When hiring in contractors to do a job in your home, one of the most painful parts of the processes is getting an idea of the cost of a particular job.
Actually getting someone to your home to cost the job up is difficult enough. The scarcity of good, reliable tradespeople who show up when they say they will is bad enough. It can then take weeks to get those costs out of them. Beyond that, the best people are usually booked up for months in advance.
So let’s imagine that in a perfect world you have received correspondence from a number of different options. Read them carefully – whatever choice you make could have legal and financial ramifications for you.
Have the costs been presented to you as an estimate?
An estimate is a rough idea of what the cost could be. Normally a tradesman will rock up at your home, take a look around, and give you a ball park figure of what they believe the cost will be based on their experience and knowledge. This is a useful process if you are wanting to get an idea of whether you can afford to go ahead on a project, or whether you’re going to have to put together a bigger budget.
So if you have had a visit from a landscape gardener who has given you an estimate on an artificial grass cost for your back yard, this is the result of him casting his eye over the area, and his experience telling him what a rough cost will be.
The important thing to note is that an estimate is NOT legally binding. Even if you receive a written estimate, which you accept and ask the workman to start the job – if it ends up costing double, you are legally obliged to pay that bill.
Or have you received a written quote, or quotation?
A good trade will come in and create a more specific costing for a job, which is then presented to you as a quotation. They will properly measure up, source the exact material costs, measure out any labour hours, and present you with an itemised breakdown and schedule of works. This quotation is an exact price for the job and cannot be changed, unless the job evolves into something that has not been originally accounted for and agreed.
For the householder and the trade, that quote is legally binding if accepted. If a job ends up costing more, then the trade has to absorb that cost. If it ends up costing less, the trade can enjoy an additional bit of profit (or pas on any savings to the customer and build on a good, longer term relationship).
What happens if you accept a job based on an estimate?
If you accept a job based on an estimate, you are at risk of being faced with a larger bill than anticipated, and you will be contractually obliged to cover it.
Can a quote be changed?
If you as the householder changes the parameters of the job, then this may incur a change to the original quote. Most quotes will include terms and conditions which build in contingencies and set working guidelines so that all parties are aware of the consequences of making changes.
This can also cover cost of materials. In a volatile climate the cost of materials can rise and fall greatly over a limited period of time. If, between accepting a quote and actually starting the job those costs change considerably, this is best to be reflected in the quotation. Work with your contractor on this – if you look after them, they will look after you.