SMH Small Business Trends
Author: Alexandra Cain
March, 28, 2014
My brother’s about to do up the bathroom in the flat he’s just bought and has been getting quotes from various builders. I’m amazed at the variance in the prices – one guy quoted $18,000, another $12,000 and one guy came in at $8,000.
That’s a $10,000 difference between quotes for what’s ostensibly the same job. So how on earth should he know which one to pick?
Building is complex and there are many variables involved. Which means you need to get numerous quotes.
I spoke to Allen Cetinic, who runs Render My Home, about how to tell if you’re being charged a fair price. He says the process of quoting is a complex one. “The only way you can judge is by making sure you’re comparing apples with apples. Building is complex and there are many variables involved. Which means you need to get numerous quotes.”
Cetinic says there are many ways to approach a job, and many materials and finishes that can be used, which is one reason there’s such disparity in prices.
“You might call in one electrician who’ll just quote you for a basic job and another one will give you a more comprehensive quote that might include things that need to be attended to over the next year. And that’s where people will go wrong – some will do a basic job and others will quote you on something that’s more thorough.”
He says it’s essential for consumers to do their research and interview people before agreeing to use a tradesperson for a job – it only takes five minutes to get a feel for whether you can work with someone. He also says three quotes might not be enough.
“You might have to speak to six or seven people before you find the right person for you,” Cetinic says.
So how should you compare quotes? One way, says Cetinic, is to be very clear on the scope of work. What does the quote include? Does it cover rubbish removal? How about cleaning up? What about painting? All these factors will influence the price of the job. It’s all about making sure your expectations are the same as the tradesperson’s. Don’t just assume you’ll get exactly what you want.
“Sharing quotes could be a good idea and make sure the quotes cover the same things,” he says.
Another important variable is the credibility of the service provider. Cetinic says: “Look at whether they have an online presence, think about where the referral to the tradesperson came from, how long they’ve been in business, their qualifications and their experience. It’s all about doing your research.”
Cetinic says there are no standard prices for jobs for residential building; there are some for commercial jobs because the scale of work on a square metre basis is usually so much greater than for work done on houses.
“Plus some contractors are opportunistic – when they’re busy they’ll charge a higher price and when they’re slow they’ll charge a lower amount just to get the work. Really, the only way to get the work done at the price you want to a standard that’s acceptable is to find a tradie you have a connection with,” says Cetinic.
Laorence Nohra, CEO at Tradebusters, which offers a tradesman co-ordination service, agrees prices depend on the inclusions and exclusions of a job.
“In general, rates vary from $60 to $90 an hour, which may or may not include a service fee. If someone was charging you $120 an hour that would look wrong to me.”
As to what sort of recourse consumers have if they feel they have been overcharged, Nohra says there’s very little if the home owner has accepted a written quote and that acceptance has been documented.
“Where you do have some recourse is when you’ve been charged extra for variables and what you’ve been charged is very different to what you were quoted on,” she says.
Cetinic says: “At the end of the day, consumers have to take responsibility. It’s not good enough to take a retrospective view. You need to have a paper trail that shows emails back and forth agreeing the scope of work and the price. No one wants to sit in tribunal hearings, so be clear on what you’re expecting and what you’ll pay for that.”
What's been your experience getting quotes from tradies? Share it in the comments below.