Free lunch?

Home Builder with A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc., free,Bathroom remodeling,basement remodeling contractor,green remodeling,home remodeling,washington dc,design build,chevy chase, bethesdaI am wondering why people are so attracted to the word FREE? We are all in business, many of our clients are in business, and we know quite well that nothing is free. And yet, a lot of people are so addicted to getting something for nothing.

I personally don't expect to get anything for free. I also don't give much for free either. Being a remodeling contractor, I cringe when the first question people ask when they call us is: do you give free estimates? It is an immediate disqualifier for me. So, why do people expect it from me, but not from their doctor?

When I tell them that we don’t give free estimates, they are surprised and confused. The nicer ones ask: we are going to get three estimates, are you telling us that we need to pay you and other contractors too? To which I usually reply: when you visit a doctor and ask for his/her opinion, you pay for it, right? Oh yes. Now, if you don’t like the opinion or would like to get another one, you go to a different doctor and pay again, right? Of course you do.

So, how are we, the contractors, different from doctors? I, for example, am a civil engineer by education. In addition, I have 18 years of experience doing residential design-build remodeling. I think my experience is worth something. Or take real estate agents. Why do people expect that someone will spend 10-20-40 hours showing them the houses for free? Did we create this ourselves? And if yes, how do we change it? Or, do we need/want to change it?



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LS Rogers Realty
LS Rogers Realty - Richardson, TX

I tend to gravitate towards Free estimates, free consultations, free X-rays, etc... First I trust, then I pay. Offering free services such as initial cma's and tour guide, I suppose I've come to expect reciprocity. As for you, you have to do what works for you.

Dec 09, 2008 04:03 PM #1
Vickie Nagy
Palm Springs, CA

I think attention to the norm in your market is important...unless your reputation is such that people know they simply must spaek yto you about their next project.

Dec 09, 2008 04:05 PM #2
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

As long as you can build a practice that is in demand enough you probably don't have to float the f word around. But I think as someone else mentioned the trust might not be built yet so the free gets some folks to give it a shot and feel that they are not yet committed.  That is great that you have achieved that level.

Dec 09, 2008 04:17 PM #3
Alex Shekhtman
A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. - Chevy Chase, DC
Design Build Remodeling, Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Trunda, of course trust is important. Don't take me wrong. Before we even meet, I provide my clients with licensing and insurance info, references etc. When we meet face to face, we both need to decide if it is a good fit. I talk to them and explain what we do and how, so they can decide if they see value in our services.

Dec 09, 2008 04:18 PM #4
Robert May
Robert W May - Lethbridge Real Estate - Lethbridge, AB
Real estate consulting

i believe the attraction to 'free' comes because there is the perception that nothing is lost should the service fail to live up to expectation.

Dec 09, 2008 04:30 PM #5
C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Featured @ Club Chaos

Dec 09, 2008 04:53 PM #6
Richard Shuman
The Only B.S. I Have is from the University of Massachusetts - Lake Mary, FL
Real Estate Broker - Orlando Area - Love Referrals

People are, have always been, and I'm sure, will always be attracted to special or free offers. It makes them feel like they're getting a deal.

While yes, most often you get what you pay for and rarely is anything truly free, most feel like they've got the upper hand when they're purchasing something at a discount, whether it's a meal, a trip or even a consult. Problem is that many people don't realize that it may be "1/2 OFF" or even "FREE" in the beginning the merchant is getting their money somehow, whether the consumer gives it in the begining or in the end.

No pun intended. kinda

Dec 09, 2008 10:46 PM #7
Alex Shekhtman
A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. - Chevy Chase, DC
Design Build Remodeling, Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Thank you for all your replies. I think I need to clarify the issue a bit more.

I don't have a problem with giving people an hour or two of my time for a "complimentary", not "free" consultation. I do it for almost every potential client. This time of face to face is very important for me. My clients may not understand it, but the process of selection is mutual. There a few cases where I had to respectfully decline the opportunity to work with them.

The problem arises later, when, lets say, people are planning to build an addition and would like to get an estimate. First of all, we can't do a good estimate without a drawing. Secondly, even with a drawing, it takes a good estimator, making $60 to $100K a year, anywhere from 10 to 20 hours or more to get the prices together and prepare an estimate. So, why would someone invest so much time and money for free?

I think this is the remodeling industry and perception issue. We don't expect an architect, an attorney, an engineer, an interior designer to go beyond the initial consultation for free. And many would not even consult for free too. And what about plumbers, electricions or car mechanics? If you call a plumber, whether he can fix the problem on the spot or not, you pay for the visit, right?

We are highly trained, educated professionals, with many years of experience and have to be compensated for our time and expertise.

I think if starts with each of us. If we, as consumers, expect something for free from a service provider, then when the tables turn and we are service providers, we assume that something for free is expected from us as well. It is a vicious circle.

I've been told at the sales training that you sell the same way you shop.


Dec 10, 2008 12:17 AM #8
Marcy Moyer
eXp Realty of California Silicon Valley Probate, Trust, and Investment Sales - Mountain View, CA
Probate, Trust, and Investment Specialist

My clients need to meet and trust me and learn what I have to offer before they committ to me. Are you suggesting that after the committment they should pay us to see property?

Marcy Moyer Intero Real Estate Menlo Park Ca

Dec 13, 2008 01:38 PM #9
Pacita Dimacali
Alain Pinel - Oakland, CA
Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA

"Sell the same way you shop" ...I haven't heard that one before.

I think everyone wants good value. Presentation may determine whether or not you get the job. If you reveal too much at the initial consultation, there may not be any more need for your service.

However, there's nothing wrong with getting a free service either --- for example, I use a free version of AVG antivirus, free version of Cache Cleaner, etc. We blog on ActiveRain for free. What do we get out of it? Market presence.


Dec 13, 2008 07:15 PM #10
Alex Shekhtman
A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. - Chevy Chase, DC
Design Build Remodeling, Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Pacita, the actual quote is "we sell the same way we buy".

The issue is in details. It is true, we blog on ActiveRain for free for a reason, I just don't know what it is. The Google is free as well, but I know at least some of the reasons it is free - data mining. They know you and your habits as well as you do or even better. I am sure someone is interested in having this information and it is going to be sold. So, while Google is "free" we give a part of our privacy for it. But, this is a completely different subject.

I am sure you would not mind to talk to a potential client, give some tips on how to get the property ready etc., you may even be willing to show a house or two without a firm commitment. Bur after that, you must get paid for your services or at least get a commitment and sign whatever the Realtors sign to represent the client.

With me, it is similar. I will meet and talk to a potential client and give them "complimentary" consultation. But after that, if the want details, drawings etc. I need to get paid for my expertise and time.

You are also correct about presentation. When I present, I only present myself and my company. If they like what they see, the next step is signing paperwork and getting paid.

Dec 14, 2008 12:04 PM #11
Pete Xavier
Investments to Luxury - Pacific Palisades, CA
Outstanding Agent Referrals-Nationwide


I agree and do offer a complimentary consultation and will when I represent real estate, if I cannot convince them to a BBA than I don't deserve to work with them.

Dec 02, 2012 03:13 AM #12
Alex Shekhtman
A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. - Chevy Chase, DC
Design Build Remodeling, Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

Thank you for your comment Pete. Most of the people are just conditioned to ask for "free" services. Unfortunately, many service providers will do it.

Jan 23, 2013 08:12 PM #13
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