General contractor question

13 Replies

Are licensed general contractors usually willing to walk through a home with you even if you are not under contract nor own the property yet? I can see the benefits of getting a rough estimate on the cost it would take to repair the house, but not sure what they have in the deal if the repairs are too high and we did not buy the property. 

I will do this for a buyer as I may get the rehab job.  Don't waste my time though.   It wouldn't hurt to give the guy a $50 or something for his time.  It will take us several hours to write up a decent scope.  But typically rough estimates are free.  

Having a trustworthy contractor will make your projects go so much better. 

If you can find a newer or not-so-busy Contractor, you may get someone to do a quick walk-through with you.....most will just have to pass though, it is just too time consuming.....probably 3 hours including drive time for no money. You're not really going to hire them and they know it.

And a quick walk-through verbal estimate will most likely be off. Sometimes by tens of thousands....

Better to wait until you get the house under contract and then they will think you might be serious....

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Find a GC (and a plumber, electrician, HVAC guy, roofer, drywall guy, painter, floor guy, tree guy, grader, mason, finish carpenter, pressure wash guy, etc.)  that you like with smaller jobs and build a trusted relationship. They will be happy to give estimates knowing they will get the work and that you will pay when the work is done.  Actually, you will learn how to develop pretty good estimates yourself. 

I don't think I have asked for a labor estimate in probably 7 years.  I have a general idea and ask a trusted trade to do the work and give me the invoice. 

Megan, going this route will not be efficient for you or the contractors. A project you are not under contract with or do not own has little to no chance of the contractor getting the work and he/she knows this so if you want them to come out, expect to pay them for the time. if they are willing to do it for free, they are probably not busy and that is a red flag in this market!

Your best bet is to learn how to estimate rehab costs yourself if you plan to be a flipper. There are no shortcuts and this takes time and lots of practice (plus a spreadsheet helps too). I have gone into great detail in many posts on how to evaluate rehab costs. A quick search on this site or my profile showing previous posts) will bring up lots of this info.

@Megan Smock

I won’t typically do this if it’s not an existing client. I did it numerous times in my early days only to find all I did was waste my time.

But as @Matthew Paul said, I probably would for a fee.

@Megan Smock like any other type of education , you either learn it thru experience , trial and error .Or you pay someone with experience to teach you  . 

If you ever watch HGTV , thats a comedy show , thats not how it works . If you think contractors give a better price to an investor , Nope .  Unless you have tons of work you are a homeowner . You will read that you buy the materials and pay a contractor labor . Nope , try bringing a steak to a restaurant and asking them how much to cook it for you . 

Contractors have no shortage of work , we do have a shortage of materials and especially a shortage of labor . Prices from 2 years ago are out the window , they are double sometimes tripple what they were .

Now is a great time to be  a contractor , but an expensive time to be a customer 

Couldn't agree more with @Will Barnard. Learning through experience is the best way to go about things, but if you have no basis at all then asking a general contractor to bid a project is not a bad idea because from their bid you should be able to get a template of how they are pricing things which you could then in turn use as a roadmap for your future projects. Pay the GC for their time and be transparent about what you are looking to accomplish. 

Originally posted by @Megan Smock:

@Adam Mittermeier how do you get a rough  idea of the cost of the repairs/rehab? 

@mathew paul - nailed it. You will not get a better answer. I too used to wander through a house and throw out numbers for a customer only to realize I was being used and never got any work. Most people like you are looking for the lowest price, and no good contractors work for the lowest price.

You can eventually learn some numbers yourself, but it will take years if you ever get there...you just don't do it every day, and we do.

Your only options are to 1) hire a good GC and pay him well ($500) for a rough bid, or just take a chance and guess, but make sure you have a large 'oooops' budget.

@Megan Smock that comes with experience. I have been in remodeling when I was in high school and college, I also did my own research to estimate about what the costs to sub everything out would be.

I already have a ballpark figure what the estimate could possibly be.

I do have a gc that will come out to look at the project after I have it under contract. He works on many of my projects so he knows that he is getting the job. I don't waste his time or mine if I think there is a good possibility that he can't keep it in the range that would make it a good investment. If you know your numbers well, and have a little room for error, it can save time for both of you.

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@Megan Smock

Not a chance I’m doing that. I charge 1/2 day for a walkthrough with a verbal estimate, a full day if you want it written. To hell with working for free. Running a business, not a charity.