- Not everyone is knowledgeable enough to give an accurate estimate.
- Not everyone is honest enough to give an accurate estimate.
- Precision estimates take time to prepare.
- Never sign a contract based on an estimate alone.
Free estimates are ubiquitous in the remodeling industry. And they can be very misleading.
What is an estimate anyway? As an example, I know nothing about space travel but I can give you a free estimate for a spaceship that will fly you to the moon. Just as someone who knows very little about home construction can give you an estimate of what it will cost to remodel your kitchen. This happens all the time.
Have you seen that commercial of the fellow advising people on financial matters and then asking about their trust in him? After they have confessed trust in his financial acumen, he reveals that he is actually a D.J. and shows a video of his hair getting cut off.
That is a rather accurate depiction of the qualifications of many in the remodeling industry. In Texas, you have to have a license to sell a house but not to build or remodel a house. When unprofessional contractors offer an estimate, it means very little. And when unsuspecting homeowners hire them based on a free estimate, they are usually in for a real ride.
Worse still are the contractors who know better and provide an inaccurate estimate knowing that they will make up the difference in change orders. Change orders are changes to the original contract, and usually the original price, based on new information. There are legitimate change orders. If a homeowner changes their mind about something or if hidden rot is revealed during demolition, a change order is necessary. But some contractors, after the construction contract is signed, will create large change orders based on small issues because they intentionally gave a low price to get the contract. Back to our spaceship example, after you land on the moon the contractor says, “Oh, you want to come back too? Well, that will cost quite a bit more.”
We tell prospective clients up front that we do not give free estimates, even though we always talk about the budget. An estimate given with too little knowledge about a project can be harmful. All projects require some work up front to get to a point where an accurate estimate of investment can be provided. We charge for that work and we are confident that it is worth the expense to get a reasonably accurate estimate. One of the first things that we do after visiting a project is a feasibility study. This is even before the project has been designed. With very little cost, it allows us to create a bracketed budget of where we think the investment is likely to end up. This information helps us start to shape the scope of work to meet the budget. The next step in the budgeting process is to create a rough concept of the design and provide an estimate based on this information. This estimate is usually within 10% of the final investment unless changes are made. After that, we finalize the details other than selections that will be made by the homeowner and we provide a fixed investment.
This methodical approach allows homeowners to match their project to their desired investment and not get in over their heads or to end up having put the time and energy into a remodeling project that does not meet their needs.
We strongly discourage anyone from going to contract base on an estimate. This almost never ends well. You need a very accurate scope of work and an exact investment amount.
You may also find this helpful: