my biggest invest), or even look at the house you may be working with, forgive me for considering you, I certainly will not waste your time.
If you want to high ball me on your estimate because you think I am getting to many bids, that is fine. But while you are measuring my house in the rain, I am inside talking to my neighbors who also want to hire a contractor for major renovation projects. I have 3 neighbors using my experience with YOU to determine who they will call for work (2nd floor addition, new house construction, roof/siding). That's fine if you want to play games with the estimate, but you are only wasting your own time, you are getting wet and cold, and you will have 4 households (and any friends they tell) who think you are a rip-off.
I am not looking for the cheapest contractor, I am looking for a contractor who has experience, a good attitude, and offers a fair price. This is my house we are talking about. . .I can't afford to have someone messing around with it or my money.
P.S. - We chose bid #2. Fair price, great attitute, extremely proud of his work and company, and appreciated the opportunity to come out to review the proposed work and make an offer.
Edited 5/20/2003 1:38:36 PM ET by Jason
Thanks for clarifying your experience.
"I am looking for a contractor who has experience, a good attitude, and offers a fair price." True.
My opinion is these are things you could discover over the phone or at least in the first meeting. If I, as a Contractor, don't impress you with the first two, don't have me waste time measuring up your house for the last thing.
In other words, your job, as a responsible purchaser of services, is to first determine whether you and I can do business together before you decide to have me put together a proposal.
I'm more interested in establishing a profitable relationship more than just establishing profit. A profit is one time where as a relationship will produce profit far in the future.
BTW. Bid one was from a salesman, 35% of the top, he gives 10 to 20 of those bids a week. He only has to sell one a week to gross over $3,000.00. Not bad if you can pull it off every week.
Bid 2....as you say " Fair price, great attitute, extremely proud of his work and company, and appreciated the opportunity to come out to review the proposed work and make an offer. " Relationship, right?
Bid 3...A troller........he wants to be like bidder #1, but lacks the boiler-room generating lead machine.
Bid 4....A criminal. doesn't count.
Bid 5... in line with bid 2, just didn't click, right? Again, it's about the relationship rather than the price / bid.
Bid 6...Again, in line, this guy got used only to validate the other bids. Feel better now?
"allow me to meet you (the person whose hands will be working on my biggest invest), or even look at the house you may be working with,"
Right! That's exactly what get's me off the phone and on your doorstep with-in a hour. I want to meet you, talk about what you want to do, what kind of quality you wish to receive, (both in materials and service) and what kind of budget you have in mind. If you don't have any idea what kind of money you should expect, I'll be able to give you a reasonable ballpark on the spot. If you like the direction of how the relationship is going, I want a reasonable assurance that I'm providing a firm number so we can do business. We both would expect nothing else from a good relationship.
P.S. Yeah, good advice from all, I'd give bidders #5 and #6 at least a call.
Well mark, that's along the same lines as what I was going to write. Jason didn't really get six bids. #1 knew from the start that his price was above normal but he put it in anyway, out of habit. He may have figured that Jason wouldn't get any other prices.
The drive by wasn't necessarily criminal. It is an important Q for me to ask when I am designing a project. I won't waste my time or their money on a design that is out of the budget. But Siding is a different animal. I don't do bids but used to quote on roofs, which is a similar operation. Poor guy is trying to use the wrong pitch for the job.
The unlicensed one is not only criminal but is so lowball that it is a gaurantee that he will not finish the job right or that he will find something else to charge for.
I was pretty familiar with the public project bidding in my county in Colorado. It didn't take them long to learn to automatically throw out the lowest bid as a matter of policy. Generally, there would be as many as ten bids with one way low ( and a contract designed to create change orders and fees for same) and one that was way high, with all the rest within a couple percent of each other.
For an HO, I can see the rationale for getting three or four bids in some situations like this. For other projects, it is a sure way to not get the best company for the job, IMO.
That's one reason that I don't do bids. All six of these guys decided for themselves how much tiome to invest but Boss has it right that the cost of the wasted time eventually gets passed along to other customers, built into overhead.
Me? I appreciated being told whether I had the job or not. No-one would have to call or mail me though. I'll be placing a follow-up call after a week..
Excellence is its own reward!
Thank you for the response. You are correct in that I am hoping to offer the contractor a profitable relationship. In the 2 years since buying a "fixer-upper," we now have only one electrician we would ever call, only one plumber we'd ever call, one roofer we'd ever call, etc. They made great impressions and did excellent work. Once this job is complete, it is my expectation that he will be our contractor for future work.
I am not sure what else I could have done to check the companies out before they visited the house. I did contact the attorney general's office, better business bureau and the state licensing commission for those I had #s for. When I called the companies, I got some basic info from the secretary the response was that they simply scheduled appointments for estimates. When they arrived, I was very up-front with them about my plans, told them when our refinance would be completed and when the bank's check would arrive. Also, considering that I had already stripped off the siding and I was living in a house sided with old tar paper, the contractors were pretty certain I was ready to go and not kicking tires.
This has been a learning experience for me, and I appreciate everyone's advice and suggestions.
Thank you! - Jason
> If I only got 3 estimates, how would I choose? If I got 4, how would I choose? There was no rhyme or reason to them until I had 6.
It looks like you had three actual estimates, #2, 5, and 6. The problem is to weed out # 1, 3, and 4 before you even call them. There are crooks and flakes out there competing with the legitimate businesses, and the customer's problem is to sort them out.
In any area, the good established craftsmen will know each other, so what you want to do is find one and tap into their network of friends to find others. For instance, I found my good plasterer by asking a good plumber. We didn't even talk about an estimate, we just scheduled the job. Plumbers and electricians who have been around a while will know the right people to patch up after them on repair work.
To find your first contact among the good guys, read Breaktime. That taps you into a self-selected group who care enough about what they do, and like doing it enough, that they spend their own time writing about it on the internet. That weeds out the hacks, crooks, and flakes, so all you need to do is divine who's local to you. Either that, or find a contractor on Breaktime, and move to their location.... ;-)
I agree with John. Only three actual bids were received. That is why the lowest credible bid wins.
Maybe instead of moving to Breaktime member locations, a Jason Fest will draw ALL of the Breaktime craftsmen to work on your house....that's not a mistake, it's rustic
This has been a fascinating discussion. As a homeowner I have always thought of the estimate process as 'the interview'. We meet and you look me and my home over to see if you can work for me and I talk to you to see if I can hire you. The only people that I am capable of eliminating over the phone are the total jerks, the others I need to see their eyes and body language while we talk. On something completely new I always get 2 or 3 bids so I know that the first isn't in left field. If it's somebody I know and trust I just get their bid and go with it from there. But I don't count the estimates I get - I just keep going until I find the guy that seems right. I guess that would offend Boss Hog, but I don't think that a customer should be limited to a certain number of estimates - I should be able to interview as many as I need to in order to find the right people for the job. The estimate is a crucial part of that - it tells me whether what was said has been translated appropriately through the other person's brain and into black and white. For example, when we wanted a GC for an addition I said several times that the estimate needed to be broken down and a lump sum bid was unacceptable. I was really excited after talking to this guy but when he submitted the bid it was a lump sum, one that turned out to be almost twice my other estimate. Had he broken it down he probably would have gotten the job, but he clearly didn't listen to my needs when we spoke - I never would have known of that problem without following the estimate process all the way through. In the past I have generally gone with a bid towards the upper end of the range (or the highest bid) just because they seemed right during the interview or because they came highly recommended. That hasn't been such a successful strategy either - I almost think that accepting the lowest bid is easier because then you can say "You get what you pay for", instead of "I can't believe I paid $X for that POS job."
It's a free country....get as many bids as you want....what if companies only interviewed 2 or 3 people for a job?Ditch
I think my original point got lost in the arguement somewhere.
I don't blame a HO for getting something like 3 bids. And I don't mind if one or more of the bidders turn out to be jerks, and are replaced with new ones.
What I object to is those who just get a bunch of bids because the bids are "free", or because they're trying to get a cheap price. I think that practice shows a lot of disrespect for the time and effort others put into an estimate.
Please keep in mind that estimates cost a lot more than just contractors money and time. The contractors have to get bids from subs and suppliers also. I wouldn't be surprised if estimating even a fairly simple house might take well over a hundred man hours, if you count the time spent by everyone involved. (Although that's just a wild guess)
But assuming that's true, and a homeowner gets 5 bids on a house, that's a lot of money. If the time of the people doing the estimating is worth $25 an hour, that means it costs $12,500 to bid a house. (Assuming there's no overlap in the 5 contractors doing the estimate - More than one might get their HVAC prices from the same guy, for instance)
That's a lot of money to be screwing around with.It looks to me like the ugly fairy kissed you on both cheeks.
Maybe I'm just unbelievably misinformed, but I can't for the life of me understand how you could possibly spend 100 hours estimating a basic house (say an 1800 sq. ft. 3 bed, 2 bath rectangle). Now, a big, extravegant house, with a fancy roof, exotic materials, etc.. That could really add up.
I do quotes for custom designed manufacturing equipment. Only in one case can I think of where over 100 hours were put in (well over). The system cost nearly $1 million dollars and had lots of unique and strange things associated with it (we built two of them). A simple custom system would compair well to a basic house. A simple custom system takes about 8-16 hrs of total work to quote. A basic system, that's real similar to stuff we've built in the past we can knock a quote out, with a 3D conceptual drawing, in 2-3 hours. I'd assume a plumber, or electrician, or HVAC guy could do the same on a basic house.
The current question was just for siding with no tearoff. What will it cost me to have you install X brand of siding on this house sure shouldn't take a great deal of time, unless there's lots of travel involved.
I understand the frustration, as I've got lots of files of quotes that haven't, and probably won't, ever be built. Sometimes it seems like all I do is work up quotes. Sometimes systems end up getting built that I quoted years ago, and had forgotten about. The ones that come through are what pays my salary.
Hey, it's a holiday weekend, go enjoy it.
Well, it was just a wild guess - Mainly to illustrate the point that estimates cost a lot of money to process.
Maight take a whole separate thread to figure out a guestimate of the hours. But keep in mind who all has to produce bids -
The GC, material bids, (Lumber, siding, windows, etc) excavation, foundation, Framing contractor, truss supplier, steel (I-beams) roofer, siding contractor, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, Masonry, Insulation, drywall, painter, cabinetry, and who knows what else I might have missed. That's about 15 I've thought of right there. (Obviously there could be more or less depending on the house and what's typically done in that area) Each one of those spend time doing their estimates.
Get more than one bid on anything (Like plumbers, for instance) and that number increases dramatically. Don't forget to add more time for options - I rarely quote anything that doesn't have at LEAST one option. And that's just on the trusses. Throw in some options on windows, decks, kitchen cabinets, etc and you can really spend a lot of time on one.
I'd be interested to hear from some of the GCs about how many hours they spend on estimates.I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous
You actually may be right on the hours. Houses have so many options.
Of course, if it's just a quote for siding, or new shingles, or a new furnace, then there isn't much time involved. A full quote for building a house, particularly a fancy house could go into a lot of hours real quick.
Back when I was doing the roofing and siding, I could easily spit out a firm proposal on most houses within an hour after arriving. For something that simple, it was rolled into the cost of doing business and that is how this thging of Jason's is.
But for an entire addition, restoration or remodel, I'm more likely to spend 30-40 hours on the preparation. I won't begin to invest that time without assurance that the job is mione or that I wil be paid for my preparation time.
I may be in a smaller and unique market here but this is how it works. Some HO wants a job done and they have seen my work someplace or they are new here and they ask around to get a couple recommendations. When they call, they have got a pretty good idea that I will be doing their job, if they can talk me into it, or if our schedules match.
We meet and while they are interviewing me, I am interviewing them. If we are both impressed with each other, we agree to proceed. Some of these clients are wealthy enough and the job special enough that the rule, "If you have to ask how much, you can't afford it" applies. When they called me they had already heard that I don't gouge anybody and one of the first things I will say is that I am not the cheapest builder around. This is a part of letting them know that I work on their behalf to provide value and not price. if lowball price is their greatest concern, it is time for us to politely part ways. I can give them other recommendations of who might be able to serve them, without implying that they are "cheap" There really are other builders who, by virtue of their organization and methods, can do certain jobs better or less expensively.
The main reason for an estimate, from that point is so they can make sure that cassh will be on hand at the appropriate time.
For instance, the job I am currently doing began as a house inspection last year. They closed on the place in midwinter. After submitting my inspection report and recommendations for proceeding and budgetting, they asked if I would be interested in doing the work. Their realtor had recommended to them that I was the best man for the job, a fairly small one.
We agreed that I would work on designs and estimates for an hourly rate. The cost for work to the main structure apparantly left them with extra money in the budget, so they then asked me to plan and estimate an addition to the main structure, still paying for the extra work.
On another job recently completed, the cost went from the estimated 110K to over 180K because of structural problems discovered and more so because of interior designers choices worked in. Owner flinched but is happy with results.
It has been a pleasure working with them. They move in next weekend after postponing it by a week to allow me time to refinish the floors in addtion to all the other work that had been planned.
By working together in pursuit of their goals, with priority assignments to various portions of the job, they recieved more for their money than originally planned. When a homeowner can find a trustworthy and capable builder, an estimate and flexible arrangement is superior to a fixed bid based on specs. However, I understand that in a larger community, personal reputation and integrity is harder to verify and some degree of bid comparrison is needed.
IMO, that process is almost always flawed, based on past experiences in other places. The only way for it to work perfectly is for an independent party to write perfecrt specs so all bidders can be compared on equal footing. I remember very well, many times that I was underbid by those who had no intention of following specs.
One, in particular, was for a roof on a public project. My bid was about 25K, right in the middle of three bids for a three ply roof. The winning bidder was about 19.8K. My cost for materials was about 16-18K.
A year or so later, I was called to repair leaks because the installer had gone out of business. I found numberous shortcuts and a two ply roof. Somebody goofed - no supervision/inspection.
Other times, bid proposals are followed by contracts with language desined toi increase the probability of change orders, with cost increases.
I am glad that I am out of that rat trap and able to provide craftsmanship instead of marketing, partly because marketing costs money, and I get more satisfaction from seeing that money used for production than for talking about production. I'm providing a product, not selling a peice of paper.
To whoever asked about those of us who don't do bidding, I hope this helps.
Excellence is its own reward!
Not to hijack this thread but its played out anyhow.
"the first things I will say is that I am not the cheapest builder around"
When I was a small contractor(before I relized that I was no good at it) I used to get advise from an old carp/contractor, he always said that he was known for being a good contractor, expensive but good.
He always told me that that was what I should be striving for. He said that you eliminate the people that were looking for the cheapest bid and the people that wanted quality were willing to pay for it.
Just caught my eye when you mentioned it.
Here's how that might have worked out if I were bidding on Jason's job,
I would've said something like, "I'm sure that I will not be the lowest bidder here, but I'm willing to put the time in on working up a price Jason, if you are willing to let me have some of your time to explain why I charge what I do"
I would show him some detail pictures of flashings and how they need to be done and some other pictures of rot and other proiblems I've discovered that were caused by poor quality installations.
He would become impressed by my knowledge and committment to quality in that process and the time spent visiting would be the beginnings of a higher comfort level between us. My bid might be 10.5K or so which is higher than he had in the budget but he might be well enough impressed to find the other five hundred in order to hire the man he believes will do the best job.
I wouldn't just say, "I'm going to be the highest bidder here so there is no sense in my working on a price." and walk away.
Excellence is its own reward!
And for Jason, the best of all possible worlds would be to have two bidders like you, Pif. He would not need to be talking to anyone else. His only problem would be that he would want to award the work to both of you.
I'm with Mark here. Getting 6 bids on ANYTHING shows a lot of disrespect for other people's time.
If I find out someone is gettting that many bids, I try to make mine plenty high so I won't get the job. That's a red flag that the homeowner is cheap, and will be difficult to work with.
I wouldn't bother with letters. If anyone really wants the job, they'll follow up with you.
I ain't a communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life. [Woody Guthrie]
I'll differ here....I appreciate getting a phone call, simple message, "this is so-and-so, and I've selected another builder. Thanks for your time." I file open bids, for review and follow up...when I know a bid is dead, I just move it to the dead bids file. Based on scheduling, I come up with a couple of dates that are searchable fields on the computer (access DB) one is the call-back date to check up on the bid status, the other is a date to move to the dead bid file. Getting that phone call telling me the bid is dead saves me from a game of phone-tag on each bid on the call-back date just to find it's dead.
when I bought my first house I had a (big for me) project to hire out, a large retaining wall to arrest the movement of an outbuilding down a hill.
I was strapped for cash, had no local contacts for finding good contractors and just didn't know how to proceed. So, I found three companies to give me bids for the work. I told each up front that I was getting two or three bids before I would decide who to hire.
When I selected one (the lowest bid, which turned out, in the end, to be a mistake) I got a very gracious 'thank you' for one of the other three bidders when I told him my decision to go with someone else (and he happily gave me another bid some years later for something else) and got an irate and incensed reply from the other one ("you wasted my time, darn you!") - this guy even remembered me much later when I mistakenly contacted him for a bid on something else, he gave me a real ear full (quite a memory on him).
What a HUGE difference between the two guys/companies.
Now that I know some good contractors I just call them up and go from there (without any bidding), but I don't think that it is reasonable to expect that all typical homeowners will be comfortable going into a business relationship without any bidding whatsoever.
Six, however, is maybe too many. Mostly I am impressed that there were that many contractors available and interested at one time! I think it took 12 or 15 tries before I even got my three (although the economy was more 'boomy' back then).
just a few thoughts on your subject,
Boss, help me out here. What does the number of bids have to do with respecting someone's time? If I get two bids or two thousand doesn't a single contractor spend the same amount of time preparing his?
"What does the number of bids have to do with respecting someone's time?"
Preparing an estimate on something takes a lot of time. You're wasting people's time getting a bunch of guys to bid on a job.
If you were "not looking for the cheapest contractor" as you said, why so many bids? Wouldn't it have been better to have taken some time to research which contractor did good work, and ask for references? You could have eliminated #3 and 4 right off the bat, based on what you said about them.
The reason I price multi-bid people like you really high is based on experience. Virtually every one I've dealt with drove everybody nuts during their project. I used to try to help them out, and work with them. But I quickly learned to stay as far away from them as possible.
It's quite possible that you're different, and I read the situation wrong. But when I do bids I have to go with a gut feeling regarding whom I'm dealing with. Skill to do comes of doing. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]
The first four contractors were "highly recommended" by the siding distributor in my area. I got two references from neighbors - one was out of business and the other was a national company and I would rather deal with local/family businesses. Since I have never hired a contractor before, I had to rely on the distributors recommendations and the yellow pages and then checking for them on the Internet.
I certainly have no intention of driving the contractor nuts during the job. Yes, I will check it out at the end of the day, but I am trusting the contractor's experience. I have never resided a house, so I have hopefully hired a contractor who knows best. He is the professional, not me. If I knew enough to give advice to him, then I should be residing houses for a living. Hiring and paying is the extent of my job. Supervising workmanship is the contractors job. After 6 bids, I trust that I found the right person.
Regarding the bids, everyone was bidding on the same thing. Same siding brand, tyvek, no removal of siding (I have done that already), soffit/fascia, and gutters. The first contractor said the premium color added $3000 to the estimate, whereas the contractor we chose said there was just a $40 per square difference (we need 15-16 squares). I specified the siding brand/color. I didn't specify a brand for soffit/fascia and only specified seamless gutters with round downspouts.
Boss, I'm not Jason but I don't think you answered the question. I agree making a bid takes time, but does it take any more time to bid a job if you are the only one or if you are the 5th or the 7th or the 10th? I can't see how it would, therefore what's the difference, as far as time goes?
Contractors can only afford to bid just so many jobs relative to how many they actually get. The more bids the homeowner gets, the more of the contractor's time you're wasting.
Bids may be "free" from your perspective. But that cost real time and money to those of us who are jerked around by tire kickers and cheapskates. That overhead just gets passed along to others who actually want a job done. An oral contract isn't worth the paper its written on
Boss, I think we're carrying on two different conversations. I never said that bids were "free" and I never said a contractor can afford to spend all of his time making bids.
I only said one very simple thing. Whether you're the only bidder or the 10th bidder, you still spend the same amount of time if you're doing an accurate, complete bid. This does not mean that your odds of getting the job are the same, this does not mean that the customer seeking 10 bids is no flakier than one seeking 2 or 3. My only point was the time element.
I don't know why this is so difficult for you to understand. But I'll try to state it from a different perspective.
Assume for example that every bid a contractor does costs him $500. (Could be a lot more or less depending on the size and complexity of the project - I just pulled a number out of the air)
And let's assume that every homeowner gets 3 bids on everything. That mens the contractor has to eat the $1,500 cost of doing estimates, or pass it along as overhead.
Now let's double the amount of estimates - The contractor has to do 6 estimates for every bid he gets. Now the contractor has to either eat the $3,000 estimating costs, or pass them along to the homeowners who do actually hire him.
So excessive estimating wastes the contractor's time, and ends up costing everybody money. Bumpersticker: So Many Pedestrians - So Little Time
Like I said, we're having two different conversations, because I also don't know why this is so hard for you to understand. But I'll try to state it from a different perspective.
Let's assume that every bid a contractor does costs him $500.
And let's assume that every homeowner gets 3 bids, one from each contractor. How much money did it cost the contractor to make the bid? $500.
Now let's double the amount of estimates, 6 bids total, one from every contractor. How much money did it cost the contractor to make the bid? $500.
Now let's mutliply by 100, 600 bids total, one from every contractor. How much money did it cost the contractor to make the bid? $500.
What is the monetary difference? There is none. You are right, the odds that you secure the job may decrease if the number of bids goes up but getting the job is not a random process of 1 in 3 or 1 in 6. There is quality of presentation, personal appearance, job references, salesmanship, etc. If getting a job was only dependent on the number of bids a smart contractor would never bid on any job where there were more than two bids, it wouldn't be worth it.
I don't know how to explain it any clearer. Maybe someone else can jump in here who can make you understand. Bumpersticker: I Do Whatever My Rice Krispies Tell Me To
I understand what you're saying, I just don't agree with your conclusions.
You obviously DON'T understand what I'm saying if you don't get the basic math involved.
But I don't see what point there is in argueing it futher if you're not willing to listen to reason. Bumpersticker: Body By Nautilus; Brain By Mattel
Sure I understand the basic math. Three bids means one in three chance of a paying job. Six bids means one in six chance. The odds of making money decrease as the number of bids increase. Therefore someone who gets lots of bids is wasting you money.
My counter #1: no matter how many bids there are, the expense of making a bid remains constant. What happens if you think there are only three bids but there are really six? Have you lost money and you don't even know it? Nonsense, your out of pocket expense for the bid remains unchanged.
My counter #2: having your bid accepted is not a random statistical occurrence, variables such as presentation, references, etc. make a difference.
My counter #3: no contractor is forced to make a bid. Each bid is an act of free will and each bid will cost time and money to prepare. But finding out that there were six bids instead of three doesn't cost the contractor any more of that time and money.
1. The individual expense is the same, but the aggregate expense is directly proportional to the # of bidders.
2. Bidding is not a true statistical game, but you must admit it has some bearing on the matter. More importantly, presentation and references are a very important tool, but they don't always generate the results that we desire. Sometimes things do seem to be out of our control.
3. This is true to a point, but many times you cannot find out how many bidders there are for a job.
Let me ask you, if you had someone call you for a bid, and they said that there were 50 other parties bidding, would you invest your time in the bid? I suspect your answer will prove a point.
Of course I would be leery, but that says nothing about the cost of doing it, it only speaks to my judgement concerning customers who take huge numbers of bids, that they are trouble waiting to happen.
Here's another question. Suppose you spend the time to make a bid on a job. Later you find out that instead of three bids the person had 50 bids. You don't get the job. Did you lose any more money being one of 50 than being one of 3? I suspect that your answer will prove a point as well.
It doesn't cost me more money, but you have to remember we're dealing with finite resources. There are not thousands of contractors out there just waiting to bid. Logic dictates that, if someone procures twice the usual number of bids, than the amount of bidding you will do/per hour worked will rise.
Your logic on this is correct, same amount of money out of your pocket to bid the job, no matter if 2 or 20 bids are required.
If BH's logic was used then a job that had 10 bidders at $500 would cost you $5000! Dont make any sense.
It seems so simple
Concerning "free estimates":
Has anyone mentioned qualifying the customer first? I have a checklist that my wife and I use to qualify all callers. It is basically 10 simple questions asked in a friendly, conversational tone.....prospective customers don't even know they are being qualified.....and it is pretty effective at eliminating the tire kickers. Of course referrals from satisfied customers go to the top of the list.Ditch
Would you mind posting your 10 questions?
The qualifying questions are a result of 20+ years of estimating and dealing with people. I'm going to start a new post on the business board tonight because I think this subject disserves it's own thread.Ditch
I worked in industrial and commercial construction, doing estimating and bidding. I also spent time on the buyer side, managing new plant and plant expansion contracts, with packages up to $40 million. As you all probably know, things are a lot more formal on that side of the biz, when it comes to contractor qualification, quote requests, and bid submittals.
If things were the same on the residential side, I would take two or maybe three bids on a piece of work. But unfortunately, things are not the same. If you are a homeowner, looking to contract a major remodeling scope, trying to get responsible quotes on the package, where you are sure the contractors are understanding the scope and quoting it correctly, can be very painful and time consuming.
Why six bids? It looks like it took that many to come up with the three that were responsible. If the owner were a repeat buyer for those kinds of packages, he would have developed working relationships and only asked for one or maybe two. From experience, you know who is treating you fairly.
Do those of us who say we don't bid work, and won't work with someone who is getting another price, speak the same game when we are on the buying side? Will you buy any big-ticket item, a car, boat, tools or equipment, without checking the price?
Or let me pose this hypothetical question. Your absolute best client wants you to budget out a major remodel for him. It is loaded inside with all the stuff only you can do, but there are two big pieces of the job you need to sub, and you have never done either, and don't know guys that do. Let's say the two items are an open-loop geothermal HVAC system, and a large area of exterior finish that is real portland cement stucco. You will need to work to qualify responsible subs for these two specialties. Will you take bids? I sure would.
This thread shows what I like about Breaktime, interesting discussion from smart people with experience. I don't disagree with any of the comments made about estimates costing money, I agree they are never "free". But let's remember how this thing started.
Jason comes in with a question that, I think, qualifies him as one of the good guys. He wanted to know if and how he should notify contractors who bid for his job but didn't get it. I think it shows him to be thoughtful enough to even think of the question and doubly thoughtful to go the effort of posting it here to get some feedback.
So, does he get thanks and info? No, first off he gets flak for being one of those idiots who cost people money by getting so many bids. My only point was that Jason cost no one any more money by getting 6 bids than he would have if he only got 3. Each contractor that Jason talked to freely chose to give the bid. Each one spent whatever time and overhead required to give him the bid. And none of them would have spent any less money if they had been one of three instead of one of six.
I agree that a customer that gets many bids may be trouble, he may be a tire kicker or a cheapskate. That's why I agree with Luvditch, your job as a professional is to qualify your customers. That's part of being a good businessman. So don't blame the customer if their requests for bids cost you money, blame yourself.
So you agree that gettin too many bids is bad, even though it costs the contractors money. But it REALLY doesn't cost the contractors any more money, as long as you only look at one bid at a time and ignore the reality that contractors do bids EVERY DAY.
Your logic is pretty much non-existant, IMHO.
BTW - In your opinion, how many bids is too many?Why do they call it a TV set when you only get one?
Boss, I think I've laid out my position clearly. So, as the math textbooks say, the proof is up to the reader.
OOOOOoooo, Boss, you're beginning to sound like how many described me earlier - ARROGANT.
But before we make this personal, those whom observe, recognize the original post to be a business cycle issue. In short, Supply and Demand.
Your posts reflect the opinion (nothing other than an opinion of one person, and obviously not that of the boss) from the Supply side of the equation. Jason's and AK's is from the Demand side. You opinions reflect the CURRENT state of business affairs within this industry.
What's that old saying about the customer is always right? Many people have tried to change that rule. They are now called bankrupt.
I must compliment Jason on at least asking about protocol. Perhaps in a real world, your issue of too many bids could have merit. Not in his case, from my point of view. He needed every one to ascertain which were valid - Not because he is illiterate or stupid, but because half of those contractors (who's point of view you so strongly support) were blowing smoke up his a**. When 50% of the providers behave this way, change is in the winds.
As far as your point of view. It may very well have merit - ONLY if it stays within the walls of your company.
Your past posts show excellent insight into many construction issues. Your technical abilities and knowledge make you a valued commodity, both to us as well as your boss. All of us here are deeply indebted for your willingness to share such knowledge.
But one thing you can take solace in: Your boss won't be hiring you (or anyone else sharing the same opinion) to run his marketing department anytime soon. And, you would be well served not to start your own business.
I say this with a bit of experience. Years ago, I held a very technical position. I did well, but wanted more. I took pride in myself on what I knew and how much better I could do things than others. But upon introspection, I saw a problem. I was becoming more and more of a grouchy introvert. And when I looked at the marketing department of where I worked, I saw some pretty "stupid" people making 2 to 3 times what I was. And I was what they were marketing.
So I switched careers. Took up a sales job. And suffered greatly from it for several years. You see, I used to think that salesmen were the lowest form of life on the planet.
After I saw the world from their eyes for a while, the picture became a bit clearer. That arrogant, technical whiz in the back room was viewed as more of a stumbling block to bigger and better business. That technical guy that knew all the answers was a bumbling idiot when it came time to try to sell a glass of lemonade to a thirsty roofer. He couldn't do it!!!
The problem wasn't in knowledge of the product or service, the problem was between my ears. My opinion or perspective of the customer was the issue. Instead of viewing the customer as an opportunity, they were more of a PITA, simply to work around.
I see the same issue when reading in between the lines of your posts within this thread.
And I'm positive you won't believe what I write here - until the business cycle runs its course a bit longer.
A year or two down the road, when interest rates start going back up and the building industry recognizes that we have far more housing than needed, I betcha your boss will be sending you out on the road to hunt for those irritating customers looking for bids. And 6 bids then will seem like a slam dunk!!
This issue now is that the building industry has had it too good for too long. Excessively stimulating conditions coupled with an incredibly low barrier to entry. These have caused an imbalance within the Supply and Demand equation. Just like the stock market did 3 years ago, these imbalances have a way about returning to long term equilibriums.
Frankly, for our sake here on this board, I hope you recognize this sooner than later.
A bid is an opportunity. Taken any other way is counterproductive to your ( and company's) long term goals.
Talk about arrogant - Wasn't that little lecture there kind of arrogant?
I don't think I'm being arrogant - I'm just right, in this case. I'm willing to allow for a wide variation of opinion in some things. But sometimes ya gotta stick to your guns and say that someone is wrong.
You claim I'm only looking at it from a supplier's perspective, but that's not true. I was looking at the whole picture - Not just adding up the cost of one bid out of 6 on one job and ignoring reality.
Believe it or not, I am good at marketing - I've had many, many repeat customers over the years. Many don't even get bids anymore. They use me because I know what I'm talking about, tell them the truth, and do what I say I will. Doing bids is only a small part of marketing.
BTW - I think the idea that the customer is always right is a crock. Some of them are complete idiots. We just have to learn how to deal with them as if they aren't idiots. All reformers, however strict their social concience, live in houses just as big as they can afford. [Logan Smith]
LOL Boss Hog that belongs in your tag line folder - "I'm not arrogant, I'm just right."
I know guys who chase bids all over town, then they complain about it. They say things like: "I'm gonna start charging for estimates". Well, I'll tell ya what, if ya wanna cut down on your estimating...start charging for 'em......ya might be lucky enough to completely eliminate estimating altogether.Ditch
Several people have mentioned not doing estimates at all. Is the person hiring simply agreeing to pay whatever you charge when the job is completed? Are you only talking about not giving estimates for new house construction or major remodels that can have many more variables? Or do you mean you simply don't agree to free estimates to just anyone calling to get one without determining how serious they are?
I ask because in our case, we got estimates for siding and at the same time refinanced our mortgage and I asked the bank for $10K to do the work. If no one gave an estimate, I would have been up a creek had I gone with the contractor who'd do the job for $16K.
I think he was insinuating that charging for estimates could eliminate a lot of estimates... and the work you might get from doing those estimates.Kevin Halliburton
"I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity." - I.M. Pei -
I think you misread my post...or I wasn't clear enough.
My first rule of estimating is to simply qualify the customer before the estimate. I sometimes take 10 calls a week for floor jobs...If I looked at everyone...at no cost...I'd never get any work in.
You've prompted me to start a thread on qualifying prospective customers. Ditch
FWIW (for what it's worth)
We deal with this all the time selling enterprise business software. Putting a quote or bid out there without first qualifying the customer almost guarantees that you'll lose the business.
One of the key qualifyers is the prospect who, before he asks for the bid, describes what they need in detail, in an attempt to qualify YOU as the vendor who can do the job.
A classic way to sell business software is through a "proof of concept", where the software is installed and configured by the vendor in the customer's environment. We are usually reluctant to do that before we go through a checklist of qualifying questions, the key one of which is "If we are able to accomplish _____, are you commited to purchasing at the end of the proof or by X date" Sometimes we are even able to get all of the agreements in writing through legal and purchasing departments BEFORE we schedule the proof. We close over 75% of the deals where we can get this agreement.
>It seems so simple
Well, not necessarily so simple. (Surprise, surprise) I see both sides. In theory, if someone gets only one bid, the bidder stands close to a 100% chance of getting the job. If someone gets 100 bids, each bidder averages a 1% chance. So, if you allocate the cost of making bids against the revenue from jobs received, on average you'll have a better expected return with prospective clients who get 3 bids than with clients who get 6 bids. It's a pretty simple "expected value" calculation.
Ever have an employee thats on your payroll that clocks in everyday. His time card shows 38-40hrs a week in logged work time.... You submit the payroll to your accountant (or the person who figures in time, deductions, whitholdings etc) that person then works (puts time and labor into this act) gives you the check to disperse to your employees. That accountant then Figures employee expenses like cell phone on the job, tool depriciations, insurance for the company and other costs. (that included foul ups like wrong cuts, wrong paint or other things that the company eats)
Well say an independant auditor came in and found that employee hardly worked, had piss poor judgement, was careless and didnt work well with others.
Even if you fired him you realize that employee cost more then the payroll. There is no way you can just go to your printer and print up some money to cover the moron. THe money has to come from somewhere, your profits.
The same thing happens in bidding. Writing up bids costs you money, and if you figure that bids cost the company $500. Overall each bid takes $500 per bid from your ongoing profits. Ergo the more bids you have the more it eats from profits at that rate. So if your bidding every job thats thrown your way, (say 3 a week for arguments sake thats $1500 in costs per week.
Now where in the #$%& is that money going to come from? Not your Epson 410 color printer now huh. YOu cant tell your customer that since one of your employees was a moron you have to charge him more.... You have to eat his costs somewhere.
It comes from your profits, and if you bid on every job and dont get a one, then something is horribly wrong. You cant afford to bid everything that comes your way, in the end youll go out of business because you cant afford to bid jobs.
Does anyone out there charge for estimates? Maybe based on the approximate value of the job? A fee for a "detailed" estimate that they can accept (and the fee is deducted from the project cost) or they can take the information they purchased elsewhere having become a more informed customer? I do 85-90% of my work T&M, this seems to work best with our client base and their "older" houses. I will be interested in the responses to this.SUGARLOAF WOODWORKING
Architectural Woodworking & Quality Restoration of Older Homes
"Anything is Possible"
." If getting a job was only dependent on the number of bids a smart contractor would never bid on any job where there were more than two bids, it wouldn't be worth it."
This is what 90% of the contractors that you really want to work on your house do. They have people lined up waiting for them.
The argument about the number of estimates that a homeowner should request reminds me of a childhood learning experience. I was walking down the sidewalk and I through a gum wrapper in the street. An observant adult stopped me and asked me what I was doing. "Huh" "Why are you littering?" "It's just a tiny piece of paper. Nobody will even notice it." "Try to imagine if everybody who walked down this street threw one tiny piece of paper on the ground. In a week the ground would be covered. Don't think that your little action doesn't make a difference."
If every customer asked for 6 or 10 or 100 estimates, the system would break down. You may need to call more than 6 to get 3 acceptable ones and on any individual project you need to do what you need to do but understand that there is a cost.
Boy, you guys are really going at it. If the every home owner was getting 3 bids and the playing field was equal, then the I would assume that the contractor would win one out of three bids. If the homeowners were getting 6 bids, then the contractor would get one out of six, and on and on........ I have have been told that if you are getting one out if ten bids, you are doing good. I seem to be getting 1 out of two, this was before I got hurt and havent done much since. (5 surgeries later and maybe 2 more). If I knew that a homeowner was getting more than 3-4 bids, forget taking my time, I'd rather go fishing/hunting with my kids. I have found that if a homeowner needs more bids than that, he is not being realistic (he's looking for quantity, not quality). There are too many salespeople and contractors out there who leave out things to keep the origional cost down and make the playing field uneven. They then add to the job as "extras".
We are always playing the odds with the jobs we bid, we just want a fair return for our time. If I bid 6 jobs permonth and each job I spent 6 hours on, that would be 432 hgours per year. At ,say $50.00 per hour, that would be $21,600 per year. If I got one out of 6 jobs, which is one per month, then each one of the jobs I did would be paying 1/12 of the $21,600 that would be part of my "overhead". In other words, each job I won would pay $1,800 extra for all of the "wasted" time I spent on other bids.
So, in reality, bids are not "FREE" - for the contractor, or the homeowner
One example is a cabinetry bid I gave to a homeowner for $21,000. He had a bid for $11,ooo for the same job and said the salesmen swore the bid had the exact same specs as mine(my material cost was $9,800). He also took low bid and had 11 guys bid the job. I later received a call by the homweowner to fix the job after the contractor failed to complete his work for the agreed upon price. Sorry, no thanks.
I just just called 3 stucco contractors to do some work on my home(not a large job) One was too busy and apologized, the other gave me a bid before the other returned my call. The third guy called the next morning. When the other did call me back, I told him that I accepted the other guys bid and thanked him very his response. It wasn't worth the time for the third guy to come out and bid the job when the 2nd guy was within reason. I didn't want to waste the 3rd contractors time to maybe save a few dollars. By the way, the guy did a GREAT job. He did more than I asked for and I compensated him for it. (what goes around, comes around).
i used to work for a company that would give a FREE estimate, but if they wanted design work, or anything more than an hours time, they would be asked to pay a design fee.
this fee would be credited if they signed a contract. this simple transaction weeded out the chain jerkers.
i think it also established to the potential client that the company was serious, professional, and wasn't about to get jerked around.
good luck rg
I wouldn't have any problem with the number of people bidding, especially in your case. I usually encourage people to get other bids (though, I don't tell them who and how many). I try to present myself and work the best I can, offer a fair price, and if the homeowner accepts it, fine. If not, well, I have have more estimates to give in the coming days and plenty of work to keep my crews busy.
I suppose I would disagree that getting 6 bids was disrespectful, especially considering the circumstances. Right now, I am advertising to hire someone. I have 6 interviews scheduled. They are all qualified. Am I wasting the time of 5? I want the best worker for my company and they all want the job. I have the time, they have agreed to interview, so I will give them all a chance.
How did you get the names of the people you called? Your first two bids seem odd. They were bidding on the same brand siding, right? Premium color? Was one using tyvek and the other backer board? Is one quoting to remove existing siding and the other not? Wyatt
I'd think a phone call teliing the bidder that yoou won't be using them would be the minimum.
Example: When I bid out air conditioning for my house several years ago, I handed each of the three bidders a packet. House size, room sizes, R-values, widoow/door sizes, house/room oorientation, etc, etc...everything they'd need to do the numbers.
I also told them what I wanted...upstairs/attic off one system, first floor off another. Location of air handlers. Location of condensing units. I'd do all the electrical. 14 SEER units. No flex duct.
One sub spent about 10 minutes at the house and sent me a one page standard proposal, worded something like "To install air conditioning at your house, 10 SEER units, one X tons, one Y tons, yadda, yadda...half the money due when contract is signed, the other half due on the day work commences." I called and asked why he quoted 10 SEER coondensers instead of 14, and could he actually do the job for that price? "Well, flex duct is fast to install, yaadda, yadda." He told me that 14 SEER was uneccessary because they cost too much and that flex duct works just as well as rigid tin. He didn't get the job, but he got a phone call telling him I wouldn't be using him.
The other two spent quite a bit of time on site...maybe two hours or so...and put together good proposals.
One got a phone call telling him he got the job, the other got a phone call telling him he didn't. The one who didn't get the job also got a thank you card wiith a $75 gifft certificate to a nice restaurant in town.
Agaiin, to me, a drive-by estiimate gets a drive-by "thanks, but no thanks" phone call. As a courtesy, I don't mind compensating someone who spent a fair amount of time on a proposal with a small gift...even a $25 certificate would be appreciated.
"Agaiin, to me, a drive-by estiimate gets a drive-by "thanks, but no thanks" phone call."
I disagree. That first guy wasted YOUR TIME AND EFFORTS.
He did not listen to anything that you said. He had a package that the does and already had that "sold" before he even saw the requirements.
I don't see any give the "no thanks" any more effort than he gave the bid. If it would not cost the use of a stamp I would have a generic postcard that said (fill in the blank) we won't be using you and then misspell his name.
I wouldn't even go that far. No card, no call, no thanks.
I don't see any indication this contractor would read or hear anything I said anyway. Why waste the effort?Kevin Halliburton
"I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity." - I.M. Pei -
I try to live by the rule of "you treat me with respect I treat you with respect". That would govern the way I handle the bidding process and ultimate selection. You do a drive by and yank my crank then you're not getting any love from me. You spend time and a good proposal you will get a honest thank you and possibly a gift for your time. Everyone deserves respect.
I've ended talks with contractors in 5mins for treating me like a typical HD DIY homeowner who doesn't know jack. Even if I was a stereotypical homeowner I would want nothing but respect, just as I give you as a professional contractor.
Two way street, don't burn me and I won't burn you. I pay for quality and a relationship with a contractor. As a homeowner I'm inviting you to work on probably the biggest asset in my life, treat that decision with the respect it deserves.
That being said there are plenty of tire-kickers out there that unfortunately put many contractors on the defensive.
Know a little about alot and alot about little.
Edited 5/20/2003 3:55:57 PM ET by Steve Joyce
I don't mind compensating someone who spent a fair amount of time on a proposal with a small gift...
You know, that's not a bad idea and I appreciate you sharing it. It's a competitive world out there and loosing a bid is life but I'm betting your gesture was really appreciated. Rough estimates and drive by's are one thing but several hours of a person's time are quite another.
I am taking bids from a number of subs I need for the construction of our home. I am only asking for bids from people that I have worked with on other jobs or that come highly recommended by people I respect. It seems like a reasonable gesture to acknowledge their time and effort with a small gift and a short, "thanks, maybe next time." Your feedback may even help them be more competitive on the next bid they write.
Who knows, I may need them in the future as much as I'm hoping they need my job right now. I've never been one to burn bridges but you idea is more like shoring one up for the future. Not exactly compensation for their time but at least an expression of appreciation for it.
Nice guys usually place a lot better than the old adage implies.Kevin Halliburton
"I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity." - I.M. Pei -
I am impressed.
You the man!
I'll be over tonight to estimate hardwood floors for your house. The estimate will include borders in the formal rooms, a medallion in the foyer, picture framing with an additional species around the fireplace hearth, and my signature door frame technique. I'll probably be there for a few hours.
I like Outback.Ditch
That's funny. Best laugh all day. Wish I'da had that clever a thought.
My opinion is a letter would be nice but too formal for me, a phone call better, and no response is the worst.
It sounds like you found a contractor who you can work with,to me that's one of the most important parts of any building project. As far as what to do with the contractors that you didn't give the job to,I always appreciate a phone call or letter.It's certainly polite..As a contractor I don't really care how many bids you get,I'm still spending the same amount of time doing my bid no matter what.
Good luck on your project and let us know how it turns out.
how you doing, where you been hiding, busy like crazy?Vince Carbone
I guess I'm somewhere between Boss Hog and the guys who don't care how many bids, but agree that it is nice to let us know if you have decided on someone else, so that we aren't thinking your job is a possibility. Scheduling is not easy, and customers often wonder how come they aren't getting scheduled or as much time as they expect, but it's a juggling act.
The bid thing, well in order to do a good one it does take time and I appreciate the idea of a gift, but really if you extend the courtesy of a simple phone call that is good enough.
Hope you picked a good contractor, and appreciate you asking us about this.
I like the way Mongo deals with his bidder's, very classy, and I will use that as my tack for now on.
I could also care less how many people are bidding on a job I've been asked to bid. If you like me and my price, we're in biz.
Thing I don't like is tire kickers. Tell me if you're just checking things out, and I'll give you a ballpark that I don't have to spend a lot of time on. Come back when you're serious.
I'm glad you brought this question up. There should be some etiquette to building. I can hear Emily Post's typing fingers twitching<G>
I think letting people know you have chosen someone else is the courteous thing to do. As for the number of bids, I put a recent renovation out to six guys figureing that at least half wouldn't get back to me with a bid after meeting with me to go over the plans. I was right. Never got my plans back or a call. It's a two way street in terms of respecting people's time.
Edited 5/21/2003 3:55:05 PM ET by ChuckT
Edited 5/21/2003 3:55:52 PM ET by ChuckT
Our company is in the larger, complex renovation and custom business. Estimating is a cost of doing business, but an expensive time consuming one.
I have found it very difficult to qualify a client. We can qualify them financially, but most are not initially experienced or knowledgeable enough to be of much additional help in the qualification process.
Our bids are detailed and time consuming, it requires a lot of time and effort from our sub-contractors to bid, of which we require 3 bids for each trade, so it is very disappointing and expensive to lose a bid, especially unfairly.
The biggest single bidding problem we encounter is not an unscrupulous client, although there are plenty of them too, but a pi$$ poor architect. Not having clear, concise, unambiguous, or incomplete specifications is the biggest deterrent for us to get, or be unfairly eliminated from getting the work.
As an example, we bid a $1.6 million home, we lost the job by $61,000. Now, on the face of it, you couldn't fault the client for eliminating us, for that kind of money. But experience told me, we just couldn't have been that far off, especially knowing our competitor. So, I called the client and asked him to help me be a more competitive builder in the future by telling me where we were out of line with our bid. He couldn't, our competitor, as opposed to what was specified in the construction documents, submitted a non-detailed lump sum bid.
To make a long story short, I called the architect, told him I had sat down with the owner, went through the project with our detailed specification sheets, finding many unclear and ambiguous specifications and just wanted to assure myself that all the other contractors were bidding the same specifications as us and why our competitor was allowed to submit a lump sum bid. No help from him and we still didn't get the work.
2 years later, while testifying, during the law suit by the client against the architect and builder, I find our competitor had an installed trim package $4,000 under the cost of the material only of our custom, per owners request, trim package. That our competitor had assumed, without checking, that the project was within the village limits, in fact is was not. He had bid all plastic waste and vent when the county code, which applied, required cast waste and copper vent, a $38,000 difference. And, I know this will be hard to believe, the competitor was the architects buddy. All in all, on just the portions of the bid we reviewed, we were $110,000 under the competitor and didn't get the work.
I find sitting down with the client and taking the time to go through a detailed spec sheet: educates them about the their project and you. Forces the architect and the competition to be, or revels them as not to be , as precise. Information to the client is our best qualifier.
I am fairly certain that we have thoroughly "beaten the horse." Thank you everyone for the input. I have since notified two of the contractors thanking them for their estimates. It worked out well for one though, as our neighbor is hiring him for their roof as a result of his visiting us.
I have learned a few things from all the posts:
1) So far, the work I have needed done have been fairly small jobs, the most recent $10K for siding being the biggest. If you are not interested in providing an estimate, you probably have enough work to keep you busy without my job.
2) For a large job, I should be prepared to pay something for a detailed estimate if asked. I must admit, I did not realize (until Boss Hog's and others posts) just how time-consuming your writing a detailed estimate could be. I assumed you could spit these things out in a couple minutes using a computer program. Although I don't envision Boss Hog or others running to my house for projects, I appreciate your enlightening me on this subject.
3) I will definitely try to get a better feeling for what I think of the contractor before asking him to come out to the house. If I don't like what I hear on the phone, I should end it there. If you just going to blow my estimate off because I am wasting your time, I don't want to rearrange my schedule so your wasting my time either.
4) When calling for an estimate, I will have enough info to to prove I am not simply kicking tires. For example, type of project, brand I prefer, ballpark budget, start date (i.e., when I am ready), and any other info to prove to YOU that I have done enough homework to make it worth your while to show up.
5) "Chain jerking" is a two way street. From my perspective, I had 3 contractors waste my time. From their perspective, I may have been wasting their time. Regardless of this, I walk away with value-added to my house and the contractor I chose makes a profit and has future jobs. The chain jerkers walk away only with the expense of providing their estimate.
6) The customer may not always be right, but when you assume that your time is more valuable than the person who may potentially be hiring you, it speaks volumes about your respect for past, current, and future customers.
I may not agree with everyone's statements, by I appreciate all the advice and the time you took responding (by the way, shouldn't you be out estimating? Your certainly not making any money goofing around on the computer?!!). Thanks everyone! - Jason
an estimate is hopefully an educated guess. a quote on the other hand is a fixed price for a clear defined job . people who expect fixed prices when they have no plans and expect me to draw them up free of charge are a pain in the ####.
I think a phone call to those contractors that gave an honest effort would be appropriate and appreciated. It's often disappointing not getting a job, but I like to think I was respected enough to be worthy of a phone call for my time. A gift certificate is almost unimaginable! I wish I had more customers like that!
I defense of the contractor that wanted to know your budget: Home improvement is not like buying a brand name commodity. There are many variables and unknowns. Not every homeowner knows exactly what they want, and even if they do, they may be wrong about some choices. If a homeowner's plans are way out of line with the money available, the contracter knows right away that her time will be wasted.
Your rationale for getting six bids seems reasonable, but there are homeowners for whom price is the only criterion. Any reputable and responsible contractor that runs into a few of those can be forgiven for getting grumpy.
Al Mollitor, Sharon MA