Estimates. Should Contractors Charge For Estimates?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Modern Wall Systems 07240-47

EIFS Repair Contractor

Why we charge, When we charge, and What you can expect. 

One of the most common questions we hear on the phone is, "You don'tt do free 

estimates?, but the job is only a small repair!" 

In some cases that is absolutely right. Estimates vary greatly and there is a big difference between an insurance estimate for moisture related damage and an all out renovation. However, there are many factors that more often than not get overlooked if the company doesn't take the time to conduct a proper estimate because after all he/she is doing it for free.

Lets face it, the time it takes to drive to your home from our shop in Virginia Beach, VA and the time it takes to drive back might add up to an additional 30 minutes or more (and don’t forget about fuel and wear & tear on the vehicle). Then, to work up an estimate for you, we have to come back to the office and figure out the prices for materials and labor that will go into your project. This may take another 30 minutes or more. Once the numbers are crunched, the estimate is either printed (cost of paper & ink) and mailed (envelope and stamp) or emailed. If it is a more complex estimate that requires a design or project management, another 24 hours could go into that and much more ink and paper to print out project documents. After an estimate and/or design is completed we schedule a second meeting to come back and explain what we have come up with.

In a nut shell, we only charge $50 standard fee for all non-maintenance estimates. When an estimate is free: We will provide you with an estimate for free if we are hired to do the work. Cash or a check for $50 is due at the initial visit. The estimate fee will be deducted off of the final bill as a $50 credit. Estimates are good for 90 days only, however your $50 credit will always be available towards a job if you should decide to wait.

MAINTENANCE ESTIMATES ARE FREE. This means if you want us to tell you how much it will be to maintain your home or property we will give you a quote rate for free. This is because this kind of estimate is a general estimate; we charge hourly for that service.  

Existing Customers: We never charge existing customers for estimates. 

Why is charging for estimates good for you? Charging allows us to be more attentive to our customers needs and allows us extra time to examine and explain any problems or concerns as well as express any creative design ideas. We love to get a feel for the style of the homeowner and what their expectations are. It also allows us to take fewer appointments in a day. This benefit is passed on to you by having a smiling, professional at your door instead of a road raged, rushed, overworked technician. You can expect our technicians to be professional, trustworthy and honest and at all times. Should you get anything less, please call the office and ask to speak to Rob Santana. 

Other Companies: There are other EIFS / Stucco companies that perform free estimates. These companies are often running around giving a ton of estimates. They spend a lot of time working up jobs they will never do-and since they know this-they do not put their best efforts towards details and realistic prices. When you call us my company we know you are serious about your project and we know you want nothing but the best. 

I have heard many customers in the 20+ years I've been in business complain that a company did not show up or showed up hours late. That is probably because a paying customer called and wanted the same time slot and so they followed the money. Do you blame them? Here at Modern Wall Systems , if you are paying for that appointment slot, that is the same as a reservation and we will show up within the time frame specified. (there are certain circumstances which the technician can be late, but we will do our best to let the customer know as soon as possible.) 

Another problem that customers have when dealing with companies with free estimates, is qualifications, many of these companies do not have certified or experienced technicians or references, so even though they have a free estimate, they suddenly find they don't trust it. 

Curious Customers: For customers who are just curious what a service would cost and are at the beginning of their research process, you are more than welcome to call our office; we may be able to get you a loose cost estimate on a job you are planning, depending on if know specifics of what you want. You are also welcome to fax over another companies estimate and we could write up the estimate with our prices-we’ll do our best to beat it! (please keep in mind that A: We do not always guarantee the lowest price, just the best job. And B: We will not accept any job that we have not personally seen, this is just a service for the curious shopper).

Bottom Line: Time is money. Make sure you are compensated for yours.


Comments (5)

Faith LaRosse
Springer Realty Group - Limerick, PA
Serving Berks, Chester & Montgomery Counties

That is a good point. General estimates are free.  Makes sense that a detailed estimate takes time and would have a fee.  I'm sure there are many people who try and HOLD you to a general estimate?

Oct 28, 2011 10:50 PM
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

In 45 years in the property management business, I have NEVER paid for an estimate - fire, flood, roof - nothing.  

I have more and more contractors calling me to get on my "bid list".....I request that they e-mail me their information AND then I see how ELECTRONICALLY astute they are!

Oct 28, 2011 11:25 PM

You would be surprised how many people expect something for nothing. You know, free consultation. Real estate agents are pretty good in paying because they usually pass the cost onto the owners but insurance companies are probably the worst in paying. What I do is, I do the estimate and then email the client with download instructions and a link to pay the fee. If they don't pay they won't get the estimate. Simple as that. Those are my terms today but in the past I've wasted a whole lot of time and money with free estimates.

Bidders lists I stay away from because most of our work comes from longtime customers or referrals. I have been on bidders lists in the past but my motto is "you get what you pay for". Invariably the low bid gets the contract and so it's hard to compete with that. Luckily my company is successful enough to allow me to pick and choose my projects. I've turned down work many times just because of the reputation of the builder or organization soliciting a proposal was less than admirable in that they wanted us to do the takeoff for them. Like the Blue Book of Construction for example, you could spend a week doing proposals and never get awarded a contract. No thanks. I have to pay my estimator so they should pay for the estimate.

Oct 29, 2011 01:10 AM
John Wingate
EXIT Shore Realty - Salisbury, MD
Salisbury MD Real Estate, 302.339.5185, Salisbury, MD Homes

The estimate should be a free cost. The biggest thing is the quality of the contractors and if they are free or they muchmore affordable you may pay for what you receive. 

Oct 29, 2011 01:35 AM
Ed Santana
Modern Wall Systems - Virginia Beach, VA
Modern Wall Systems, EIFS Wall Systems Specialist

Free?... Why? What in life is free other than insignifant things like lollipops at a bank? Nothing worth anything is free. Period. That said, there are a lot of new contractors sprouting up who are good, decent hard working outfits that offer free estimates as a way get get leverage on the more established companies. I have no problem with that. That's what makes the world go round.

Me personally, I have better things to do with my time than to work for someone else for free. But hey, that's just me. 

Oct 29, 2011 08:33 AM