Semi-recurring estimate problem...

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by topsites, Jun 9, 2007.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    This is a problem likes to come around every so often, it's when I give an estimate for some work, then when I come out to do it, suddenly everything changes.

    Say for instance (just an example) the estimate was for 5 bushes trimmed to 3 feet, make them square looking, and 3 low hanging branches from a tree, $100. All set, ready, go.

    I get there to do the work, and either the customer (or more commonly their s.o.) comes outside and decides they want things done all kinds of different, you know, add a bush here, leave those two over there alone, make one round the other square, blablablabla, in short: My whole estimate just got blown out of the water.
    Nevermind the fact they're likely going to be present the entire time, and I've already wasted a trip and a good 5-10 minutes on top of that.

    I've tried charging more, most often they've got it in their mind they're paying $100 whether it takes all day or not. To me it means these people can't afford my rates, so they're finding ways to squeeze things until their inner demon is satisfied, I don't know how else to explain it, if that's not what it is, I'd love to stand enlightened.

    I guess I should be grateful when the stuff starts before I get started, it's far worse when I'm about half way through... I suppose I should pre-screen better, one gets short on work, this crap starts to slip through...

    Short of saying 'gee thanks' and running due to breach of contract, has anyone found an effective way to handle this? And, is this all part of the 'free' estimate?
  2. maintenanceguy

    maintenanceguy LawnSite Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 156

    I owned a small construction company for a few years. here's how it's done in construction:

    All estimates are in writing and clearly define the scope of work. No work starts until the estimate is signed then it's no longer an estimate, it's now the contract.

    There's a clause in the contract that says that any changes to the specifications will be an additional cost at the contractor's usual selling price and will be done only with a signed change order which becomes part of the original contract.

    In fact, I had a $25 fee for each change order on top of charging my usual price for the additional work. The $25 fee was to encourage people to make up their minds and stick to it.

    Most of my contracts had progress payments, I got a percentage of the money each time I finished a specific part of the work. 20% at start, another 20% when the framing inspection was complete, another 20% when the electric was complete, etc. My contract also stated that the cost of change orders was due at the time the change order was signed. This was to make sure I didn't end up doing lots of work on change orders and end up in a position where the money I had been paid so far wouldn't cover the work done so far if the customer stopped paying.

    I carried a pad of 3-part change orders and every change was written up, a price figured, and the change was signed by myself and the customer.

    You need to charge for all additional work. That's how it works. Your customers aren't stupid, they know that's how it works. If they're pretending otherwise, they're scaming you.

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