Can't get proper estimates in North Jersey

HrenAugust 27, 2012

I need some help, if people know the magic words I should be using. Or at least some commiseration, so I know I'm not alone in being frustrated!

I lived in NYC for 15 years. When I requested estimates from folks for anything-- tile repair, diagnosing and fixing a stove, installing carpet-- I'd get a full-page, professional-looking quote with all parts and labor broken out. It would always explain what the cost did and didn't cover. And it would have part numbers for anything substantial.

This seemed perfectly normal and appropriate to me.

Now I live in Essex County, North Jersey. And for the eight times I've had to get estimates since I've moved here, they've essentially written a number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. When I've asked for the figures to be broken down, I get a lot of resistance.

Sometimes they'll give a verbal accounting like "it's more than half parts". Other times, they mistakenly think I'm trying to negotiate price, so they drop the price still without explaining a thing about how they came to it.

One guy sent a breakdown for a chimney repair that included line items for Azek trim boards and ridge vents. It was obviously just a cut and paste of details from another job!

I've even gotten people who flat out refuse. One guy, who had provided an estimate typed up in Word, told me his "system" wouldn't let him break down the prices into parts and labor. Another told me "it costs what it costs." These are on $5k minimum jobs!

And I'm talking about professional companies, in some of these cases, with hundreds of employees and multiple locations.

Is this typical for Essex County? Is there a magic handshake I need to know to get a proper estimate? Do people really let companies like this do work on their houses?!

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I'm guessing that the governing authorities in Essex County don't require contractors to give detailed estimates, and that those in NYC do.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Governing authorities or not, it's only good business practice for both parties to have a clear understanding of the work to be performed and the price to be paid.

I think Hren's problem might be that the contractors he is talking to are busy and really don't need to "sell" their work right now. Therefore they are not going through the effort of a detailed proposal just for the customer to compare it someone else's bid. If the customer buys the rough estimate and says he wants to push forward, then I as a customer would demand a completetd signed agreement detailing the work and the price. I would not hire any Any contractor not willing to do that, period.

But, I can understand a contractor not going over all of the details in the estimate phase.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 8:44AM
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