Looked at this beauty yesterday

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Humble Earth Mover, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. Humble Earth Mover

    Humble Earth Mover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    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!


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  2. Woodland

    Woodland LawnSite Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 207

    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.
  3. richallseasons

    richallseasons LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    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...
  4. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    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.
  5. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    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.
  6. STL Ponds and Waterfalls

    STL Ponds and Waterfalls LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,174

    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.
  7. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    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.
  8. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498

    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.
  9. Humble Earth Mover

    Humble Earth Mover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    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!
  10. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498


    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.

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