Author Topic: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?  (Read 4624 times)

Retired To Win

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How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« on: December 18, 2014, 06:21:43 AM »
I have an acquaintance who is ready to sign the contract on an $8000-plus septic installation after getting only TWO estimates.  How many estimates would you get on a big job like that?

My experience tells me to get a lot of estimates, and to keep getting estimates until I know I have a true low bidder (which I have usually identified after 5 estimates or so).  This approach has saved me more than 50% on a new roof, a multi-tree removal job, and a driveway paving job... and a whopping 90% on the labor cost of installing a whole house generator.  And every one of those jobs was done well, with no problems since their completion years ago.

So maybe I get more estimates than some other folks.  But TWO estimates and he's done?!

What do you say?

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2014, 08:15:07 AM »
My last huge job was an exterior paint.

My DW got something like 6 quotes. She wasn't satisfied (understandably). We saw some guys painting a neighbors house. Approached them and got an aggressive quote (since they had downtime before the next job, but needed us to buy the paint, can they work through the weekend, will be done in 7 days, 10 if the weather turns, etc.).

Hired on the spot. Got the paint. Showed up reliably for three days. Then not so reliably. The painting was good. The attendance wasn't. A month into it I fired them. The only parts left were the hard/dangerous parts. The money remaining from the draw wasn't near enough to get someone out to do the hard/dangerous parts.

I was stuck paying 50% more than the second best quote or finishing it myself. I did it myself, and lived.

The moral is cheap isn't always best, but it works out more often than not.

neo von retorch

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2014, 08:53:01 AM »
This is one of those times it is worth it to pay $12 and get an Angie's List subscription. (It's like $30+ I think but if you start to sign up but cancel, they'll keep dropping the price until you actually sign up for a very discounted price.) Then look for a very popular A-rated local contractor (or two, or three) and get a quote from them.

With my roof, the "guys working on a neighbor's house" started the roof quotes at $15,000. My local guy did it in one day with "50 year aka lifetime" shingels and a very, very nice job for $4700. The local quotes with highly rated contractors were all comparable, and well below the big chain rip-off guys, and there were plenty of local testimonials on AngiesList.com.

Gone Fishing

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2014, 09:13:47 AM »
I look online to get a ballpark idea of what things should cost.  Then I get a quote from somebody with good local references from friends, neighbors, co-workers.  If they are in range, I proceed, if they are out of range, I look elsewhere.  We live in a small town, there are only so many service providers to choose from.  On the flipside, the grapevine is pretty harsh on those who do not perform.

Bob W

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2014, 09:45:04 AM »
Encourage your friend to get 2 more quotes.    $8,000 is a good chunk and saving 2K would be nice.

clarkfan1979

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2014, 01:39:29 PM »
For $8000, I would probably get 4 quotes. When I had to re-carpet a bedroom for $800, I only got 2 quotes.

My dad recently got a quote for $8500 to dig up his septic field. He figured out on his own that it wasn't necessary and the guy was being deceptive.  My dad dug around the septic tank and discovered that the filter was being blocked by some small tree roots.

It's amazing that the septic guy wouldn't solve the problem for my dad and just charge him $250. He had to lie and try to charge him $8500.

Greg

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2014, 10:03:46 PM »
As has been suggested, estimates aren't the only thing.  Get references, check online, check with your state to see if they're licensed, insured and bonded.

If an un-insured painter falls off a ladder on the first day and breaks their back, your homeowners' insurance will be liable.  This is what happened to the sister of the accountant at my lumberyard.

In my area, my County Health Department has a list of reputable (licensed, insured, good work) contractors that do this sort of thing.  When I had my system installed, i called around for estimates and was surprised that one of the largest companies that does mostly large scale/commercial groundwork was a very competitive bid, and they got it done very quickly.

Retired To Win

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2014, 07:37:23 AM »
As has been suggested, estimates aren't the only thing.  Get references, check online, check with your state to see if they're licensed, insured and bonded...

Agreed.  I should have clarified in my original post that all the estimates I gathered on the jobs I wrote about were from companies I had vetted as you suggest.  I also check them out on Angie's List (if they are listed there).  Anyhoo... I have yet to have a bad experience going with the low bidder.

Spork

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2014, 07:56:34 AM »
As has been suggested, estimates aren't the only thing.  Get references, check online, check with your state to see if they're licensed, insured and bonded...

Agreed.  I should have clarified in my original post that all the estimates I gathered on the jobs I wrote about were from companies I had vetted as you suggest.  I also check them out on Angie's List (if they are listed there).  Anyhoo... I have yet to have a bad experience going with the low bidder.

I have.  Not saying the low bidder sucks... but I've had some "referred by a friend" low bidders that sucked.  It is especially awful if you have to jackhammer out the patio they laid poorly.

dios.del.sol

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2014, 11:52:05 AM »
I have a rule of thumb for estimates: Get as many estimates as the number of digits in the price + 1. An $8k job has 4 digits, so I'd get 5 estimates. (Actually I'm a bit more geeky - I do round(log10(price)) + 1 - which is about the same.) It works really well as a way of balancing my time and my money, especially when there are many options and I can fall prey to paralysis by analysis.

I seldom go with the lowest bidder - just the best perceived value for the price. I heard that when some European countries bid out large infrastructure projects, they throw out the high and low bidder (assuming they don't know what they're going) and then go with the bidder closest to the average. I like that approach.

southern granny

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2014, 12:14:36 PM »
I only get two if those two are close in amounts.  If not, then three and possibly four.

Greg

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2014, 10:22:01 AM »
Another thing to be sure of when collecting bids is to have a clear and consistent scope of work that the bids are for. I can't tell you how many times I've been underbid for "the same job" only to find the scope was reduced to make it less expensive.

Often low bids might leave out cleaning and protection of plants (say for a paint job) or other key things.

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Re: How Many Big Repair Job Estimates Are Enough?
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2015, 07:00:59 PM »
I have an acquaintance who is ready to sign the contract on an $8000-plus septic installation after getting only TWO estimates.  How many estimates would you get on a big job like that?

My experience tells me to get a lot of estimates, and to keep getting estimates until I know I have a true low bidder (which I have usually identified after 5 estimates or so).  This approach has saved me more than 50% on a new roof, a multi-tree removal job, and a driveway paving job... and a whopping 90% on the labor cost of installing a whole house generator.  And every one of those jobs was done well, with no problems since their completion years ago.

So maybe I get more estimates than some other folks.  But TWO estimates and he's done?!

What do you say?


Here's an update on my acquaintance and his septic system project.

After reading in some of the replies to my OP that I seem to have some knack for this sort of thing, I acted on that and did some estimate-hunting for "L", my acquaintance.  And I lowered the final settlement price of the job to $5000.

First of all, it was taking L weeks and weeks just to get anyone to come look at his situation, let alone give him a price quote.  I don't know what the hell he was doing wrong, but less than a week after I got started I had 4 bonafide estimates.

And, sure as hell, one of them was that "low bid outlier" I've talked about.  Same equipment to be installed, same verified licenses and insurances, same "seal of approval" from the county health department.  But thousands lower.

Don't ask me how or why this protocol seems to work.  I just know it does.

(Think L might fork over a finder's fee??)  LOL!