“Free estimates”- are they worth it?

“Free estimates”- are they worth it?

There is long-standing expectation in the building industry that all contractors should give free estimates. As a result, little work actually goes into the initial estimate. And that’s the problem. Some contractors guess an estimate or make a low bid to get their foot in the door. As a result, the consumer chooses the low estimate because he or she trusts that the contractor actually put a lot of time and energy into quoting their project.

But is the estimate really free? Seriously, who works for free? I don’t know many people who are willing to produce quality products for no cost. The fact is people don’t work for free, especially business owners. If they do, they typically aren’t in business for long. Someone will eventually pay for that free estimate one way or another. Whether it is the one out of ten homeowners that accept an estimate and start the project or the builder who goes out of business because he didn’t charge for his time. Someone ends up paying for the free cost. In most cases it is built into the selling price of the project. So “free” for many is paid for by a few. Worst-case, and the most common scenario, is that the price we pay for a “free estimate” is a poorly planned, inaccurately priced, mess of a project which results in disappointment and sometimes the homeowner having to hire a second contractor to correct what should have been done right the first time.

What is the alternative? The alternative is to have specific budget, ask potential contractors what are the ballpark price ranges and interview contractor thoroughly. As a buyer you have many needs, wants and expectations. In the same way each contractor offers their own way of completing a project and meeting their client’s needs. It is important to find a perfect fit for you. Your project cost will be different from any other project total because your project is different to any other project. So as long as the contractor is somewhere in your price range, spend time interviewing the contractor himself.

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