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Do you provide repair cost estimates?


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My client from Saturday called me today after reviewing my report. I included a few cost estimates for things that I felt I could accurately estimate and now they would like me to run down costs for every defect I reported. This wouldn't be to difficult for me to do since estimating home improvements and repairs has been my primary job for the last 15 years but I'm not sure I should be getting this involved, especially with this one. There is a messy mix of relatives involved in this deal, Mrs. Seller and Mr. buyer are siblings, and I was refered by Mrs. Buyer's father, who is a co-worker at my day job.

This is not a bad house but it could turn into a bad deal pretty fast, and I don't think I want to be in the cross fire.

Any suggestions on how to procede?

Thanks

Tom

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Obviously, they would be better off getting estimates from the contractors who will actually be doing the work and should be told that. However, it sounds like you are comfortable giving them ballpark estimates but don't want to be on the hook. So, how about sending them a list with nothing on it but those estimates. No company name, etc. Or simply phone them with the info. Be honest and tell them that you can only guess at what any particular contractor may charge and that you don't want to be on record.

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Numbers, written down, are meaningless unless they are tied to a specification. Writing a specification for our jobs could take a day or two by itself. I don't ever write down numbers unless I am also being paid to provide a specification. Nice work when you can get it.

That said, I give ranged numbers on the phone all the time. As you know, it's not complicated, hard, or inaccurate if you're involved in actual construction projects.

One of the things I like about TIJ is a lot of the participants actually build stuff, and understand cost basis.

If you know what you're talking about, go ahead and talk about it. Just don't write it down, because you will get screwed because there's no way to qualify your estimates without writing an extensive specification.

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Kurt makes a good point about actually building or doing something. Richard started (participated) a thread awhile back about dishwashers that illustrates that fact. He has a d/w that is high end, so kinda knows you can buy and install one for $400 or $4,000. I am sure Brian G knows the true cost of a drip pan for a water heater!

I try to establish a strong relationship with all our clients and be sure they are getting my best guess based on my experience and knowledge of local trades. We also keep in touch with at least one reputable contractor in each trade and know their rates. Never precise ala Kurt's specs.

I have another company that does restoration work so have access to "book" figures and I also spend a few bucks on buildings of my own. This morning I had two bathtubs refinished, a new well pump pressure tank installed and a small room re-floored - soooooooo today I know those prices. I think you must know something about what things cost ie: square of shingles = $xxxx on and $xxx tear-off but really don't know how many square is on that house.

In any event, I feel we know more than the average home owner or buyer and am willing to share my limited knowledge. they pay me for that.

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That's kinda what I was thinking. I reported that the septic system is likely going to need replacing based in the fact the solid waste is overflowing at the distribution vent, told them to have it pumped and inspected, and to expect a new system to run $5-7000. I made a similar ballpark for the HVAC repairs. I think that these "guesstimates" have given them the unrealistic expectation that I know what all the costs should be and should have included them in my report. I sure didn't get paid enough to write a job spec for this place, I'm not even sure that I could given the COE in NY.

I spent about 15 minutes this morning running some rough numbers and researching material costs on line to confirm the tally my gut came up with, but I'm still not convinced I should be telling my client these numbers. If I do, it certainly won't be in writing.

Tom

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I don't have a lot of faith in in cost estimation books or software. I looked at a project a few months ago where my employer thought my estimates were way out of line. He gave me two differnt books and asked me to use them to price the job. Both of them came up with manhours that differed slightly from my own calculations, but the costs were radically lower. I know the builder that won the bid, if we had done the job in the same manhours he did we would have lost our shrits at the book prices. I have a good handle on what our overheads are and I haven't found a book that even comes close.

Tom

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Just so I'm clear......

When I give numbers, I qualify them in all sorts of ways, and run down the variable to make sure my customers know how complicated coming up with accurate estimates can be.

I state flat out that it's impossible to know for sure without a lot of additional work and consultation with specific trades and reviewing documents, specification sheets, installation manuals, etc.

If folks get pissy about that, I back right out and tell them if they need exact number, I can do that, but it will be a couple weeks and a few thousand dollars. If they nod, indicate understanding that this is all ballpark approximations, I give them what they asked for.

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A lawyer told me to use this in my standard agreement. Feel free to copy.

Any estimates provided for repairs are based on a limited visual inspection. The actual costs to correct problems may be more or less depending upon a more detailed professional analysis.

If you provide estimates you need to be very comfortable doing it. The cost to fix or repair anything is what you pay to have it done right.

I kep various misc. items verbal. They can take notes.

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