Many Home repair/renovation-advice TV segments, government pamphlets,
web pages, newsgroup postings, and so on, advocate that the homeowner
get three (I've even seen recommendations for more) estimates before
selecting a contractor. These advisers then have a variety of methods
to proceed: average the estimates and keep looking, pick the middle,
pick the guy you like, or sometimes they provide no further advice. The
homeowner, lacking any better criteria, may very well take the lowest
bid or estimate. Consequently, often the homeowner then gets the lowest
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*
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
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
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 (||)