The recent winter storms have caused a deluge of calls for “free estimates”. The majority of homeowners all across America have traditionally been drawn to the magical words “Free estimates”!
As a family owned business that started over 100 years ago, the challenge is ever ending to find the 60% of homeowners who want a good job at a fair price and in fact know the real value of the word free.
These people look beyond the words for value, longevity and integrity. The dilemma, legitimate contractors face is a lot of people have no regard for his time and expenses. He gets calls from homeowners asking for estimates just to get an idea of what something would cost.
Other homeowners need a legitimate written estimate in order to get a loan or insurance monies so they can do the work themselves, or hire a friend or fly-by-night person to do the job. And some contract with under insured sub-contractors who tell the homeowners to get the permit under their own names, then hire them to do the work to save some money. Other insurance adjusters tell homeowners to get at least three estimates, then in most cases take the lowest one. Some won’t even take the lowest bid, but tell the homeowners they can get it done for less by someone else and in these instances the homeowner has no idea or input into the quality of repairs. Some insurance adjusters will compromise the quality of storm damage repairs to save the company money. With these facts in mind, homeowners need to understand the time and expense of dealing with insurance companies sometimes require 3-4 phone calls and job site consultations and thus, a fair fee for these written estimates is essential to cover minimal costs incurred.
You would in the long run you would be better served to seek out a maximum of three contractors to bid your work and often one is enough. Why? Discerning homeowners know that a good quality contractor’s time is valuable to him and to his customers. Forcing legitimate business people to waste their time giving comprehensive estimates when you really aren’t going to give him the work, truly raises the cost of doing business to everyone.
Over the past 40 years the Erie County Consumer Protection board has hosted a dozen hearings to determine what are the reasons why so many homeowners get “ripped off” in WNY. After carefully investigating almost all of these complaints the homeowner got several “free estimates” and inevitably took the cheapest price – more laws will never change this phenomenon.
The Home Improvement Council of WNY has for over 45 years conducted hundreds of arbitration to resolve disputes between its contractors and homeowners. We have seen both satisfied and dissatisfied homeowners.
There is a clear cut pattern to both.
Generally, most dissatisfied home improvement projects evolve around homeowners limited their focus to:
[How much will the project cost?] and [when can the work get started?]