Should you charge customers for your building quote?

Here’s a snapshot of reactions from our own research and forums and articles across the internet on the subject of building quotes and whether it is OK to charge the customer for them. We haven’t come across a recommendation from the FMB or a suggestion for homeowners by the consumer magazine Which! And that’s no surprise really as there are so many variables to be taken into account.

“We charge £50 for refurbishment quotes on properties that customers are looking to put an offer on. They’re after an expert opinion and may not even go on to buy the property. So that is definitely chargeable. And £50 is nothing really. They’ll spend a lot more on a Surveyor.”

“We charge for a detailed breakdown of materials, labour, timescales etc, especially if the job is non-standard; but a quick wander round and a cursory “that’ll be about a ten grand” isn’t chargeable.”

“If a developer hasn’t purchased the land yet and wants a price for two new builds, accurate to within 10%, I would charge £600+VAT. And would send an example of a previous quote to give them an idea of the level of detail they would receive.”

“I think customers are prepared to spend a couple of hundred quid on a well prepared detailed quote that will be refunded if we get the job. And if we don’t get the job the customer has a proper quote to use as a benchmark for other builders. It’s money well spent.”

“If a customer wants me to email a quote without even meeting to discuss the project then I believe they’re just fishing for prices and aren’t taking me seriously. They should want to meet me and discuss the job in person. I don’t even have to think about whether I’ll charge for the quote – I just won’t even get involved.”

“I always ask how many building firms the customer is requesting a quote from. If they say 10 or more then I won’t put my hat in the ring, it’s not worth the effort and cost of producing the quote.”

“If a customer is prepared to pay an estimating service for a detailed quote, they should be prepared to spend similar money when a building firm quotes. Not for a guesstimate of course, but if it’s comprehensive and full of detail.”

“It’s really competitive out there. The last thing I can afford to do is risk annoying a prospect with a bill. I’ll take my chances, quote for free and hope I win the work based on my professionalism and honesty.”

Easy-to-use estimating software

In our experience builders who are giving a quick benchmark estimate are very unlikely to charge for this service. And even builders who are providing a full and comprehensive quote with all the materials itemized are loathe to charge if there’s a chance they might upset the customer and lose the chance to quote at all. It’s the time wasters that most builders get fed up with.

EstimatorXpress, our award-winning estimating software, provides the user with the opportunity to add a profit margin and also include any extras, such as the time it takes to quote. These costs can be absorbed into the overall cost, so the building firm is accurately accounting for its time.

If the job isn’t won, (although 230% more jobs are won using EstimatorXpress!) at least the clever, easy-to-use software has made the quote submission a quick and painless process – and it’s on to the next one! Many look on the quoting process as an investment in the business.

In fact past quotes can be used as the basis for new quotes if the fundamentals are the same, so there is always something to be gained from every estimate completed.

In that way you can choose whether you want to charge for the quote or not…safe in the knowledge that you’ve hugely reduced your time costs (so charging for the quote is probably immaterial).

Protect your time with high quality leads

It’s important to QUALIFY your prospective clients. If you handle your enquiries correctly it should protect your time and let’s your potential client know how you do business. Handling them incorrectly gives them the opportunity to waste your time by requesting a free quote when they’re not serious. As mentioned above a verbal or one liner letter or email “it’ll be in the order of” is one thing, but if you take the time do a full itemisation, you are within your rights to charge. Furthermore before you do the estimate, tell your clients that you DON’T simply email them or post them the quote, that you’ll set up a meeting to run through with it, so they buy into YOU – that’s if you want the job…and they are serious about you doing the job!

Free no-obligation estimate

So what about a “free no-obligation estimate” that is a popular advertising message? There is a big difference between an estimate and a detailed cost breakdown provided as a professional service as mentioned above. Most clients would pay for a Quantity Surveyor service, so if you know you have a big project to price up, having been asked to tender then consider charging…A QS wouldn’t work for free would he…?

And finally, here’s what the Australian Builders Coach has to say…

“If you want their business, inform them that when you go to the time and effort of compiling a quote, you want to sit down with them to review the proposal and ask/answer any questions they might have. Is this ballsy? Is it rude? No, it’s setting the standard under which you are willing to work. Remember if you don’t set it, the prospective client will. The prospect is either at the mercy of your process for selling or you’re at the mercy for their process for buying. It’s your time to do with as you will, but why let some inconsiderate knucklehead waste your time? You must learn to guard your time as you would your life, and insist that others respect your time. That way you can focus on the clients you can do business with, not the clients who want to waste your time.”

To discuss how EstimatorXpress arrives at its calculations, give the team a call on 0117 916 7898. They’d be happy to set you up with a free test drive as well.