Getting an Estimate for a Construction Project Can Be a Big Mistake

It’s Like Guessing What a Bag of Groceries Costs Without Being Able to See in The Bag



One of the most frequent questions that I get asked by customers considering a construction project is…what’s it going to cost. Don’t get me wrong this is one of the most important pieces of information needed before moving forward with a project.

The problem with answering this question comes from the lack of information available in the early part of the process. Sure, there are some basic square footage prices that can be incorporated into giving a quick price, but I learned a long time ago that giving an ESTIMATE without having enough information is a recipe for disaster.

When my customers ask me this question, I tell them it is like looking across the room at a brown paper bag full of groceries and telling someone what it cost. Before I can answer that question, I need to know what’s in the bag. It makes a difference if it is paper towels or steaks, how many and how well they were packed.

The same is true for a construction project – what materials are going to be used, how much is going to be used and how well do you want it built? There is a wide variety of products out there and it is important that your contractor asks enough of the right questions to know what and how many ‘groceries are going in the bag’.

Rarely will I give an estimate. Sometimes, depending on the project, I will for a preliminary ballpark figure. It might save both parties the time and trouble of going forward if there isn’t enough of a budget. The level of accuracy with an estimate is minimal at best.

I encourage my customers to let me give them a proposal. Even if they pay for the proposal, it is much less than the cost of the project and a sound investment. When pricing a construction project, the dollars are significant enough that you should know what to expect before you get started and run out of money.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Luke 14:28-30, NLT

Doing an accurate and detailed proposal takes time and effort. Most contractors are more focused on getting to the money generating construction and neglect the proposal process. I’m convinced that the proposal is as important of an investment for the contractor as it is for the customer.

You can see an example of our proposals here –

The number of stories that I have heard of unhappy customers or contractors not getting paid for all the work they did is unnecessary. This problem can be enormously reduced by giving an accurate, agreed upon price in the beginning. That way when the project is finished everyone can be happy.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe Today

to receive Mark's weekly solutions!

We respect your email privacy