PRO: The Estimate – What You Need to Consider
Professionals in the industry, I hope business is good and all is well. Looking at the title, I’m sure you already have preconceived notions about this topic. One thing I’ve definitely learned while working for my father at his home remodeling business is that each company tends to do things a little differently. Especially when it comes to the planning process.
Today, I’d like to take the knowledge I’ve gained over the years and discuss the estimate and the aspects you definitely need to consider when you finally sit down and price it all out before you present it to your client.
The Estimate – Meet for Measurements
Now, it may not seem like an important aspect, but appearances can go a long way. When first meeting a customer, it’s probably in your best interest to wear something nice. I’m not talking about a suit and tie or anything, but definitely respectable apparel.
After all, you’re being invited into someone’s home and potentially doing work on their house, so building a foundation of trust early on is encouraged.
Once you’ve exchanged the proper pleasantries upon initially meeting, it’s time to get down to business. Now, knowing you’re a pro, I’m not going to sit here and type out WHY it’s significant, just stress that it is highly-important to take precise measurements. Get it down to a thirty-second of an inch. You know as well as I do that the closer you are, the easier it is to map out.
My father sketches out a rough draft of the area he’s working and jots down the measurements along the entire perimeter, never failing to forget one edge, corner, side, or height. As you know, this is essential for judging the amount of materials you’re going to need. In essence, be precise. It will help you out in the long run.
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It’s also convenient to try to get a basis of budget while you’re at it. More often than not, however, you’re going to hear, “Well, we’re trying to keep the costs low,” or “We’re on a tight budget, so if we can be under (insert amount),” which understandably no professional contractor wants to hear. But, clients tend to stress this rhetoric in the hopes that materials will miraculously drop with one of these phrases or you’ll suddenly be more inclined to lower your hourly rate by being sympathetic towards a specific amount. Now, what you do is up to you, but quality work comes at a cost.
The Estimate – Planning
Alright, folks, so after you get your measurements, it’s time to sit down and really detail this out, right? Now, there are some things you definitely should be cognizant of.
I mentioned in the intro that I’ve learned some companies do this differently, and it’s true. I’ve come across owners that tend to “wing it,” not wanting to overcomplicate the beginnings of a project and plan things as they go. Don’t do this.
I’ve also heard about owners basing their material costs from previous jobs, thinking that the costs will be same. Unless you’re in the business of losing money, delete this method from your mind altogether.
When it comes to materials, you should first have a clear understanding of what your customer wants and needs in the project. Obviously, after initially discussing these things and taking measurements, you’ll have some sort of idea. From there, it’s all about breaking the entire project down in sections and making sure you’ve accounted for every element with each step.
For example, we’ve done quite a few unfinished basements, and the very first thing that needs to be done is FRAMING. So, accompanied by the measurements, he’ll count how many 2×4’s he’ll need, treated & untreated, for interior walls, headers, built-in cubbies, bookshelves, benches, etc. It’s an extensive process, but if you mess up on materials, you can be out hundreds of dollars. I’ve seen it.
Once you’ve detailed how much you need of everything, it’s time to go to your local home improvement store and get the material costs. And this is where you can lose money if you’re not careful. Like most products in a capitalist society, there’s means of inflation. Building materials are no different.
It’s best to get the most recent prices, so if your job isn’t for another one to two months, let your customers know that there may be an influx in price. Full disclosure is completely necessary. Remember, building trust is key.
Now, you’ve got all your prices for all of your materials, and it’s time to go back to the lab. Grab your calculator, some snacks, and a clear head because it can be a tedious session, crunching all of these numbers together and making sure it’s all as accurate as possible. The result should be one fixed number labeled “MATERIALS.” Bam.
You’ve got your fixed rate, how much you charge by the hour, and it’s important that you don’t sell yourself short, ya know? The home remodeling business can be a hard and grueling one. Fun, yes, but 100% physically-intensive. Accommodate for this fact. Now, my father is crazy analytical and tends to map his time down to the quarter-hour. Not joking.
So, much like his material break down, he’ll list how much time it’s going to take to perform each task. When I say everything is accounted for in his estimate, I mean it. Going off the unfinished basement example, running wire is no small feat. Drilling holes for the wire to run through for an entire basement that boasts 24 electrical outlets is no small task.
With that said, my father we’ll assess how much time it typically takes to drill for a complete wall, so on and so forth. That may seem like too much of a breakdown, but this is your time we’re talking here, and you know the old adage: Time is money.
Once you’ve assessed how much time it’s going to take in total to get the job done, you’re presented with two things: A deadline and labor costs. Be EXTRA mindful of the first, people. Understand that you’re going to be working inside (or outside) someone’s house for a duration of time.
Where I’m sure your clients are more than happy that you’re taking care of them, getting their projects done, there is always, always relief when the last screw is sunk in. Because of this, you should account for mishaps, mistakes, inadequate lumber, last minute trips to the department store, you name it.
As much as we’d all love for everything to run super smooth, it’s more than likely not going to happen this way. As is life, right? Accounting for these inconsistencies will help you, in the mind of the customer and your stress levels. Trust me on that one. That way if you think you’re going to need a couple of days to get everything flushed and finished, you’ve got yourself covered.
The Estimate – Presenting your Quote
Alright, so you’ve got your final number, the sum of your material and labor costs. This is why I said it’s a good rule of thumb to gather some info on your client’s budget. If you’re able to read a room pretty well, you’ve got an advantage.. When you talked price, what was their tone? What did they say specifically? Were they eager to get things going, were they less worried about costs and more about process?
In knowing these things, you can gather whether or not your clients are going to be shocked or pleased at the price. Either way, your approach is CRUCIAL. Be mindful of how you present the estimate for this project. I’m not going to tell you what or how to do this, but it’s common knowledge that when you’re dealing with people, compassion is critical, tone is everything, and consideration is consequential.
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Sit down with them, and I personally just think it’s best to explain exactly how you got your estimate instead of hitting them with it head-on. This allows your clients to truly see the effort that goes into an estimate, as well as the breakdown of how you got to the price you did. That way when you do deliver it, high-price or otherwise, your clients comprehend exactly why.
Once you’ve told them your price, you’ll know what to do. They may want a copy of your calculations or material lists to see if they knock some things off or make some adjustments. And honestly, this is fine. There’s been many a time where my father has went back to the lab to adjust some things to an estimate to get closer to a client’s budget. It’s all a part of this process.
Be as accommodating as you can within reason. If you can knock off some additions — build in bookcases, recessed lighting, drop-ceilings, a change in floor type — then express these possibilities. Free-flowing communication is tremendously helpful when establishing a relationship with a client. Be personal and use empathy to work in their wants and needs.
I know, I know, it seems like a long list of things to be mindful of, but I actually enjoy this part of the process, especially if the client is eager and ready to get started. Definitely much more exciting. But there ya have it, pros. I hope this proves to be of satisfaction, and up-to-par with how you handle the pre-planning process. Take it easy out there, and stay safe!
Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We are the leading provider of Ledge Stone, wall tile and backsplash tile in Louisville, Newport, and Cincinnati. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!