Anonymous asked in Home & GardenMaintenance & Repairs · 8 months ago

Is this a reasonable solution to "free estimates".?

I am a property restoration company, like a Servpro, but we don't have a franchise. We come in after a fire or flood and clean and repair. Lately we have had a few hoarding clean ups. There's always pet urine damage and tobacco smoke remediation. To make money, not lay off either helper, keep busy, we do just ordinary painting and cleaning of carpet and hard floors as well.

The customer expects a "free estimate". I've been in this industry over 20 years, 9 as my own company. 9 out 10 who want a "free estimate" have no intention of buying when they request it. Lots of time wasters.

We have a policy, within this county, plus the areas just above and below this county, we have a $100 minimum charge. I clean the carpet in one small bedroom, it's going to be $100. I can tell you that a small bedroom is $40, unless it is trashed and requires more than run of the mill cleaning. A larger master bedroom with walk in closet is $50. A living room maybe $50, more likely $60. I can't tell the size over the phone. If it is just one room, it is $100, no exceptions. Some people with a ton of pet urine want an estimate. OK, I have to spend time driving there and back. I probably end up pulling back some carpet to determine the extent of the damage. Maybe an estimate takes me 2 hours. How can I just give you 1/4 of my day for free? I can't. In home estimates are $25. I'm still losing money. That estimate gets credited back to a future job, if you hire me.


This morning, I got $25 for an estimate. They didn't like the bad news. The carpet needed to be pulled in one room. The pad replaced, the floor sealed. About $250 materials and $150 labor. It was a toilet for their dog. Any worse the sub-floor plywood would have to be replaced. That's just the way it is. They promised to dispute the $25 estimate. They got the estimate they paid for. Not my fault the damage was extreme. Not my fault they wanted a $50 solution to a $400 problem. Am I wrong?

Update 2:

The estimate is applied to the job cost. I actually sub for the local Servpro because they don't know how to do drywall.

5 Answers

  • 8 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    I am also self-employed and cannot work for free either. I provide a house call charge that is credited to the job if I get it. I let people know this up front. This eliminates the people who are not serious about having work done. I do not charge repeat customers because I already have my foot in the door.

    I stopped giving free estimates and free advice when a year after doing so, I was invited to the house of an estimate I had given and found that all of my ideas were implemented but I got none of the work. That was the end a free estimates and people picking my brain for professional advice that I would never be paid for.

  • C
    Lv 7
    8 months ago

    If your customers are doing due diligence then you have to assume that they will be getting several estimates so you can't let yourself get emotional about not everyone resulting in work.  They're not time waters, they're people trying to understand what the going rate is and what they can expect from their buck.  It's just business.

    You need to start keeping a record of what percentage of estimates result in a job, how long estimates take, and how much they cost you.  Do some types of estimates take longer to do than others?  Can you get a sense of which ones are time consuming before you make a site visit?  Is there information you'd like to have in advance?

    Look at the overall pattern.  Would it be useful to you to make a checklist for the client to go through before a site visit?  (Yes it would!)  Pet or no pet?  Did someone decease in the property?  Hoarder?  Do you clear furniture?  Spoiled food?  Floor type?  Approx. age of property?  People are generally awful at estimating area, so have them take a few pictures on their cell phone and you'll get a lot of information that they've forgotten to convey like the cat scat in the corner.  Then you decide if it's worth your while to go out there and make an estimate.  

    Some jobs aren't worth it, let someone else have it if after you cost everything up you don't make a profit (including vehicle and equipment wear and tear), unless it's a client you think you will get more consist work from (ex property manager) where scale would make it profitable.  Is there a certain type of situation which gets the least follow through?  Keep a record, it may not be the ones you think at first glance.  Lose those or figure out why your business is unattractive and change that.  Which jobs go best for you?  Are you getting enough of those?  Who is your direct competition and what do you have to offer that they don't?  Work that into your sales pitch.

    Assuming you have a good local reputation do you have a rated internet presence?  Where do people look when they're in a panic and just need it CLEAN asap?  For certain demographics it's facebook for others it's a countywide list of approved contractors.  Don't forget to ask where people found you!  Get testimonials in those places.  People respond well to recent authentic testimonials from clients similar to them.  Do certain words keep appearing in your views?  It's a good way to find out what your ideal client is looking for.  Do they want "understanding" and "non-judgemental" or does "no nonsense" mean more to your clients?  Whatever gets you most work do that more.  You want the people who call you to already be thinking, "this is the guy who can fix this for me."  If they're in a positive frame of mind about your work they are more likely to accept that your price is realistic.

    As others have said, it's better to roll the cost of estimates into your general overheads instead of into individual jobs.  It's just the cost of doing business and since you can't expect every estimate to result in a job you can't control your costs if you have to separate the pots for successful and unsuccessful estimates.  An estimate shouldn't be so much work, hence the checklist and pics.  It's a ballpark figure for both parties to use.  A QUOTE on the other hand can be rolled into the overall cost of a job.  I would never give a quote for anything but a straightforward routine job before doing a rough estimate to see if the job is worth my while.

  • 8 months ago

    The problem you have is if you charge for an estimate then people will only call businesses that will give you one for free.

  • 8 months ago

    You need to factor in your costs of estimates into your pricing.  Nobody pays for estimates.  

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  • 8 months ago

    "Is this a reasonable solution to "free estimates".?" Sure, if you do that you will not be doing estimates with in 6 months. You will also not be doing any jobs either. ServPro does free estimates. They will eat your lunch.

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