Is it reasonable to demand a contractor's estimate in writing?

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: Quick question. I am going to remodel my attic. I have yet to install : the knee walls and the framing necessary prior to the installation of : the electrical components. I want to get a firm quote on the electrical : before I proceed with the framing. I got an estimate from an : electirician to do all of the electrical, bring addn'l lines up from : the basement etc. Several days after he visited my home he gave me a : verbal estimate of the total cost over the phone. No real details were : included. I then asked him to provide me with a written estimate. He : declined. He said he wanted to wait until he was ready to start the : job. I feel that he should be able to provide a written estimate of the : costs now. Am I being unreasonable? : : Thanks :
Ignoring a number of the non-answers so far in this thread, I'll try to answer your direct question: -- No, you are not being unreasonable in requiring a written/signed estimate. -- Yes, you are being a little unreasonable to require a written/signed estimate when the contractor has not seen or evaluated the physical site to figure out what he needs to buy/ship/source/pay plus labor.
Also remember, an ESTIMATE is just that: an ESTIMATE. It is NOT a guarantee of the actual price you'll pay when the job is completed! That's why the written/signed estimate is important and why it should be detailed: It's there to compare the estimated work against the actual work when all is done. If there was more work required done than in the estimate, you pay for it. If less, then the bill should drop accordingly. You'll have a tough time getting a guaranteed price for a job unless it's painfully obvious to the contractor and he's positive what he needs to do and what could go wrong as he does it, OR he knows he guaranteed high enough he doesn't care what he runs into. Two way street, in other words.
HTH,
Pop
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Other factors I neglected to mention.
Contractors are not always good office managers or clerks. He does not want to take the time to write a detailed estimate and you then say "oh, it is more that I thought, I'll wait a couple of years" but the does not give him back his hour
Another is that you will take his carefully prepared estimate and hand it over to other fly by night cheap contractors so they can beat his price. With nothing in writing, you don't have that bargaining chip to hold over a more hungry contractor's heat.
Lastly, he may not give damn. He may have more work that he can handle and just does not want to spend a lot of time yet on a non-customer. The electrician I use at work does not care much about you when he has regular customers like me that pay fast, pay his fair rate, never hassle, etc. If he was working on your house and I called for an emergency he'd just walk away and come to our place. I know that for a fact because he has done it a couple of times, that last being after a flood in October. He was there in a half hour and worked two solid days. You would have just waited.
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wrote:

I like the phrase "Statement of Work". All the W's (Who, What, When Where and Witness) can detail things easier. If the SOW says for 5000 feet of fiber optics to pass all test and it does, the dude gets paid as the SOW is in the contract. if not he fixes the network backbone.
Oren "My doctor says I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes."
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Yep, it is reasonable, but estimates are not binding, so it isn't worth the paper it is written on.
If you want a definite figure for a specific set of tasks finished during a particular timeframe, ask for a quote. That'll be binding, assuming you accept it without asking for changes.
KB
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: > Quick question. I am going to remodel my attic. I have yet to install : > the knee walls and the framing necessary prior to the installation of : > the electrical components. I want to get a firm quote on the electrical : > before I proceed with the framing. I got an estimate from an : > electirician to do all of the electrical, bring addn'l lines up from : > the basement etc. Several days after he visited my home he gave me a : > verbal estimate of the total cost over the phone. No real details were : > included. I then asked him to provide me with a written estimate. He : > declined. He said he wanted to wait until he was ready to start the : > job. I feel that he should be able to provide a written estimate of the : > costs now. Am I being unreasonable? : > : > Thanks : : Yep, it is reasonable, but estimates are not binding, so it isn't worth the : paper it is written on. : : If you want a definite figure for a specific set of tasks finished during a : particular timeframe, ask for a quote. That'll be binding, assuming you : accept it without asking for changes. : : KB : No, assuming they both sign and date it, and that it's written correctly. Then most likely yes.
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A "contract" is made of two elements.
Offer and acceptance.
The contractor (and make SURE he is a contractor) OFFERS to do the work for a price.
The owner ACCEPTS the offer, and they have a CONTRACT.
If there is no written offer, there can be no contract. Verbal agreements are worth the paper they're written on. They are enforceable, but only if you 're lucky, and if you DO win, you don't have much of a chance of relief.
You should ask your "contractor" to have their insurance company (ies) send you documentation of worker's compensation coverage, liability coverage, and surety bond.
If they don't do this, they aren't a contractor. Or not a good contractor. You may be the general, or owner contractor on the job, and be allowed to hire subs that don't have a contractor's license, but it CAN get complicated from there. Laws vary from state to state.
Bottom line, if you want to be more sure that it's done and done right, hire a contractor. I said more sure, because there isn't any guarantee that you won't have problems with a licensed contractor. But you are less likely to. With subs and unlicensed contractors, it can turn into the attic job from hell.
I would say if this person won't put it in writing, they're not a contractor. Be wary hiring them. Buy all materials yourself and save money. NEVER, repeat NEVER, let them get ahead of you in the amount of money paid versus the amount of work done.
Contracting without a license (even giving an estimate to do work) is a felony in my state, and they have FINALLY started enforcing it on these boobs.
Steve
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"If there is no written offer, there can be no contract. Verbal agreements are worth the paper they're written on. They are enforceable, but only if you 're lucky, and if you DO win, you don't have much of a chance of relief. "
Well. which is it? First you say without a written offer, there can be no contract. Then you say verbal agreements are enforceable. A verbal contract, with a few exceptions, eg for real estate transactions, is enforceable without anything being in writing. The difficulty is proving which party is telling the truth and right.
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Trad Wrote:
"Buy all materials yourself and save money. "
My comment on that is: If you buy your own materials, you can also do your own work. If I install someone elses materials or equipment (I wont), I would not put any warranty on the materials. for instance, you supply the water heater. I install it. We find it is faulty (leaks) from the factory. I will charge to install it, then charge to take it out so you can return for exchance, then charge to put it back in again. I have no control over the quality of what you buy. I also make no money on it. I am not "Charity Cooling & Plumbing". Don't be a tight wad.
End of rant.
Stretch
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: > Quick question. I am going to remodel my attic. I have yet to install : > the knee walls and the framing necessary prior to the installation of : > the electrical components. I want to get a firm quote on the electrical : > before I proceed with the framing. I got an estimate from an : > electirician to do all of the electrical, bring addn'l lines up from : > the basement etc. Several days after he visited my home he gave me a : > verbal estimate of the total cost over the phone. No real details were : > included. I then asked him to provide me with a written estimate. He : > declined. He said he wanted to wait until he was ready to start the : > job. I feel that he should be able to provide a written estimate of the : > costs now. Am I being unreasonable? : > : > Thanks : > : : A "contract" is made of two elements. : : Offer and acceptance. : : The contractor (and make SURE he is a contractor) OFFERS to do the work for : a price. : : The owner ACCEPTS the offer, and they have a CONTRACT. : : If there is no written offer, there can be no contract. Verbal agreements : are worth the paper they're written on. They are enforceable, but only if : you 're lucky, and if you DO win, you don't have much of a chance of relief. : : You should ask your "contractor" to have their insurance company (ies) send : you documentation of worker's compensation coverage, liability coverage, and : surety bond. : : If they don't do this, they aren't a contractor. Or not a good contractor. : You may be the general, or owner contractor on the job, and be allowed to : hire subs that don't have a contractor's license, but it CAN get complicated : from there. Laws vary from state to state. : : Bottom line, if you want to be more sure that it's done and done right, hire : a contractor. I said more sure, because there isn't any guarantee that you : won't have problems with a licensed contractor. But you are less likely to. : With subs and unlicensed contractors, it can turn into the attic job from : hell. : : I would say if this person won't put it in writing, they're not a : contractor. Be wary hiring them. Buy all materials yourself and save : money. NEVER, repeat NEVER, let them get ahead of you in the amount of : money paid versus the amount of work done. : : Contracting without a license (even giving an estimate to do work) is a : felony in my state, and they have FINALLY started enforcing it on these : boobs. : : Steve : : Excellent post, especially the insurance and bonding mention. Those are very important: Without it, they're working on YOUR homeowner's insurance protection. And could sue you as I saw happen two summers ago. Dropped a chimney stone on his foot - broke a toe. Sued the guy in small claims. Lost, but still ...
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On Wed, 28 Dec 2005 17:53:15 -0800, "Steve B"

This is true and is probably why the "contractor" that installed a replacement heating system in my house in Jan 1992 was sued by the town attorney.
This heating guy should have gotten permits from the town. He didn't, so the town came after me instead. But, when the town learned that this guy was again doing plumbing work, they went after him. You see, the town had revoked this guy's plumbing license already. He was prohibited to do any plumbing in this town.
The town attorney had kept me informed, as they wanted my testimony in the court record. It would have meant time away from my office, but I was already angry and willing. However, at the last minute, the guy changed his plead to guilty and was fined: $250.00. BIG DEAL.!
This did not help me any when I went after the heating guy in small claims (evening) court. I would have been happier if the town was awarded $2500.00 rather than $250.00.
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Thanks for the advice, everyone.
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Yank_fan_2965 wrote:

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As a builder, I would strongly urge you to not only get a detailed estimate of the work involved but also a written contract, addressing the cost, to complete the work, as described. A reputable contractor should never baulk at entering such an agreement.
Yank_fan_2965 wrote:

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Yank_fan_2965 wrote:

Possibly. Some things that may have influenced the electrician's refusal to provide a written estimate: - Your work wasn't completed when the electrician visited. Things might have changed from when he visited and he's wary of giving an estimate in writing without seeing the completed work. - He might have gotten a vibe that you were price shopping and was concerned that you would hand that written estimate to another electrician. He does the estimating and another guy gets paid. Are you price shopping? Did you contact other electricians? I'm not saying you shouldn't get a couple or three bids, but I'm sure you can understand the reluctance if that's the case. - Your job sounds fairly small, and a lot of contractors loathe paperwork. It's not the reason they're in the business. It's also a business where established relationships have the benefit of history and trust - paperwork is frequently kept at a minimum. You being a new guy to him, and a potential pain in the ass, is a risk for him. You too, but he's not looking at it from your side of the fence.
If your intention is to lock in a firm price, write up the contract so the guy will know you're not shopping around and he won't have to worry about that. You'll need to finish up your work, or guarantee certain conditions, before any sensible contractor will sign a contract with a guaranteed price.
As an aside to the other poster's who are batting the judge/court outcomes back and forth: Do your states have mechanic's liens? In this neck of the woods, filing a mechanic's lien puts an encumbrance on the property. If the owner goes to refinance, take out equity, gets a credit check, etc., it will show up as a ding. Frequently the owner will be the one in a hurry to get the thing resolved as the amount in question may be much smaller than the amount in jeopardy due to the lien.
R
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