Author Topic: Do you negotiate with contractors?  (Read 9145 times)

jrhampt

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Do you negotiate with contractors?
« on: July 01, 2013, 11:55:12 AM »
Due to some deferred maintenance from the previous renters/owners of our house, I need a few wooden window sills replaced.  The first contractor only repaired 2 and decided the others were too much work.  I had a second contractor come out to give me an estimate, and he wanted to wrap everything in aluminum instead of repairing the sills.  I had a third come out with an estimate, and he wants $250 per sill ($1k total).  The other option would be to replace the windows for $3400...they're decent windows to begin with so not sure I need to do this, really, but I could upgrade to a thicker glaze (triple vs. double) and see a slight increase in efficiency, I suppose.  We will be in the house for at least 5 more years, but not sure after that.  I had hoped to pay closer to $800 for the repairs. Is it worth trying to negotiate over?  Would you try to get a fourth contractor over for an estimate? Would you replace instead of repair? Is it considered kind of rude to negotiate services, or is this perfectly acceptable?

freelancerNfulltimer

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Re: Do you negotiate with contractors?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2013, 12:33:58 PM »
It is reasonable to negotiate with a contractor, but sometimes they will take the lower payment into account with their workmanship. There's nothing wrong with getting a fourth estimate.

While I don't do construction work, I prefer customers who don't try to haggle with me on prices. I do good work and have gotten to the point where I can be selective about the jobs I take on. If a customer has a budget to meet I simply show them what features can be removed from the estimate to get to that price point. I only mention this because a contractor I have used haggled with me on price and ended up being less than reputable. He cut corners by telling me had pulled a permit and charging me for it. I found out later the permit had never been pulled.

gooki

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Re: Do you negotiate with contractors?
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2013, 02:22:44 PM »
I get multiple estimates, the ask my preferred contractor if can can match the lowest one.

DoingMe

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Re: Do you negotiate with contractors?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2013, 08:10:27 AM »
Having been a contractor, I can tell you we did not negotiate.  Home repairs/improvements are not commodity goods.  If the contractor knows his business (I know a VERY BIG IF), the quotes you get will be based upon his costs, including overhead and profit.

IMHO, a contractor that will reduce the price (by 20% from the figures in your post) either was just guessing at what number you would pay to have the work done and doesn't really know his business, or over inflated his profit (i.e., he had lots extra to give back).  Expect a contractor that has dropped his price to, at best, do nothing more than is specified in the contract.  No extras for you.

Specifically, window sills are not a fun project.  You have already found one contractor who ran away and another who wants to sweep the problem under the rug.  My advice is to find a contractor that you trust to do the job properly and pay him what he asks.
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Greg

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Re: Do you negotiate with contractors?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2013, 09:26:59 AM »
I'm a contractor, and sometimes negotiation is ok.  Usually this is done by just getting different bids.  But you have to be clear about what work is going to be done and for how much.  Additional work costs extra, so be careful not to negotiate for a desired price point when you actually expect more expensive work.  A written set of specifications that the bids should be based on is a good idea.  This way, everyone you talk to is bidding the same job and you are comparing apples to apples.  Get bids in writing.  Check on insurance and bonding.

Usually, a negotiation on contracted work as you describe will consist of a contractor's bid, a counter bid or similar response, and either no response, the same price, or a reduced price with some sort of compromise on work or materials that should be explained.  For example, a recent bid I made for a door replacement was counter bid to be under my cost and without tax.  My response was that I could do it for their price but with a different, cheaper door.  They chose the higher quality door.

Your second bid of $1K represents under 2 days of labor for contractors in my area.  Then there's quality materials, custom milling, demo and install, perhaps paint as well?

I would suggest looking for someone who specializes in wood windows.  If you can preserve the original windows, they're often better than new, especially vinyl.  Get references and referrals from neighbors who have had similar work done.

Dynasty

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Re: Do you negotiate with contractors?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2013, 01:12:24 PM »
Due to some deferred maintenance from the previous renters/owners of our house, I need a few wooden window sills replaced.....

  Would you replace instead of repair? Is it considered kind of rude to negotiate services, or is this perfectly acceptable?

Without knowing exactly how bad they are I have to assume they are repairable. Anyway you could post some pictures of them?

Most contractors (99%) will want to replace rather than repair. Its easier and quicker.

Unless the wood is totally rotten, and lost all of its structural integrity they are easily repairable by YOU for a fraction of the cost that you will be charged to replace them.

I've repaired two window sills quickly on their way to becoming bad, as close to as good as new as possible, on my house, and have pretty decent experience restoring wooden windows.

« Last Edit: July 02, 2013, 01:16:24 PM by Dynasty »