Have you ever seen the sign on a contractor’s truck that says “Free Estimates”? We all have, and we know the idea behind the free estimate from the contractor’s perspective is to offer a reason for you, the homeowner, to give them a call, to make them stand out. From the customer’s perspective, you get a contractor to come out to your home, walk around with a tape measure, a yellow

pad or maybe even an iPad or tablet and then they provide you the coveted “price”. The contractor just provided you with a service, and now it’s your turn. But how do you know this is the right contractor? How do you know if they understand what you really need or want? And there they are with their hands out. In one, the contract. In the other, the pen for you to sign it.

Contractors are operating on the law of reciprocity. Where you will feel obligated on some level to now do something for them. To them the only thing you can give them is the job.

This creates a tension, and this tension is unnecessary.

But wait you say, this is how it has always been done! It is just a cost of doing business for contractors and service professionals! Could there be another way?

There is another way. The client can get the information they are looking for, and the contractor will provide a valuable service but there will be a much better experience for both parties. Since the invention of a camera in a cell phone, we as a society have started getting use to taking pictures of everything from our cute pets to the meals we enjoy, and then we share them with the world. Would it be a ridiculous idea that clients could send pictures of their spaces that need to be repaired, renovated or remodeled? What about things like roofs? Clients aren’t going to be getting up on their own roofs and snap pictures. No, and they don’t need to. Roofers can use a free service called Google Earth to see what the client’s roof lines look like and get a rough estimate of the distances to determine square footage of the roof to put together a rough ball park of what the repair or reroof would be. There are even certain apps that can get very accurate measurements from satellite images of your property to determine fence line lengths and roof areas.

Now some contractors and clients are going to say this is impossible, how are you going to know how much materials are going to cost without getting exact measurements?

Well I thought we were looking for an estimate, not a bid. What’s the difference?

An estimate is an approximation of what will be needed to complete the project and the costs associated with those needs. A bid (also a quote or proposal) is a formal firm price being offered by the contractor to be performed and completed a detailed scope of work, which could include finishings, appliances or other selections. Usually an estimate is a range of prices where a bid is one number. Estimates can use historical data to give an investment range of what other projects similar to the one being discussed have been. Bids can require exact measurements, detailed scopes, planning, material selections, designs, and other details to get to a very specific and firm investment amount.

Okay, please be warned, this is going to be a technical business paragraph. Any contractor who has been in business for a while should be able to get an idea of what things costs, especially if they track their job costs. Regardless of the materials, regardless of total square footage, even regardless of possible bad things that might be behind the walls, or under the ground, a contractor who has done the type of work you need done, should be able to give you an estimate (range of investments). There will be unknowns that are built into the estimate range because it is just that, an Estimate.

At the end of the day you end up with the same thing, a number or range of numbers with which you can make a decision. In the first you have to rearrange your day (yes even if it is on the weekend) take time off of work or away from family in order to let a stranger walk around take measurements, take pictures, and end up giving you a number that will have to be checked and approved. In the other, you can schedule a convenient time to have a phone conversation discuss the scope of your project and give more details. Sure you need to provide the pictures or video, but if you can post about what you had for dinner last night, why not about what you want to have done in your kitchen or bathroom? In the former you have to allow someone in your space who you may not even end up doing business with. The latter you’ll get an idea if this contractor is right for you or not and you don’t have to worry about whether or not there is a pile of dishes in the sink.

So what can you expect when you schedule a phone consultation with Black Lab Home Repairs? In short, a pleasant conversation. One where you and the project coordinator will discuss the overall project. What you want to achieve by completing this project, your time frame to start and finish this project and any questions or concerns about the project you may have. By the end of the conversation our project coordinator will be able to provide you with a ball park range for the investment, whether or not we can provide the service in the time frame required and if you want, a couple of options to move forward.