OneSource IPS September 10, 2014 Are “Free” Estimates REALLY Free? We received a call the other day that really got me thinking… Although it is common practice to request estimates for large projects, we got a call that really got me thinking more about the people that are making these calls and if they really know the questions they should be asking and what they should be looking for when evaluating an estimate since no two estimates are really equal. 1. Is it a free estimate? Many times free estimates mean you submit the exact details you need and the potential service provider will give you an estimate or exactly what you asked for. If they are coming out to the property, make sure to ask if there is a trip charge involved even though they tell you the estimate is free. Keep in mind that if the job that you are looking to get an estimate on requires a technician to do any troubleshooting to tell you what needs to be done the estimate more than likely will not be free since the person doing the troubleshooting has to be compensated for his work. 2. If there is an estimate charge, will it be credited towards your final bill? Some companies will happily agree to credit their estimate fee towards your final bill if you give them the job. But ask yourself if it’s really free. 3. How will the estimate be delivered? Sometimes you will have a company want to come out to give you your estimate when all of the homeowners are there so that they can get all of them to sign off on the contract that day. Keep in mind most companies will not give you a hard copy to review at your convenience unless it is already signed. So you wouldn’t really be able to shop with it. 4. What is included (or excluded) in the estimate? Read the estimate carefully and the real information you need is in the details or the omission of details. Read all the fine print. Some of the special pricing they may include doesn’t apply to rental properties. 5. Read the estimate carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are not expected to be an expert. If you don’t understand something in the estimate there should be no issue with you asking a question for clarification. KDKA recently did a story on this issue focusing on estimates. You can read it here.