View Full Version : Looked at this beauty yesterday

Humble Earth Mover
08-06-2007, 02:11 PM
I got a call from this guy who lives in a very high end residential neighborhood about 50 minutes away from me. He bought this house as a fixer upper and was looking to rehab the front patio. After seeing it myself and having my mason take a look, we both agreed that rehab was pointless and it all needed to be ripped out due to cracks in the footer, etc. To make a long story short, he tells us that his maximum budget is 10K, he wants to do it in Pa Flagstone, square cut random, wet laid and reuse the existing wall stone and scale it down. He wants to maintain a raised front landing area 10x10 and a walkway 4'x28' with 2 steps. Existing stone needs to be chiseled and cleaned. Removed concrete can be dumped on site. When talking to him yesterday, he says he doesn't want to pay for a design. After thinking about the project, I called him yesterday and told him that I could not do what he wanted and stay under 10K. I told him that for that price, he could only get a nice walkway and nice set of steps, all masonry and he would be looking at another 2 or 3 grand for the large landing because of the labor in cleaning and reusing the stone, the 3 foot footers and the craftsmanship involved. He sounded surprised by this, saying "someone" told him he could get it ripped out and replaced for under 10k. I told him he could without a doubt find someone to do it for that price, with no insurance and no warranty. He then tells me he's having a hard time visualizing it and wants to see options. If it's worth the extra money, he'd consider it. I said no problem and got off the phone, then realizing I forgot to mention the design would cost money.


1) Would any of you touch this for less than 10K (considering the travel time and high end area)?
2) Should I call him back a third time and tell him I'll draw it up, but it will cost him, (at the sake of seeming unprofessional) or just give him free quick sketch?
3) When a customer throws out a maximum budget and you feel you can't perform the job within that budget, do you take a risk and propose something over budget hoping your salesman skills will work, or change the design to accommodate? I decided to call him right away and let him know, but this seemed to annoy him.

All in all this was a genuinely nice customer and a worthwhile project. Just need a little advice on how to handle. Thanks in advance!


08-06-2007, 04:00 PM
My experience, if the customer tells you exactly what they want done AND what their budget is, the either have no idea what our services cost or the're looking for a bargain. I'd give him a price for the exact work he wants done and then you can find out where his priorities are - the work he wants done or the price he can afford/wants to pay. Now you can work from here. If he is simply trying to get a better price (always remember, just 'cause someone has money and lives in a "very high end" neighborhood doesn't mean they want to spend their money) save yourself the aggravation of trying to accommodate. If on the other hand, he sticks to his budget, work with him on designing a project he can afford.

08-06-2007, 08:21 PM
Just give him the real numbers, if it is $18,000.00 thats what it is, let him decide what to do with it. But when you try to work with an unrealistic figure it will only cause you head aches, besides whats the worst that can happen with you not bending over, you don't get the job? Now weigh that against you compromising and ending up with unforeseen conditions and extra costs...

08-06-2007, 10:34 PM
I give them the price for everything they asked for. If I feel good about it I'll break it down into separate items- i.e., walls, patios, walks, plants, lights, etc.

Actually, if I get the feeling they have no idea what they're looking at spending for what they want, I won't even fully estimate the finished plan; I give them a non-binding proposal that has ranges. For example, your patio could be $4K-6K, plantings $3K-5K, etc. That way I minimize the time I spend and I can help them get to a number they're comfortable with without beating my head against a wall.

08-06-2007, 10:48 PM
Give them your price and none other. You know they want it for 10g but hey I want a good new work truck for 3. Not going to happen.

STL Ponds and Waterfalls
08-06-2007, 10:52 PM
Be careful when trying to be the nice guy and accomadate people with money or even low money. I just got out of a job like this. I didn't lose money, but I have less hair now. When they need a detailed proposal and detailed budget leave room for over run and have them sign off on the progress of the project daily if possible. Get half the money down and than progress payments. Half than a qtr after 2/3 of the job is done and than a final payment obviously.

08-06-2007, 11:16 PM
Is he flipping this? If so, ask if he wants it half arsesed. I Hate to do this but, here there are so many flipping that you can price break by using the same materials and retro fitting them to look good.
Main thing is to make money in these situations.

08-07-2007, 12:31 AM
Man that is disgusting.......price it your way and to deliver a quality product. In a polite way explain you get what you pay for.....as posted by your pictures.

Here is whats wrong, this is how I'm going to fix it. This is what is incorrect and this is how it should be done.....sell yourself.

Humble Earth Mover
08-07-2007, 10:37 AM
Thanks for all the advice! The guy is not flipping the house, he just moved in. He was a young guy, mid to late twenties, newly married and his wife was obviously a few months pregnant. I think this was his motive for the initial budget cap. It was never a question of giving him work for cheaper....I'm not in the business of low balling ever.

I guess for me the issue on this one was regarding the design. I made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to give any more free designs to people because I've gotten burned more than once. In this case, I think I need to go back to him and say that he has two options, something simple to stay within budget, or something more along the lines of what he wants, but over budget. He needs to choose. If he needs to see it on paper to visualize it, it's going to cost him a design charge. If he wants to see both options, then two design charges. It is what it is.

My question for you guys is if you have a customer throw out a budget number on something you are designing, do you always try to keep your design within budget as a courtesy to the customer, or do you push the ceiling of their budget and risk not getting the work or having to go back to the drawing board? Just curious.

Oh, and tthomas, I must tell you, I love your tag line! It's been my mantra lately!

08-08-2007, 07:14 PM

When I meet with a customer I listen to what they want and we exchange ideas. I give them a very rough estimate (always high) to get their reaction. I then tell them I need to put things on paper to get them better #'s and then there is the design fee.

If you throw $15,000 at them and they're like oh thats fine......you price it out to $14,000.......there is extra # to be made or options you can add. Typically I would then jsut go with larger material to hit my # and then if they want to scale back I go back to my orginal ideas. I always go as big as I can and try to get as much budget as I can, as should all of us.

08-08-2007, 07:18 PM
For a laugh......I was once asked if there was and 'chiseling' on the price. I told him sure I can do that and his reaction was like 'oh really'? I said yeah, if you can call the bank and get them to knock 3 points off my interest rate we'll have a deal. He laughed and got the point.

Nobodies overhead is going to change from doing someone a favor. Yeah its a few hundred here or there.........well do you ever just give people a few hundred dollars for the heck of it? Its what you're doing......a big Christmas gift to someone who isn't even family or friend.

Captains Landscape
08-08-2007, 07:22 PM
Did the customer post in this forum > See the post
"Repairing Patio - how much should I pay?"

Humble Earth Mover
08-09-2007, 11:56 AM
Did the customer post in this forum > See the post
"Repairing Patio - how much should I pay?"

That would be funny, but that's not the same guy. Wrong area and this guys patio is in the front not the rear. I wonder if that has ever happened....someone talking sh-t on here and getting busted by the homeowner. I'd love the link to that thread!!!:laugh:

08-10-2007, 05:24 PM
We could rip all that out and re-do it for $10,000.00. BUT...
We would do it at our design and pace. We would not re-use anything. That takes way too much time for stone that's available all over PA. That's just crap flagstone. The previous contractor randomly laid the pieces and filled the rest in with way too much mortar. The patio probably sank slightly and the water pooled in the middle, causing heaving in the winter. Now you have loose, broken pieces.

08-10-2007, 09:48 PM
My question for you guys is if you have a customer throw out a budget number on something you are designing, do you always try to keep your design within budget as a courtesy to the customer, or do you push the ceiling of their budget and risk not getting the work or having to go back to the drawing board?

I wish more people around here would give us a budget. I don't know if it is a southern thing but people will not tell you what they want to spend.

STL Ponds and Waterfalls
08-11-2007, 07:00 PM
I wish more people around here would give us a budget. I don't know if it is a southern thing but people will not tell you what they want to spend.

That happens here as well. I hate spending time putting a propsal together and than they say "We don't want to spend that type of money". Hmmm, well why didn't you give me a budget?:rolleyes:

08-23-2007, 12:52 AM
you guys comments make me feel more stable. i have been forcing customers into giving me a number , but they really do not like to say it. i just found them wasting my time. like some ones sig says dont talk to people who cannot affor it

Mr. Vern
08-23-2007, 01:44 AM
We always press for a budget - don't always get it, but we press for it. We tell people that there are essentially 2 approaches; you tell us what you want and we tell you how much it will cost, or you tell us how much you can spend and we tell you what you can have.
We do free consultations which is basically an hour or less and we will attempt to lay out what we think they want - if we are able to capture their vision in that time we work up a quote and a contract that specifies what we will do for that amount. We allow them to make changes during the process of installation at no charge as long as they do not affect our work flow, if it costs me more in labor or materials; they pay for it.
If they can't get their design nailed down in the free hour, they pay $85/hr for design time and we give them credit for half of that if they book the job within 30 days (this allows me to pay my designer and overhead and I make my real profit on the install).
When people balk about giving their budget, I make it clear to them that we price our work at what it is worth and we don't move on that price. The point of needing their budget is that we don't want to propose things that they are not going to have the budget for and then at the end of the project have them disappointed because they weren't able to get what they really wanted. I further go on to tell them that if they don't feel that they can trust us with knowing their budget that they certainly shouldn't be hiring us to make a major improvement to their property. That one usually cinches it - unless of course they honestly have no idea what stuff costs and therefore they haven't set a budget - that happens a lot.
Our average job is 26% over the original budget - all adds that the customers request as we are doing the work (not surprises that we hit them with - we don't do that!)