Most of these advisers don't encourage the homeowner to spend time actually educating themselves on the type of work they want.
For residential jobs, everything associated with houses, the standard is for the estimates to be free to the homeowner. Thus, contractors are wasting time, gas, and aggravation unless the estimate yields a job. Occasionally, a homeowner will recognize this and thank the contractor for his time, but usually the homeowner is oblivious.
Let's look at this form the perspective of the *average* contractor, that is, average in his ability to land jobs. Assuming all customers get three estimates, the contractor must then do three estimates in order to get one job - a day's work, perhaps. When we factor-in the many customers who will never buy the job from anybody, the contractor's ratio gets worse. When we figure-in that the contractor must refuse some jobs, the ratio gets worse yet. So how does the contractor compensate for this loss? The same way stores compensate for employee-theft and shoplifting, they charge the paying customers for it. That's where all the money comes from.
What else does the contractor do to limit his losses? He qualifies his customers. In other words, if while on the call with a potential customer, the contractor perceives the customer to be shopping, or worse, *just* shopping, the contractor will then find some way to end the call. The then rejected potential customer may try the next contractor on his or her list, but he of she has lost the opportunity to use the rejecting contractor, and often these people are the best contractors.
Sometimes when you can get something for free, it's not ethical nor beneficial to take it.
How then should a customer select a contractor? First he or she should educate themselves on the work that needs to be done. Then, calling a few contractors is fine, and even getting three estimates is correct in some situations. But indiscriminately wasting people's time is abusing the system and it will put off the contractor who is perhaps the homeowner's best bet.
-- (||) Nehmo (||)