What to look for in an estimate

What to look for in an estimate

The immediate concern most of us have when looking for a tradesperson is the cost – who’s the cheapest? Think on and ask yourself a few more questions. How long is the work expected to last? What could happen if the work is of poor quality?EstimatesWhat if the job is not finished properly or incorrect? Once you consider some of the consequences you realise you may be asking not who is the cheapest but who is the best value? While it’s fairly easy to find out who is the cheapest on the market, it’s much more difficult to determine who is the best value. Don't just use the process of getting estimates for getting the price down and/or selecting the cheapest. Use this process to judge how the company treats you; do they keep their promises? How good or detailed is their estimate? Is well-presented on headed paper or hastily scribbled on piece of plasterboard?

The process of producing estimates is a mini project and will often give you a clue as to how the tradesperson/company will approach their work as a whole. Give them a deadline for the estimate and see if they meet it. A tradesperson/company who is keen to do the job will make sure you get the estimate in plenty of time. When you receive the estimate make sure you look at:

  • Does the estimate contain a landline telephone number and a proper address?
  • Does it also include things like company and VAT numbers?
  • How detailed is the estimate when produced?

Getting what you asked for

It is absolutely true that unless all parties share the same - exactly the same - vision of the 'END RESULT', there will be problems and usually it will be your vision that will suffer. We call it the Mickey Mouse Syndrome: “I asked them for a popular male Film star with dark, deep-set eyes and a sense of humour. I was expecting Johnny Depp - but ended up with Mickey Mouse”.

Use our Satisfaction criteria to help ensure they know how you will select the right company/tradesperson and how you will judge them - and the work - during the project and when it is finished.

Use another company's estimate to ask if the company you are talking to, includes the same line-items. You will often find that 3 estimates will have different component parts, so use them like a check list and get any missing from one estimate added and costed.

Is the cheapest really the best?

There are many reasons the cheapest is not necessarily the best.

The cheapest estimate often comes with the 'less specific' paperwork, so that when you get into the discussion around “I was expecting this” you may be told that will be no problem, but it will be extra. Resulting in the cheapest becoming rapidly the most expensive.

Does the price sound too good to be true?

Then it most probably is. The reason for asking for 2, 3 or 4 estimates is to be able to compare like for like. If one estimate is so far adrift from the others, (in either direction) this will be a good indicator that something is wrong and there is a miscommunication about that 'END RESULT'

Of course be wary of anyone using the tactics of “if you sign up now we will give you 20% OFF” etc.... If they offer that now, they will offer it again. If you are being pressured to sign up, there is a usually a reason behind it.

Do not let people convince you to take the job off the market early without understanding the benefit you will lose if you do. It is mostly to their advantage to get you to do that, not yours.

Ask friends and family if they have had similar work done, what did it cost, what were the pitfalls, anything that arose that you should plan for.

Other questions to ask

  • Does it include VAT?
  • How will the waste be disposed of?
  • Does it include all costs? Labour, materials, contingency?

Ask the tradesperson/company if they will do all the work or sub-contract some of it. If some of the work will be sub-contracted, make sure they understand that they, being in overall charge, must take responsibility for the end result, behaviour and contractual agreement.