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I have always avoiding putting cost estimates in reports because I never felt comfortable estimating costs. I do mostly structural inspections and consulting now, so its not much of an issue, but I am interested in some feedback.

I talked to a neighbor today about his outside hose faucet. He forgot to take the hose off and it split. It has a shutoff valve and is in an easy location to fix. A local plumber quoted $569. My neighbor asked him how he arrived at that price and thought that it may take about a half hour. The plumber agreed that it would probably take him a half house, but he has all these costs... I am in a suburb of Philadelphia. Costs may be a lot higher than many parts of the country, but also a lot less than some other parts. All non-union here for residential work. Does this seem high?

A different situation happened a couple weeks ago. A home inspector flagged a couple damaged trusses and called for further evaluation. However, he put in a price of $500 to $1000 for repairs. He identified about 4 damaged joints, one split web member, and flagged sloppy lateral bracing, which looked to me like temporary bracing from installation. After looking over the trusses I found a lot more damage. I estimated about $4200 in repairs. I'm sure that number could vary, depending upon who does the work, but since an engineer should design the repairs and climbing up in an attic to do truss repairs is not fast work, I think the $500-$1000 was low for almost any truss repairs.

I don't know why the inspector would even put a cost on something where he called for further evaluation. I'm sure he would say that the cost was for what was visible, but a buyer could easily think that he found all or or most of the damage and that the estimate should cover most of the work.

I was talking with a masonry contractor about costs a couple weeks ago. He thought it was crazy that inspectors would attempt to estimate costs for various trades. I'm curious what others think about cost estimating.

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I do it, but not for everything, it's bracketed widely, and if I don't know, I don't make up a number attempting to look knowledgeable. One has to know what stuff costs if they're going to talk numbers, but it's not too hard to know what stuff costs. You have to have some connection to doing the work. I wouldn't recommend it for most folks.

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Kurt is right, but, I think it is important to inform my clients. If you don't know what costs how in the world are they supposed to know? Providing at least a frame of reference is part of our job.

This is going to be several hundred dollars. That could be a few thousand. This might be tens of thousands. My neighbor just replaced that and it cost him $X. These kind of references are close enough.

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An inspection report has to be translated into repair dollars for the home buying process to proceed. Agents push the inspector to furnish repair costs because they usually have the influence to do so. Soliciting agents for referrals is what opens the door to the influence of the agent.

What's stupid is that:

  • We all know that contractor quotes for any given task can vary enormously, and each discrepancy from the contractor quote is a liability for the inspector.
  • Every inspector E/O policy I've ever seen has an exclusion that denies coverage on any claim related to a repair cost that the inspector volunteered.
  • HIs aren't allowed to complete repair work. In my mind, that disqualifies him from suggesting repair cost. Check neighboring professions like architects and engineers: They most commonly leave cost estimating to contractors.
Marc
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Like the others I only rarely talk about costs, and tag whatever figures are mentioned as "ball park" only.

For unlivable dwellings where conditions are beyond description I issue a spreadsheet that attempts to itemize categories of need. When figures are inserted they are done so in terms of unit pricing with numbers of units also expressed ball park.

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Our state HI law states that if we provide costs it must be a range and we must state the source of the cost estimate.

It seems like the longer that I have been in business, the less comfortable I would be with quoting costs. I see widely varying estimates from contractors for similar jobs. Every time I have asked a contractor for a rough estimate I get a that depend, it can vary, etc. They don't even want to throw out numbers without all the details.

I do appreciate the feedback. How about the faucet replacement cost. Is it high? What would you quote?

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I'm not a fan of repair cost in a home inspection report. What I do tell my clients in the report on possibly expensive repairs is that they should obtain repair cost estimates for X prior to the expiration of their contingency period.

It's not difficult to obtain generic repair cost estimates, now a days one can Google just about anything needing repair and you will have several sources to choose from.

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Faucet? Still variables involved. Supply lines can have problems that run costs up, etc...

If everything goes smooth, I'd say $200-$250 for labor. Then add the cost of the fixture which also varies widely.

John, this was a freeze-resistant hose faucet-$29 at HD. Soldered to 1/2" copper. Easy to get to in an unfinished basement-with a shut-off valve.

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Faucet? Still variables involved. Supply lines can have problems that run costs up, etc...

If everything goes smooth, I'd say $200-$250 for labor. Then add the cost of the fixture which also varies widely.

John, this was a freeze-resistant hose faucet-$29 at HD. Soldered to 1/2" copper. Easy to get to in an unfinished basement-with a shut-off valve.

Any qualified plumber in my area is so busy. Your lucky to get 'em to answer the phone. Water in the house, supply and drain is a big time staple. People live without electric no problem. Shut of their water or clog their waste line = big problem! They call and they're willing to pay.

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We do cost projections for the most major issues, only if specifically requested by the client (not agents). I make it clear how wildly different quotes can be from different contractors for the same repair. I also warn them of contractors that try to sell all kinds of additional unnecessary work.

Some examples of contractor pricing:

When I ask the plumber I've used for many of my projects for the cost of any repair, it's always $1200 for anything now. Replace 30' of cast iron - $1200. Replace a toilet seal - $1200. Replace a trap - $1200.

My favorite masonry contractor won't touch anything now for less than $7000.

Folks getting quotes for replacing 4 circuits of knob & tube. 1st quote -$4600. 2nd quote - $22,000.

Folks getting quotes for re-parging a stone foundation. 1st quote $650. 2nd quote $4400.

1st chimney contractor - 3 flues need cleaning, replace a damper and remortar one of the crowns $1050. 2nd contractor - "I have to contact the fire marshal to condemn your house. We have to immediately tear down and rebuild your three chimneys for $65,000".

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That valve will be 39 at a supply house, plus a length of pipe, a spool of solder, a can of flux, and a coupler. Add on tax and mark up, plus 120 to show up, plus an hour labor, plus overhead. If i dont want to do all the running around for that price I run markup and overhead percentage again. I can see how he got that number.

If I had never sweat copper before I would go and buy the parts and tools and spend a Saturday learning to fix it before I paid that much for a manageable repair.

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Kibbel makes a good point; stuff happens in increments of $1200-1500 nowadays. Anyone doing anything competently and it seems like it's a grand.

Also, big swings. It's necessary to indicate just how far things can swing depending on lots of variables.

I tell folks my reports have to be able to stand up in court. For a number to hold up in court, it's got to be tied to a specification. One has to have a basic understanding of spec's and tie them to the numbers for it to have any validity. Generally not a good idea for most HI reports; it can complicate things.

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We do cost projections for the most major issues, only if specifically requested by the client (not agents). I make it clear how wildly different quotes can be from different contractors for the same repair. I also warn them of contractors that try to sell all kinds of additional unnecessary work.

Some examples of contractor pricing:

When I ask the plumber I've used for many of my projects for the cost of any repair, it's always $1200 for anything now. Replace 30' of cast iron - $1200. Replace a toilet seal - $1200. Replace a trap - $1200.

My favorite masonry contractor won't touch anything now for less than $7000.

Folks getting quotes for replacing 4 circuits of knob & tube. 1st quote -$4600. 2nd quote - $22,000.

Folks getting quotes for re-parging a stone foundation. 1st quote $650. 2nd quote $4400.

1st chimney contractor - 3 flues need cleaning, replace a damper and remortar one of the crowns $1050. 2nd contractor - "I have to contact the fire marshal to condemn your house. We have to immediately tear down and rebuild your three chimneys for $65,000".

A great reason why I hate to quote costs. Especially for a home inspection. You cannot take the time to do it right, assuming there is a way to do it right.

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That valve will be 39 at a supply house, plus a length of pipe, a spool of solder, a can of flux, and a coupler. Add on tax and mark up, plus 120 to show up, plus an hour labor, plus overhead. If i dont want to do all the running around for that price I run markup and overhead percentage again. I can see how he got that number.

If I had never sweat copper before I would go and buy the parts and tools and spend a Saturday learning to fix it before I paid that much for a manageable repair.

Guess what I'm doing for my neighbor this weekend?

And, the pipe is there already, the valve sweats on-no coupling needed, a dab of flux, maybe 2 inches of solder (maybe an inch for a good plumber).

BTW, the estimate was $40. I don't have a problem with that.

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Sometimes I wonder if a Xactimate license and training would sell. I could do it for other home inspection reports besides my own. Such a credential would legitimize repair estimates generated thereof. At least that's my thinking.

Marc

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That valve will be 39 at a supply house, plus a length of pipe, a spool of solder, a can of flux, and a coupler. Add on tax and mark up, plus 120 to show up, plus an hour labor, plus overhead. If i dont want to do all the running around for that price I run markup and overhead percentage again. I can see how he got that number.

If I had never sweat copper before I would go and buy the parts and tools and spend a Saturday learning to fix it before I paid that much for a manageable repair.

Guess what I'm doing for my neighbor this weekend?

And, the pipe is there already, the valve sweats on-no coupling needed, a dab of flux, maybe 2 inches of solder (maybe an inch for a good plumber).

BTW, the estimate was $40. I don't have a problem with that.

Press on a shark bite valve and charge him an extra $10 and a beer. You'll be done with both in the time it would take to sweat the joint.

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Sometimes I wonder if a Xactimate license and training would sell. I could do it for other home inspection reports besides my own. Such a credential would legitimize repair estimates generated thereof. At least that's my thinking.

Marc

Get ready to shell out lots of bucks for Xactimate access. It is a continuing license ... not a one and done. It is a daunting program. I had to use it when doing insurance adjusting in Houston after Hurricane Ike back around 2008. It cost a pretty penny each month back then.

Dollar values are continually adjusted by region for each task and trade. They adjust rates for areas that have been impacted with disasters (IE: hurricanes, tornadoes, etc..) to cover the increased fees that often appear in times of such events.

My recent hail damaged property was all quoted on Xactimate via the insurance company adjuster and I was impressed when I learned my roofing company also used Xactimate.

I did not not keep up my subscription following my Hurricane Ike 'tour of duty'.

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