One of the most common complaints we hear from consumers who are starting remodeling projects is that contractors don’t submit estimates in a timely fashion. To address this, we’re republishing one of our most popular posts, which features advice from Joy Lanzaro, Director of Mediation and Compliance, on what to do when a contractor’s bid hasn’t arrived. Hope you find it helpful!
The complaint often looks like this:
“How long should I wait for my contractor to provide an estimate? The estimator seemed really nice and keeps promising a bid, but it’s been weeks! I try to only hire locally but I’m tired of waiting and wasting my time. If they didn’t want my business, why not just tell me and stop stringing me along? I would never try to do business with them again and will tell my friends not to do business with them. Just thought you should know…”
Waiting for a company to provide an estimate can be nerve rattling and cause you to doubt your decision. You might even declare the company isn’t worth your time and write them off, thereby risking hiring a less qualified contractor for no other reason than their timeliness. Be careful about these types of assumptions, as they can often lead to erroneous conclusions. Here are 5 common reasons why the estimate hasn’t reached you yet:
5. Waiting on a subcontractor for a price
If you have a landscaping project that involves masonry, decking, lighting and plantings, the general contractor may delegate certain parts of the project to a trade specialist. In that case, the contractor may have to wait for the specialist’s portion of the bid to arrive before sending you a complete bid.
4. Spam folders
Believe it or not, sometimes bids get directed to email Spam folders. Check there first.
3. Red flags
Unsatisfied customers are expensive, so the job walk is an opportunity for the contractor or estimator to get a feel for the customer. If the estimator gets a bad vibe about the customer or the project, they may not deliver an estimate or provide an estimate that’s more costly than others.
2. “Just shopping”
Estimators may decide not to submit a bid when the customer is ambiguous or guarded about scope, specs or materials. Serious customers have answers to questions about what kind of look they envision, materials, scope, codes, permits, budget and timeline. If the customer hasn’t put much thought into the project or is being evasive in their answers, it warns the estimator that he or she may be looking for someone to draw up a detailed contract only to hand it over to a friend or unlicensed worker who will perform the work at a much lower cost. This is also referred to as “having the guys do it” and is not likely to result in a bid.
1. There are a number of bids in line ahead of yours
Most often, a bid delay is simply caused by your place in line, not necessarily the scope of your job. According to Bob Orr of K2GC, a Diamond Certified general contracting firm, “Jobs get bid in the order they were received, regardless of size.” Mr. Orr has a simple rule to stay on top of demand after travel and site visits: “I don’t prioritize large jobs over small jobs. A small job might only take me 40 minutes to draw up, and larger estimates take longer. I aim to finish three to five estimates per day, so my policy is first come, first served.” Like any type of line, there might be five people ahead of you who have larger projects that take longer to bid. If the contractor has a reputation for doing quality work, take a minute to check in with them and see if you’re still on standby.
If the anticipated date of arrival has come and gone, chances are that the #1 reason listed above is truly the reason for the delay. If you’ve received other bids and are ready to move ahead to the next phase, consider suspending your judgment and placing a call to the estimator. Politely let him or her know you’re serious about considering them for the project but have received two other bids from qualified, licensed contractors and would like to receive their bid before making your final decision. If they’re still interested, ask if they can deliver the estimate to you within two to five days. This accomplishes two things: It reinforces that you’re a serious, valuable customer, and it demonstrates that you’ll be clear and reasonable about what you need to be happy if you were to move forward together.