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Old 09-29-2006, 12:15 AM   #16
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Mike, the question about budget is a reasonable one. If you have budget, it means you've put some thought into the project.

When a contractor asks you about your budget, he's not always asking to know what it is, sometimes its to gauge how serious you are. You two are going to have to talk money at some point, and leaving him in the dark as to what you think is reasonable is just a game.

Most folks get mad when sales people play games with them. Well, I have news for all the home owners out there, contractors hate to have their chains jerked by tire kickers. So, we ask them some questions to find out if they are really looking for a number to put with their dream, or looking to make their dream come true. Our time and experience is worth something, so we try not to waste it.

"Do you have a budget for this project in mind?"
"When were you planning on starting this project?"

If you don't get asked those two questions, then you might not be dealing with a professional. And if you refuse to answer those questions, don't be surprised to be turned down for a 'free' estimate. You're going to be perceived as someone who is playing games. Not as someone that is willing to sit down as an adult and have a serious conversation about making a genuine investment in your greatest asset, your home.

Some of us out here in this business care about our client's and their dreams enough to really listen to their needs and wishes and then try to make those come true. I'm sorry you're not finding any in your neck of the woods. Good luck.

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Old 09-29-2006, 03:47 AM   #17
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Mike,

Sometimes a customer is bouncing from one thing to another and the price is substantially different, so rather than waste time giving them an estimate for work that's not even in their range I ask what their budget is so I can let them know a ballpark.

Example: Someone is unsure if they want to go with new slab granite countertops or if they should go with 12" granite tiles. There could be a big price difference and if I sense that money is an issue at all in their decision process then it'd be a professional and insightful question for me to ask.

Why waste all of your and my time having you pick a slab for me to price with all the edging, sink, backsplash, etc... details just to find it's way more than you thought. You could just tell me how much you're looking to spend and I'd say yes we can do it in that range or no, go with the 12". Customer service in that situation I'd say and reputable companies won't raise their price just because you might be willing to pay it, at least I never would. I might though if I was unsure about you or your project and you purposefully won't help me by giving me an idea of your budget. That tells me that we're getting off on the wrong foot with a serious trust issue and I'm to busy for those kinds of jobs. Big RED flag.

Just my two cents.

Wack
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Old 09-29-2006, 06:57 AM   #18
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


I have to agree with the others. YOU are the common demoninator in this formula of contractor blow-offs and mis-deeds.

Pretty much I do not concern myself with the customer's budget too often, but that's because I don't do major remodels like you are proposing. In that regards I diferr to the masters who do that kind of work very often. However if I were to ask your budget, I would first want to know what you wanted done and certianly if I were to do any kind of remodel the first words out of my mouth are: "Do you already have a set of prints?" If not I might spit a ball park at you and give you the number to an architect.

You see the point I am making is while from the very little I know I have to feel you are to blame I also feel you might not be calling in the best people.

I ask what makes you think your basement is worth $30,000? Why not worth $90,000? What is the basis of your formulating that value? When ever customers tell me my price is high the first thing I always ask is "compared to what?" What are you comparing my price to? If joe down the street got a cheaper basement perhaps thats because he didn't do the whole basement or he went with cheap materials? If you are comparing it to remodeling costs from "back home" perhaps things just cost more where you currently live.
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Old 09-29-2006, 10:28 AM   #19
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


All of your points are well taken, and yes, some of the "blame" obviously lies with me, however...

-the "tone" of many of your responses are enlightening, first post basically said im probably "an a****** or could be"

and many of the following posts, but not all, had the same tone, sounds like some of you have an extremely adversarial relationship with your customers.

-I do understand that in a tight market supply and demand is king, in terms of material, labor, and availability of quality contractors. You guys have the ability to pick and choose, take the berries, like the guy who says" rehab my house, price is not an issue". You know what fellas?, price is always the issue with normal people. Grumpy wanted to know what makes my basement worth 30k and not 90k?.
The same could be said about a 12k paint job on a beatup old Dodge Dart, would 12k make that car worth at least 12k?. The answer is of course no. Hell, you can throw as much money at a job as you want, but what value does it add?. I valued my rehab at 30k or less, based on many factors, many of them irrelevant to anyone doing my job. IE:neighborhood valuation, current comps in my area, price per sq. foot,etc... and in addition, I have attempted to calculate the cost(labor/material) for most of the project. Labor is obviously subjective, but material cost is not. So far, not to bad.

This budget thing seems to be a sticking point, I agree with Donb1959, "either you can afford me or you cant", thats a straight forward way of doing business. Apparently, Don and I are in the minority. It seems to me that if I say my budget is a maxiumum of 30k, the only thing anyone will hear is 30k. I bet that an estimate with a known budget comes close to that budget. Sorry, but I believe there are more than a few people who would correlate the estimate to the budget. It reminds me too much of buying a car and dealing with the salesman, do you think he has your best interest at heart if you tell him your budget?. I think not. Whether any of you agree or not, business contracts are adversarial in nature. You want the highest price offer, lowest labor cost, lowest material cost, I want lowest bid, best quality work, shortest amount of time. IMHO giving my budget is tantamount to showing my hand, its not a negiotiation if you hold all the cards.

I can definitely see where spending valuable hours on nowhere estimates can be infuriating and costly.
Do any of you charge for your estimating time?, I would be more than willing to pay for a couple hours of your time to estimate jobs. Whether the client hires you or not should be irrelevant as long as you are paid. Most of you must schedule time out for estimating, correct?
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Old 09-29-2006, 12:40 PM   #20
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Hey Mike

I'm sorry if my post sounded like I thought you were an a$$ hole or anything rude, I certainly didn't intend that.

I can definitely understand your hesitation to tell the contractors your budget and that is why there was a slew of them at the contractor forum, it is a sticky point.

Of course customers would like the lowest price they can reasonably get and telling people how much you'll pay could be hazardous from the less than noble, but Contractors are different in a lot of ways from car salesmen. If there is something wrong with the car you might take it back to the dealership but not the salesman himself to work on it. I personally will be dealing with all unhappy customers. Plus you know with a new car roughly how much it's going to cost, you might talk them down some, they might talk you into extra features some, but you have a ball park. I've done basement remodels that cost $9,000 and some that cost $125,000. It's still just a basement remodel but that's a huge swing.

With work we do, if it's not ALL done high quality then it's my A$$ and that goes for subcontractors as well. So I use very good subs, who of course, cost more. They are also way busier so if I have them do crap jobs they might not take my jobs next time. GC's can be at the mercy of contractor availability as well.

My employees are very good and I pay them very well to keep them. I don't have to be on site and babysit to make sure things are done the way they should be. All of these things make my labor costs more than a lot of other contractors, but I believe that it's worth the higher price I pay.

The scope and preperation of a job is important. If I come over and you have prints already done then you're in the top 5% of my customers for preparedness and I will assume you already have a ball park $ figure, I wouldn't ask a budget then unless you were unsure about a specific item I'd just assume you were serious because of the prints. If you have no prints, no details, no specs on fixtures, flooring, cabinets, heating system, etc...then your budget might be the only thing that would give me an idea what you want and therefore, what to estimate.

And sadly, yes sometimes we have adversarial customers. Contractors get bad customers as often as customers get bad contractors and usually if someone gets screwed over money it's the customer not making the final payment, not the contractor charging to much. You'd just go with a different contractor in the beginning if the price is too high. I like to avoid these customers because usually it's a bad thing and it makes everything harder. Much better to just go with the customers who truly just want you expertise, quality and are happy you're there. Unfortunately if I felt the need to ask your budget for some idea what scale of project you had and you wouldn't tell me, I'd have the adversarial red flag right there.

Sorry I wrote a book, this has been an issue with me lately, I wasted lots of hours needlessly estimating.

Good luck,
Wack
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Old 09-29-2006, 12:44 PM   #21
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikedks View Post
I can definitely see where spending valuable hours on nowhere estimates can be infuriating and costly.
Do any of you charge for your estimating time?, I would be more than willing to pay for a couple hours of your time to estimate jobs. Whether the client hires you or not should be irrelevant as long as you are paid. Most of you must schedule time out for estimating, correct?
I have been considering doing this, then if the customer accepts our bid the money spent on the estimate will be put towards the contract price.

Wack
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Old 09-29-2006, 01:45 PM   #22
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


[quote=wackman;19556]Hey Mike

I'm sorry if my post sounded like I thought you were an a$$ hole or anything rude, I certainly didn't intend that.


Not you Wack, your reply was well thought out and helpful, no need to apologize. Generally speaking, im sure most of you guys that come over to the DIY forum are good guys and not in the same category as the people I have been referring to. Why would you take the time out of your day to respond to DIY'ers?, I think it says alot about the people here.
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Old 09-29-2006, 01:47 PM   #23
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Quote:
Originally Posted by wackman View Post
I have been considering doing this, then if the customer accepts our bid the money spent on the estimate will be put towards the contract price.

Wack
Maybe thats the solution, when I was a mechanic, people would come in all time for estimates to get work done. Would always charge for the estimate and take it off the end price if we did the work. Thats what im going to do, offer to pay for estimating time.
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Old 09-29-2006, 11:22 PM   #24
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Would definitley tell me that you're serious. After that I might just say don't worry about the money and do the estimate despite any reservations I might have initially had.

I know that I and other contractors haven't charged for estimates yet because we don't want to scare off customers. Why pay me for an estimate when X, Y, and Z will do it for free. I'm afraid they'll think "Wack must be WAY expensive, he even charges for an estimate".

I think I probably won't charge just because I'm getting better at telling who is serious and who is just curious.

Good thread!

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Old 10-02-2006, 03:48 AM   #25
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


I read most of this thread, scanned through a few areas, so forgive me if this has been mentioned already, But I have certain towns that I do not like to work in.

If you have a legitimate contractor, he will pull permits. Some towns treat a basement remodel like new construction, the inspections, delays from the town, the hassles, etc. are sometimes not worth dealing with. If you are adding a bathroom or a bedroom, this may make the permitting process that much more difficult.

My last basement remodel had every inspection a new house would have except for the foundation related inspections. It took a 4 week project out to 4 months. In the end, I had an unhappy client, and a less than profitable project.

30k to remodel a typical basement should be great money, but add the permit process, and you could lose your shirt. The guys you are calling may be avoiding you because of the town you live in.

Last edited by Pearce Services; 10-02-2006 at 03:51 AM.
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Old 10-02-2006, 10:56 AM   #26
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Quote:
Originally Posted by mdshunk View Post
Why do you suppose that most of your contractor candidates are getting a bad vibe from you? I've gotta tell you that I'm plenty busy, and it doesn't take much of a red flag for me to blow off a homeowner. Something about you, your home, or your lifestyle is giving these guys the willies. It seems to be somewhat across the board, with the exception of HVAC. Figure out what that is, and you might get a few bids. Don't take this personally, but I can say that generally if I think that the person is an ********************* (or potentially could be) I won't bother with them.
I agree with MD. It doesn't take much of a red flag to lose my interest in a project. As soon as it gets to that point, I have no problem letting people know that it's a no-quote. There is no excuse not to return any call from a potential client.
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Old 10-02-2006, 05:26 PM   #27
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


As a general contractor, I can tell you I am in agreement with md and others...something is making the contractors shy away....the only difference in how I do business, and the contractors you have talked to and not heard back from, is I say it right up front...usually like this: Thank you for calling me, but I really don't have an open spot in my schedule right now to fit this in....if you don't have any luck finding someone, let me know and we will see if i can get back to you in a few months.
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Old 10-08-2006, 01:31 PM   #28
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RE:ContractorTalk recent post:qualifying new business


Post script to this discussion:

I spoke with 2 more pro's this week about doing work in my basement.
First guy(window/door pro) was great, spoke to me at length about project but made it very clear he was booked until spring AND he didnt like this type of job, but would do it. Seriously, he spent most of conversation talking smack about local pro's, he being a transplant from Pa. I'd call him back.
Next guy was a builder, nice guy, spent quite a bit of time trying to politely turn me down. That is, until I told him I have plans, seems to have made a huge difference. I am now hiring him as an hourly consultant and possibly to oversee specific parts of project that are beyond my expertise.

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