Why do contractors have to come to my house to give me estimates?

These might seem like simple requests to you, but to a contractor, these questions are a nightmare:

“Can you just give me a price?”

“Just a ballpark idea?”

“Can you drop off the estimate in the mailbox?”

There are many reasons why these demands cannot, and should not, be met. Although not commonplace, dropping off estimates does happen. This is a risky business practice at best. By only receiving a price, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage in your hiring process. Cutting out face-to-face meetings not only cheats yourself out of the opportunity to ask questions, but also it is very likely that you will not receive clear details about the products, materials, or warranty. To make a good decision, you as the homeowner need to be as informed as possible. The only thing that the drop-off method allows is a great way for you to overlook something that could potentially cost you much more in the long run!

The dreaded estimate

A vital part of preparing an estimate is the property inspection. There are several things that you cannot identify yourself that can majorly affect pricing. For example, when replacing a roof, you need to assess plywood replacement. When remodeling a kitchen, you need to consider possibly rerouting plumbing or removing walls that may or may not be load-bearing. A thorough property inspection allows the estimator to calculate all aspects of a project. They will assess the amount of labor needed, price out different materials, and explain all of your options to determine overall project cost.

What are the risks and what questions should I ask?

Without a clear idea of your product preferences and budget, how can a contractor give you an accurate estimate? You could end up overpaying for material you don’t need, or worse, you could end up getting subpar materials installed without your knowledge. It is essential for you to discuss what you are looking for with your contractor, in person, to avoid any miscommunications throughout this process.

When a contractor (or more likely a salesperson) comes to your home, it is their job to do one thing, sell you their product. This may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Salespeople are people too! Most homeowners feel as though it is best to play dumb, or stonewall a sales person, to avoid the big scary purchase in front of them. This really doesn’t have to be the case! If you are open about your needs and wants, and yes even your budget limitations, it is much more likely that you will receive a much more advantageous estimate. This meeting does not have to be extremely lengthy, but should be very detailed. Be sure to use this time to your advantage and ask questions!

  • Ask about the business
    • How long have you been in business?
    • Can I have a copy of your license and insurance?
    • Does this job require permits and will you obtain them?
    • How long will the project take to complete?
    • What are the options for payment? Do you offer financing?
    • Will this be subcontracted or done by your own team? (make sure subcontractors are also covered under insurance)
    • Do you have a project manager/ how will you ensure project quality?
  • Ask about the estimate
    • What brand products do you offer and how do they affect the overall price?
    • What would constitute a change in pricing? How would that be handled?
    • What type of warranties do you offer? Do they cover labor and materials? For how long?
    • What will I receive when the project is complete?
    • Can I have a list of references?
  • Ask the contractor’s previous clients
    • How did you find this contractor?
    • When was the your contract signed and when was the work completed?
    • Did the contractor stick to schedule/show up on time?
    • What type of work did you have done?
    • Did the project stay on the estimated budget?
    • How was the contractor’s communication throughout the project?
    • Have you had any issues since completion? How were they handled?
    • Would you use this contractor again?


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