I was encouraged by a reply to a recent piece I wrote for an industry newsletter that included a “List of Hiring Tips” for contractors. The reply was from a builder and remodelor that I’ve known and respected for many years.
His reply (edited for this space) was, “For some reason it has been decided that contractors should offer everyone free estimates. For all but the smallest jobs, legitimate contractors will devote considerable time to provide accurate figures, as well as the paperwork recommended in the 10 recommendations. I believe that all professionals, Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers, Designers, etc. should be fairly compensated for their work. I include contractors with this group. It is not reasonable to expect free advice from a legitimate professional builder. Especially during this tough economic time, the free estimate policy encourages consumers to take advantage of as many different bidders as possible without compensating any for their wasted time. Obviously, builders recoup the lack of return on their estimating investments by charging everyone who they actually work for higher prices, so in the end the free estimate costs everyone.
My policy is to give rough estimates on larger jobs based on experience and charge for more thorough estimates. If I am awarded the work, I wave my estimating fee.
I would say that maybe the consumer should beware of anyone that doesn’t value their time enough to charge for their professional services.”
As I thought about Tom’s reply, it resonated with me; If all parties communicate, really communicate, you really shouldn’t have any problems. I think the problems arise when one party has an expectation that hasn’t been made clear to others.
When you contract with a professional that you trust, you are going into the relationship with certain expectations. To be treated fairly, to compensate the professional for his/her time and efforts, and to receive services or products that meet your needs. But if you don’t really communicate what you expect, what you really want from the transaction, no one will be satisfied.
We owe it to each other to communicate as clearly as possible with one another, whether verbally or in writing, with or without a written estimate or contract. Failing to do so leaves everyone dissatisfied.