Why are Builder’s Quotes/ Proposals so different?  What to look out for

Perway Construction Services
February 28, 2023

- So when home owners first approach us for assistance with their renovation, some of them tell us that the value you received two to three quotes, and you know, from other builders. So we know it's a cliche thing to do by, receiving three quotes, but we're gonna talk to you today, about why this isn't always the best approach and why builders quotes are so different and what you can look out for instead. So welcome, Jane, we'd love you to tell us something about yourself and about your business, please.

- Hey, Louise thanks. Yeah. So I'm Jane from Distinct Renovations. We're a small renovation company, it's just myself and my husband as the builder and supervisor, and we focus on timber frame construction. The reason we became a builder was because Dean was a carpenter of 15, 20 years. We moved to Perth and saw that everything was built out of double brick. So we wanted to become a company that focused on timber frame and that's how we started out. And we now do a lot of extensions and top stories in around the Perth, sort of Metro area. We don't wanna be a big builder, we wanna stay small and we also wanna stay focused on timber framing. So that's a little bit about us.

- Oh, thank you, Jane. So Jane, you're then very aware then of obviously, a timber frame builder versus even a brick builder, a brick builder that builders quotes can be split up so differently. And it's difficult if homeowner is looking at various quotes to be able to compare, to make sure that you know, that they're all the same and why the prices are very different. Why do you think that they're all built up differently?

- You know, it depends on how many hours you've got for me to explain it, but it's oh, wow. It's such an open-ended question, but it's such an important question. So look, I think the most, like the key thing is first starting out with, is your builder giving you an estimate, is your builder giving you a quote, a fixed price quote? If they're giving you an estimate, do not compare that to what another builder says is their estimate, because an estimate is an estimate. A fixed price quotes is what you should get and you should wait to get until you have full plans, engineering, potentially even your energy and your CDC, which is the Certificate of Design Compliance. We like to wait till we get all of those things before we provide our homeowners with a full fixed price quote, we'll start with a ballpark figure, then we'll go to an estimate and initial design, and then we do full fixed price quote. So first I think it's really important. Are you comparing an estimate with an estimate or you're comparing an estimate with a quote or vice versa? Is one builder providing you with a full fixed price quote and the other one's an estimate? That's really, really, really important to get clear straightaway, so that's number one, make sure whatever you're comparing is, is the same document in builder's terms. So that's really important. I think like the obvious thing is that they're gonna look different and feel different because every builder uses their own system or program. So, you know, we use a particular program to do our quoting, whereas I'm sure you probably use a different one or may use the same one. So the actual look and feels gonna be different as well. I think the main difference is, you know, is the builder being specific and is he putting enough details, putting enough information in that quote so that you compare apples with apples and not, oh, I guess we've allowed for a chrome toilet roll holder or we've allowed for versus a Phoenix ready Chrome RA 5632 toilet roll holder. So that the last one is, do you know what you're getting? You can search for versus what's occurring toilet roll holder? So that's kind of, I think the major thing is how much like wording is your builder, put it in there. And can you compare your toilet with that toilet of the other builder? That's the most important thing, I think.

- Yeah, definitely. There's lots of important points there and it is even builders methods of how they construct something can be quite different. And you know, obviously you're gonna get the end product at the end of the day, but one builder could use some type of, you know, a certain type of builder material and another builder could use a different type of building material. But at the end of the day, like you guys will use timber and some other builder will use brick, but you know, you're gonna get the end result of your extension or whatever it is. So it's really important that when you are scoping builders to do your pricing for you, that you are giving them a specific scope of work document that every builder is really going to price off the same. So that they're aware that, you know, okay, you want timber frames, you want double-glazed windows, they have a full understanding of exactly your requirements for that job, because if you're not specific either then, builder A is going to provide a price on bricks and single glaze windows and you know, a standard budget bathroom, but builder B can provide you then the price with your bricks and your, you know, a different glazed window and a high-end quality bathroom. So and even it comes down to the tiling the bathroom, for example, that some builders might price from floor to ceiling, and other builder might price from floor to door height door or the wet areas. So it's really crucial I think for people to understand that all builders, if you want to be able to compare apples with apples and make sure that you're able to really understand the quotes that they all are working off the same hymn page, and they all have the specific items that you are after, because otherwise you're gonna get a skewered result, and you're not gonna be able to see why builder A is 20 grand, more expensive than builder B or even more, so I think that's an important point for people to be aware of. Another thing I think, Jane is that it comes down to allowances as well. So some builders will provide a provisional sum item or prime cost item, or an allowance for specific items. So when they are preparing that proposal, a quotation for you that they may make an allowance because you've might have not have specifically chosen the specific items, fixtures, and fittings that you want for that specific job. So obviously to get a move on there's an allowance made, but some builders may allow 20 square, $20 per square meter for tiles. Whereas you wanna choose a tile that's $70 per square meter or another builders price to that. So it's just important to note that you have to be aware of what the allowances are, what those potential allowances are and your prime cost items or your provisional sum items, and you know, why one builder might have allowed for that. And another builder might have the full scope and specifications in there and so that you can compare properly as well.

- Yeah, I think allowance is a really, really big thing. And we try our hardest on our fixed price quote, so that's the final quote that we do. We try really hard to have pretty much no allowances or if any, it will be something like site works because it's really, really, really hard. Now I notice builders out there that do a fixed provisional sum, sorry, fixed price for their site works and they promote it, we would just never do that. It's too much unknown. I mean, we've dug up all sorts of things underground, especially in like Mount Hawthorne and those types of areas. And you just can't that you can only, you really seriously can only guess. And even our Bobcat guys that we've been using for years and years, even they can only get, so provisional sums, I think will always be with site works depending on exactly how the site is, but renovations, it's just really hard to predict. So other than that, we really try not to have any prime cost or any provisional sums. And that's really just to do with preparing yourself and what you were saying before about comparing. I just wanted to mention that I think you sort of alluded to it. I think it's really, the responsibility comes down to the homeowner to prepare and look, that's why yourself and me like to educate and educate, and educate in our email content, because I think it's so important for a homeowner to prepare themselves for when they go to the builder. Like we get people coming to us saying, I wanna do a bathroom extension, I wanna add on an ensuite and a walk in robe. And I mean, I just wrote a blog recently and it's like, how long is a piece of string? I can't tell you how much that's going to cost. But if you come to me and say, I want tiles around this price, or this is what they look like. I want floor to ceiling tiles the whole way round. I want everything replaced. I'm gonna move my shower to over here. Then I can go, okay, it's gonna cost you this much. But that same bathroom renovation could cost your next door neighbor $15,000 less because they were happy to leave the plumbing, they wanted chrome, they didn't want brush gold. They wanna leave the floor tiles, just replace the wall tile, whatever, you know, so it's really down to the homeowner to prepare themselves for when they go to the builder. So then the builder can then give them an estimate, 'cause that's what it starts with. And then compare those estimates and then go back to the builder, asking questions to make sure that estimate has that in it. And then go, okay, cool. So these are two estimates, they look pretty similar. This one's a bit cheaper and I like that builder, I'm gonna go with them or whatever, but preparing, the homeowner preparing is so important. And knowing what do you want in your new home or your new space that you're gonna renovate, because that's just key to getting the right information from your builder when you ask them.

- Exactly. And you know, if a homeowner is prepared and a builder understands exactly what they want or because at the end, when you get that final price from builder A, builder B, builder C, if the builder is using the same quality materials, the same quality of trades, you know, they have to have a profit to keep their business running. The prices shouldn't be that much different, to be honest, there shouldn't be a huge difference. So you have to understand that if you're using quality materials and quality trades, then with one builder and if you're not, if you're another builder, there's a massive difference. Then you have to question that as well. The homeowner has to be aware to question that said, okay, what's missing what you know, what's not, what are you not including that this other builders include and it's not just about then jumping for the cheapest price. It's really to be critical and think about it, why is this, why is there a massive delta between the two quotes as well, you know? So I think, you know, from that, what advice then would you think that you could give to people to make sure that they won't get ripped off that their builder is competitively priced that if they want to be able to compare with different quotes, is there any advice that you would give, Jane?

- Yeah, so I think like, the best advice I can give is prepare yourself before you approached the builder. So literally write down everything on a piece of paper that you want, have your Pinterest boards, have Instagram pictures saved, send all of that information to the builder, have a conversation with the builder and also make sure depending on what stage you're up to, if it's a full fixed price quote or whatever it may be. But it's always also good to make sure that the builder has actually been on site, especially when you're talking about a home extension or renovation. So preparation is key, but then the next thing is once you've got your estimates, have them side by side and spend time going over and cross-referencing okay, well, that's, that's, that, that's, that, that's, that and then speak to the builder and make sure that they've included. If something pops up on the other estimate that they've done this, this and this, and you can't see anything about that, but you, you assume that it's on there, don't assume go and ask that builder is this included. And then if they're very blase about what's included on the specification and materials, ask them the question, ask them what's included. But generally, if there's not a lot of information included, and this is obviously depending on what stage you're at, because as I said, we will do a ballpark figure, which will give you one figure, and that's it. Then an estimate, we'll give you more details with a lot of allowances 'cause it's not finalized. And then the full fixed price estimate, quote sorry, if you've got two full fixed price quotes that your builder is gonna build your home for. And there's not a lot of information on one of them, I can almost guarantee that they've not given your quote enough attention because they just allow that there they're just gonna lean on the whole contract and everything will then become a variation.

- I agree with that, Jane, like our philosophy is here, we want before a job starts the homeowner to know exactly what they're gonna get and exactly what it's gonna cost before that you even start that job because you know, it is, it's so unfortunate and there's so many stories about, you know, homeowners hit with variations upon variations within their job. And we know that unfortunately, within the industry, there are builders that low ball their price and to win a job, and to hit the homeowner with variations afterwards. So important for people to understand exactly what's included and excluded from their quote before they start the job. So a piece of advice that we would give them is, you know, find a builder to that actually requests an investment for that proposal as well because if you have builders that do free quotes and there's so many in the Perth area that do free quotes, they're not going to spend that time, the quality of time and invest that time within your detailed proposal to scope out exactly what you require before that job starts, because they're working for free and essentially that and it's not even that, it's not even that they're probably doing at the end of the day and they're tired, and they want to spend time with their family and then they're, going into the office and having to work on that quotation at night for you and think of the quality of time and effort that's gonna be put into that quote versus a builder that potentially will have a fee for that investment who's gonna spend the time to actually consider everything for your job, to communicate with you, to really understand the ins and outs. And for that to be included then upfront, before you even start, because I feel even, it avoids them variations down the line. So if you've got a fee for your proposal of a thousand dollars, for example, that's gonna save you in the long run, without being, you're not gonna be hit with variations throughout the line, throughout the project. So if you can imagine even taking us a little bit of money from the end of your project and just putting it in at the beginning and then invest in that money and time into really getting your scope right. Really understanding, working with the builder to understand what's included within your job, then that's just gonna prevent so many, so much frustration and throughout the build. So I think that's something important and to look at as well as you've suggested, if you're getting a one page, two-page document from a builder, that's a no-no as well. You know, you need to be looking at a proposal that's, really detailed and down to your specific items that you're going to receive, the materials, your selections, and that are gonna be used on the job, because again, it just eliminates frustration and it eliminates any stress. You know, you're really confident then, this is what's happening on my job. This is what's happened, and I'm going to, this is what I'm gonna receive. This is what the outcome is going to look like. And, you know, when there's no grey areas, it makes the experience so much better for the homeowner too, that they're really confident that this is what they're going to get done. And it's not during the stages of the renovation they're worrying about, oh, will the builder just installed this specific item, that this toilet, but I wanted that one, if it's all detail there, then there's just no room for error, you know? So I think that's important, and also not just, not just thinking about the price. I think that it's really important to find a builder that you're the right fit with. And a builder that you like that you want to have the trust with, that you understand their procedures, and their communication, and on how they're running the jobs, because it's one aspect of your project is the price and don't get me wrong, it's a large investment. People are usually only gonna renovate, once or twice in their, hopefully lifetime. Or build, you guys do some building as well, but I think it's really important to understand that you also have to have a good experience, it's just not about the price. So you don't want to be stressed and a lot of people come to us that are time poor, so it's really important to understand that you have to have a builder that you're the right fit and that you have a good relationship with from the get go. Because if you don't that is just going to be a really tricky renovation experience. You're going to have a builder coming on to site every day that you dread, the car, and the van pulling up you don't want that because things renovations can take anywhere two, three, four or five months. So you want to make sure that you've got that trust with the builder and that they're gonna do the right thing by you, and that you are, that they have your interests at heart and not just their own, and their own schedule and their own margins and things like that. So I think that's just important to note, it's just about, making sure that they are and that you're the right fit, but also competitively priced. And by making sure that they are including everything and talking about what's excluded as well, if there is anything. So, so yeah. Anything else that you think to add to that, Jane?

- No, I don't really. I think that was really important as well. The fact that you need to get on with your builder is just one of the most important, like, you know, if you've got a builder that's $3,000 cheaper, but there, you just do not get on with them for whatever reason, that $3,000 is better spent with the builder that you actually get on with, because it's like you said, I mean, you're in their house, the builder's in your house and you're potentially living there. You need to make sure you get on with them and trust them. And that's more important. And also just understanding their past jobs and talking to their past clients to get a good feel of how it all turned out with other people. I think that's pretty much, pretty much sums it up. I think for the, I mean, you know, you could go until I could talk about this for days on end, definitely the experience without a different quoting, different clients, but it's, yeah, it's just homeowner needs to be prepared and you need to be aware of what an allowance is and compare the allowances, and make sure that you're not getting a two-page document and that they've put in effort and that does involve paying the builder in most cases. And that where the same week we don't do free quotes, we do free ballpark figures and that's about it.

- Yeah, yeah, no, it's good to, so people are aware of, what to really start off with them because I find that a lot of homeowners that come to us actually just don't know, it's not even, they just aren't aware of how much things cost and it is just about educating people from the very beginning so that they're not gonna waste more time if they're not gonna be able to afford this, elaborate dream, a dream home that they can then, look at other avenues, other types of materials or whatever the case may be to do that job. But it's good to start off with that, like a ballpark, but then definitely, invest in a detailed proposal or quote as you you call it, to really understand exactly what they're gonna get and exactly what it's gonna cost before starting, before signing any contracts. Once the contract signed then it's really tricky to get out of. So like, it is putting that time and effort into the forefront of your pre-construction phase. I think that's actually nearly more important than the actual construction section, you know? So it is important for homeowners to be aware that if there's sufficient time and effort put in at the front stages that it just eliminates so much stress and frustration afterwards. So yeah, I think we've covered most briefly, most avenues on that, but yeah, as you said, we could talk about, going into the depth of it and stories about horror stories and obviously, good stories too, that come out of it, but yeah. But look, Jane, thanks so much for having a chat with us today on that and I hope that helps anybody that's following and listening today, so thanks for joining us. And we'll look forward to catching you again soon.

- Thank you, Louise. Good to speak to you.

- Thanks.