You’re probably familiar with the old expression, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”. Like you, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know about any one of them. But it does illustrate a good point when it comes to estimating a painting project or any other trade estimates for that matter. No matter what the facet of renovation you’re planning, whether it’s painting, carpentry, drywall or you name it, there are as many bid prices as there are ways to get the job done. But an estimator’s quote usually only accounts for one scope of work, one method of doing it and one quality level of materials. Then, of course, if you simply choose the lower bidder, you know you’re most likely missing out on better skilled trades and better materials and an overall better experience! So how can you get the best painter for the job (or drywaller, or carpenter) to suit your budget?
My expertise is in the painting trades so I’ll use painters and paint jobs here as our guide. But you can apply this to most any other trade from both a consumer prospective as well as a contractor’s. And no matter what your trade, if you’re good at what you do and take excellent care of your customers, you’re likely not always the lowest bidder. But if you’re like my painting company, you seek to provide homeowners and commercial clients with the best value for their money. Unfortunately, because people don’t tend to hire painters every day and rarely know one from another, contractors are too often selected by price alone which has been derived from the scope of work they’ve been given by the customer (as an overall “wish list” in some cases) but without the benefit of knowing their budget. So here we have a large assortment of variables (what must be done now and what can wait?, what can the customer spend? and what quality of materials meets both purpose and price?) that somehow have to all come together in a package which benefits both the customer and the contractor without truly knowing what each other needs until a quote is put up for discussion. And all too often, that’s too late!
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If you, as a homeowner show three painting contractors the same scope of work, each one will come back to you with a different price based on the “pay grade” of their painters, the thoroughness of their prep work (or lack thereof) and the quality of paints and primers they propose to use. And the fact is, each job and customer has different needs and expectations which fall somewhere along the full spectrum of these variables. Some want a “white wash it for now” approach and others want a full scale restoration that will last for decades. But most are looking for something in between. And as a responsible painter, you propose the best quality for your customer because you want them to be happy with results for years to come but you aren’t sure if it’s within their budget. And as a painting customer, you want the best you can afford but have little or no idea what that particular level of quality includes. So even though each wants the best for the project at hand, this usually ends up with the painting estimate being dismissed by the customer because the price is “too high”. And this is despite the customer would otherwise prefer to work with this contractor because of all the obvious signs of professionalism and knowledge of their craft. But instead, the customer too often rolls the dice with the lower bidder and hopes for the best (which never comes).
So how do you get that contractor you instinctively know will deliver the goods but has proposed a bid that’s out of your price range or seems much higher than the other quotes? Talk to them! Those of us who want to stay at the top of our trade will most often lead with our best foot forward and bid with top quality materials and workmanship unless the customer tells us otherwise. We want to hear your thoughts! We are here for nothing more than to serve your best interests with the project at hand. And the more we know, the better we can meet your needs and expectations.
So before dismissing a reputable contractor who’s demonstrated professional conduct and offered knowledgeable advice with, “Sorry. Your quote was too high. We’ve given the job to another painting contractor”, look over all the quotes carefully and together. Compare what details are the same and which are different. Where items differ or are none existent, get them clarified by the estimator so you’ve got a clear sense of what each is actually offering you to determine the best value – not price. And if you still find that the better contractor for the job is priced out of your range, ask them to consider other ways they could deliver the job at a lesser cost such as using a different paint line, or perhaps adjusting the scope of work to get the most critical aspects addressed now and leave the rest to another date.
These are just a couple of examples that can affect a quote but if you discuss this direction with a professional, they’re usually all too happy to help you find the best ways to tailor your project to suit you and still give you all the benefits of dealing with a reputable contractor who will stand behind their work. And as a contractor, don’t just offer the customer a proposal with only your best recommendations for the work and leave them to fend for themselves with your competitors. Let them know that your estimate is based on your expert opinion as to the best practices and materials for the job but that you’re willing to change the varying aspects of the job if needed to suit their budget. This is how we get the right contractors together with the right customers for the benefit of all.