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Don't get tripped up by questions about builders, estimates, suppliers or quoting.

See our run down for builders and know how to answer your client’s questions.

As a builder, it is important to come to any new build meeting prepared for questions. Clients, whether they are new build owners or looking for renovations, want to know details. Building trust early on with a client is key to setting up a good build and coming prepared for certain questions (or even answering them before they get asked) is the best way to keep owners happy. These are 3 questions new owners are asking more and more that are still catching builders out.

How do you manage your building estimate?

Money is at the front of every new home owner’s mind. Everyone knows building a home is expensive and new owners are keen to have construction costs managed. One of the most common questions that builders are getting tripped up on is how they work out their building estimates. Whatever process you use, it’s a good idea to know the ins and outs of building estimates so you are ready for your client’s questions.

As a builder, you know the importance of having an accurate estimate. It helps you plan and manage your build costs, streamlines material supply and is one of the key components to winning jobs. Your clients know that you do estimates, and now they want to know how.

Have a full team of experts manage your estimations.
Photo by Scott Graham

We’ll do a quick rundown of three common estimating techniques.

  1. In-house
  2. Estimating software
  3. Estimating service

In-house estimates

In-house estimations have been the go-to method of small business builders for a long time. They can be performed in several different ways, but usually the responsibility falls to one person who is either a part of the build team or a member of the office team with trades experience (ie: a former builder or carpenter).

The benefits are that they are generally pretty quick and the cost of running the estimate is limited to the labour of whoever runs it. However, there are some pretty significant drawbacks to in-house building estimates. Compared to modern techniques, their accuracy is very low. This means builders have to re-evaluate several times along the way, which can be a headache and often angers the client. They also result in greater material waste which increases your construction costs.

Businesses wanting to build a long-term model will also find that leaving such a crucial part of the process to one in-house individual can seriously impact the business should that individual resign or retire, taking their knowledge with them.

For very small jobs, this kind of estimate can work and clients don’t mind too much, but for anyone trying to build a sustainable, long-term business, it’s not the way to go. Clients will be happier if they know you are as accurate as possible with your estimates, and in this day and age, that means using modern techniques.

Estimating software

Subscribing or purchasing software is a popular estimating method. It seems like every day there is a new construction management software company touting its estimation software, and there are many benefits to using this method. Like in-house estimations, you are able to manage the estimating process yourself. This means that above the cost of the software itself, you are only paying for the labour of the user.

Most programs have multiple tools that cover different aspects of construction management, often including take-off templates and supplier details. These programs, when used well, are accurate and clients will have more trust in them than manual estimates. There are some drawbacks, though. No matter how easy the program is said to be, a level of expertise is required to use them well.

There’s also a learning curve. Unless you are willing to dedicate some serious time to learning how to best use the software, you will not get good results. It’s true, customers don’t always know this in the beginning, but they will find out when your estimates turn out to be inaccurate and costs keep rising. The best way to use subscription estimating software is to hire or train a dedicated building estimator that manages the software every day – otherwise you’ll find that you have a very expensive, powerful tool that never quite works.

Estimating service

Working with an estimating service is the third main method. When looking for an external estimation service, you want to know that they are using modern, sophisticated techniques.

There are two key benefits to working an external building estimating service into your process. The first is consistent accuracy. Estimation services like V2E are able to consistently provide the most accurate estimations because they are able to get the best out of their software programs. Most professional services will run carefully selected software that is built exactly to match their purposes. This means they can get the most out of it, day in and day out. The second is time. By outsourcing estimating, you can spend more time on the job-site and get more work done. This is the most reliable trust-builder for your clients. If they know your estimates are accurate because you work with a reputable building estimator, it is easy for them to trust you.

The question most builders have about external services is the cost. This will vary depending on the service you choose, but with a good estimator your costs should balance out as you are able to complete more jobs and the accuracy of the estimates themselves saves on material expenses, streamlines supply and saves time in the office.

Ultimately, you want to do what is best for you and the client. If you can lower your final costs by having a good estimate and are able to accurately quote at the same time, then everyone’s a winner! When answering questions about how you manage your building estimates, make sure you fully understand your own process and the others available to you. Clients are aware of your options and want you to use the best services available.

What suppliers do you use?

Photo by Riley Crawford

Owners are increasingly concerned about where building materials come from. Most builders are quite selective in their supplier choice and it helps to explain your choices to clients. If an owner is asking you about your suppliers there are generally two main reasons for the question: cost and quality. Getting the right balance between cost and quality can make or break a business. Using reputable brands will build trust with your clients but it is also important to understand direction they want to take. While you do not want to get railroaded into doing things you know will be worse for the build in the long term, it helps to acknowledge a client’s ideas along the way and incorporate them if possible.

  • Note: Good estimation services will also work with a range of suppliers, incorporating that information into the take-offs or bill of quantities. Check your estimation service to see if they have flexible supplier integration so you can input the suppliers that you prefer to use. 

Choosing a supplier can be a difficult thing. Most builders want to build up a relationship with a quality supplier for the long term. While it is a good idea to check with your network for first hand experiences, you don’t want to get sucked into an arrangement that is not good for you. Do your own research, too, and find a supplier that best suits the specific needs of your business. If you are able to briefly explain the process you went through in selecting your suppliers, your clients will probably agree with your choice.

Are there any costs not included in your build quote?

This is a tricky one. When you are presenting a quote to a client, it is important to be up-front about the full cost, but at the same time you do not want to put your business at a disadvantage by over quoting. There are different ways some builders like to present their quotes, such as separating the government fees or site preparation costs. It is important to be aware of any legal requirements when it comes to quoting.

It is also important for you, as the builder, to be aware of all your costs when quoting—another reason why getting your estimate process right is so important. Being able to show the client a builder’s estimate during the quoting process is a good way to ensure they have full confidence in your quote. If you are not comfortable showing the full estimate to your client, showing the summaries may be a better option for you. Keep in mind that a slightly higher quote that is clear and includes all necessary components is likely to beat a competitor’s lower quote that has hidden surprises.

Have a look at an example quote with a full builder’s estimate.

Get your numbers right, keep the clients happy
Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya