Why you should pay for quotes

Why you should pay for quotes

As consumers, we are used to comparing prices. After all, a better deal is usually only a mouse click away. But this has become so much a part of everyday life that the mere suggestion of paying someone to give you a quote sounds utterly absurd. Well, call me absurd, but I'm about to suggest that you do just that. I firmly believe that it's often in your interest to pay for a quote from a builder.

Let's take the case of a house extension. "How much will it cost to extend my house?" you might ask a builder. "How long is a piece of string?" he would reply. "Ha ha, but really... roughly how much?"

Your question seems reasonable enough to you. Of course you understand that it depends exactly what kind of extension you want, but you still need to know roughly how much you're looking at before you decide. Will it be £20,000, £40,000 or (heaven forbid) £60,000? Of course, it's easy enough for a builder to ask a few straightforward questions and reply with one of those numbers as a 'guesstimate'. However, most good builders would not do that and with good reason.

A house extension is very complicated, not least because it involves an existing property, which has all kinds of quirks, constraints, unique problems and unknowns. It also requires teamwork and careful orchestration of multiple trades. But even before you hit all those problems, you need to decide what exactly you're building... which is not easy in itself.

In order to start getting to grips with the scale and cost of a project, you need a plan. Getting a plan drawn up and then getting a detailed quote for the project is a huge amount of work. If that's not done properly, you're off to the worst kind of start. And, unless you're Usain Bolt, you're not going to end up with a good finish if you don't have a good start.

Even after the plans are drawn up, there are still so many things the builder needs to think about and account for. Let's start before the job can... what is the access like? Can you easily dump the materials in the right spot or do you have to carry them, brick by brick, through the front door and out the back door through the kitchen? Time is money.

What kind of spec are you looking for? What kind of materials? Each bit needs to be looked at carefully. A kitchen tap can be £50 or £200. Then you have the unknowns. These are the potential problems that a builder might run into but can't predict up front... like digging the foundations and discovering an ancient burial ground that unleashes a poltergeist. Hey, it happens! What about structural problems with the house that were unforeseen? Asbestos? A nasty wasp nest that sends the builders screaming down the road and afraid to come back? You get the idea. Building is a risky business and you never know what's around the corner. Careful preparation pays off, but it takes time.

If you tell a builder that you're not 100% sure if you're going to do the project or which builder you're going to use if you do, but that you want a free quote to help you decide, then you should not be surprised if the builder does not want to spend the necessary time preparing a good, well thought out quote. Working for free is not a good way to stay in business, so inevitably you will get a 'guesstimate', which is worse than useless.

Why so, you ask? Well, if the guess is too high and you hire the builder, you've paid too much. If it's too low, you'll pay for it later.

We hear stories all the time where homeowners get 'quotes' ranging from £25,000 to £60,000 for an extension. This happens no matter where you find your builders and it's simply because builders can't justify the time spent to prepare a proper quote for free. Getting a bad quote is bad for the client whether it's too high OR too low.

You are buying a service from a builder, which needs to be delivered over a long time period and they operate on tight margins. If a quote is significantly too low, the builder is likely to run out of money and won't be able to afford to continue paying subcontractors and buying materials. It's not just a case of turning up to work for nothing, it's a case of not being able to pay the plasterer, electrician and plumber to finish the job. And the subcontractors definitely won't work for free just to make sure you get your new kitchen or conservatory. If you get into this situation as a client, it's really bad news. You either pay more or pay a lot more or the quality of the project is at risk.

If you opt for giving your builder more money it could possibly end up costing more than the highest guesstimate you got. If you can't pay then you've got an unfinished project. If you source another builder to finish the job it will probably cost even more time and money, since they have to schedule you in, get to grips with the project and figure out what is left to do. It's not the sort of thing that builders relish doing, so it might even be hard to find a good builder who wants to take it on. So, quite obviously you want to avoid getting into that situation to begin with, at almost any cost.

So, what is the cost of avoiding this outcome? For a couple of hundred quid, you can get a well-prepared, itemised quote, which will be refunded if you hire the builder. If you don't hire the builder then you still have a proper quote to use as a benchmark for other builders. It's money well spent and definitely one of the most sensible things you can do if you're undertaking a complex building project.

Photo by Images of Money


  1. fair comment

  2. makes sense, but people will not even pay for a proper survey on a house they are buying then scream when they buy a bag of old bricks

  3. I hear you point Ryan - I sit at the computer for hours after i've been on my tools all day completing quotes . Customers don't see the work that goes in to the pricing , but you won't get them to pay for a quote in todays economic climate !

  4. I literally spend hours pricing jobs and completing quotes, it's part and parcel of the job unfortunately, if you give a 1 line quote with a total figure you've got no chance of winning the job, time spent producing a good detailed quote is essential in my view, I dont think many people would want or be able to afford to pay for each quote, it would help me out for definite but it's something that is unrealistic in my opinion.

  5. Every client we have quoted with at My Builder did not know that we pay for each job we are short listed for, they think it is a free service. We try to give each client the best attention possible but my husband now never seems to get a break, CLIENTS TEXTING AT ALL HOURS , until you try to get back to them at all you get is voicemail, very fustrating when you want to talk to them or give a detailed quote. It would be nice to get paid for quoting even to pay for travelling costs but cant see it working , even if reimbursed off job cost once agreed.As usual best ones are still the recommendations.

  6. Totally agree with last comment whoever Invented free quotes though ?

  7. Last time i spend nearly a day to sort a huge job and driving around and at the end the job was given to someone else and we have been hired at a later stage after the first builder messed everything up and the client was looking with 10 years older
    is about time to come into place as is a huge number of time waisters

  8. Another waste of time of being shortlisted on MYBUILDER. AGAIN being shortlisted and after arranging time to visit and cost work appointment cancelled at last minute so we are paying the shortlisting fee and not even being given chance to cost. Is it worth being on MYBUILDER. WE ARE REALLY THINKING NOT .They have to start being firm with clients and make them realise what commitment means when they shortlist tradesmen.

  9. I would like to see all building trades charge for an initial site/job inspection. (to cover travel and time)
    This would probably lead to the customer appointing a maximum of 3 builders (to limit their expenditure) , this would cut out the lottery situation where clients have a procession of builders around.
    The 3 builders should then make a charge for the preparation of a detailed quote, refundable if the job is won.
    Maybe we should all get together and bring this to the attention of the public , perhaps my-builder and similar companies could instigate something.

  10. I am seriously thinking of cutting down the amount of detail in my quotes as I get a few who pick your brains with a million questions about the install and insist on a detailed quote and then award the job to a muppet working for peanuts to your specification.

    The cost of some of the shortlist fees has risen dramatically on some jobs as well, so won't be quoting on those.

  11. I agree with most of the comments. I prefer recommendations. I tend to charge extra to cover the short list fees on here. The clients on here should not be allowed to nominate more than 5 builders. I find the clients that choose less builders are easier to work with. I won aprox 50 percent of jobs. I tend not to go for big jobs as I waste a full day visiting and quoting job and pay my builder 25 pound. Something has to be done.

  12. Hi to everybody.My ideea is that only 10% off the coustemers that are on mybuilder will pay for an professional tradesman to come around they our house and give them an fair quote for the your requested work.In my opinion all the coustemers that register with mybuilder should be aware that we the tradesmans are paying a fee ones they short listed as,and they should pay a small fee as well ones they short listed an tradesman.All the coustemers that I have been out to quote for had no clue that we the tradesmans are paying a fee ones we are short listed and sometimes never have a chance to get in touch with them.If they would be aware off all this from the beginning I would say that,only interested coustemers you'll find on mybuilder and there will be no more frustrating from us that we travel all around London,westing time and money and in some cases after we quote after 1 hour they turn back and say that the cost has made them think twise before proceeding with the your job and in some cases they want open the door.
    George constructions ltd

  13. Intresting to read all the comments left on here, seems everyone is the same train of thought, i think the idea of charging a prospective customer is unrealistic , you would probably be on the back foot straight away if you told them you would charge for the quote. however there is a real argument there, catch 22??
    As fo mybuilder, i have used the site for almost two years now and overall i would say that it costs us around £200 per month including shortlist fees and membership, which in realistic terms of our nett return is not bad going, effective advertising!! you could put an add in yellow pages for £600+ and get 1 job from it... On the other hand i think mybuilder could possibly do a little more to vet the people posting jobs to try and whittle out the timewasters, also they really should offer a credit/refund on non responding job posters so we at least get the opportunity to quote, seems fair that if you pay for a service you should recieve what the service promises?

    Anyway rant over , back to work!

  14. Personally I think we pay to much for leads and many times with no even chance to price, I RECOMMEND MY BUILDER TO CHARGE ALL Clients for quoting the job and reduce the cost of leads.

  15. Well.... I've pay hundreds of ££££ for time westers leads, Another waste of time of being shortlisted on MYBUILDER. AGAIN being shortlisted and after arranging time to visit and cost work appointment cancelled at last minute so we are paying the shortlisting fee and not even being given chance to cost. Is it worth being on MYBUILDER. WE ARE REALLY THINKING NOT .They have to start being firm with clients and make them realise what commitment means when they shortlist

  16. the only reason i can think of that my builder charge a shortlist fee before a quote is given,is to make alot of money out of the people who actually do work.Why would you also charge a fee?it should be one or the other and not letting potential customers realise this,well another way of ripping of the builder.I think a small fee for shortlisting will make people think about choosing willy nilly,i had a "lead" through yesterday,four builders had shown interest and four builders were shortlisted,money for old rope.I think on the subect of paying for a detailed quote on such a large project is fair,fuel and time is not cheap these days and a few cups of coffe and a biscuit although very nice,really doesn't cover it.We unfortunatly in this cut-throat industry have done this to ourselves,you dont see lawyers having to compete with the one next door?there prices are fixed and its reputation that gets them the work.Many so called tradesmen think its great that they have undercut the competition,but have they really thought it through,time spent back and forth,making excuses,well i was going that way anyway?if youmay have to go back if there is a problem?and it happens,then the £30 pound for an hours work suddenly becomes negative equity.
    ending now and you can bet that customers who visit this site dont get the opertunity to read this forum.

  17. I agree with genesis London, there are a lot of time wasting leads on my builder that cost too much, the customers should only be allowed to shortlist 3 tradesman and be told before shortlisted that the tradesman will be charged.
    Theres been many times that ive been shortlisted then not been able to get in contact with the customer for £12.

  18. Seems to me that virtually every tradesman on here has the same issue/s.Time wasters are a huge (AND EXPENSIVE) problem for most of us.As far as im aware,mybuilder is set up for the average person to find a tradesman,not for tradesman to find work.If the job poster is genuine,WE are paying for THEIR peace of mind when finding a tradesman.If they are timewasters/dreamers then we are wasting time,money and diesel with absolutely no chance of getting the job.I believe that we are the ONLY PROFESSION that gives advice/quotes for free,isnt that enough? If the site is set up for the job poster then surely they should pay something for their peace of mind.Come on mybuilder,we are being run ragged by these people! Just a thought but a lot of tradesman are unhappy with things as they are,if they all walked,mybuilder (very profitable at the minute) would cease to exist?

  19. I have been invited too look at jobs only to find out the clients only looking a price to compare against another builder this is really getting to me .I am taking less leads now if a client wants to get you to quote they should have the option to pay for the lead sounds bad but time is money

  20. Many customers have no specific idea of what they want or how much work is involved. I am certain that many of my detailed quotes, designs and sketches are then used by the customer to plan and refine their ideas.
    Thats the way it works.
    I take some pleasure out of the fact that those customers that are honestly seeking a quality build are the easiest and most full filling people to work with.
    I also ask if they are property developers, if they say yes I will only consider talking further if they have full drawings and planning permission.

  21. I agree with a lot of comments on here and have noticed that the fees are creeping up, I now think very carefully about what quotes I take on. I have also reduced my area to about 10 mile radius, so I dont get so many leads but sometimes get invited to quote for jobs 30 miles away is this so mybuilder keeps their quota ? I too am seriously thinking whether its cost effective anymore

  22. Hi believe that customers should pay for an estimate or quotation, at the end of the day time is money
    would the customer do the same for you? I don't think so.If you want the best estimate it should be paid for or just take the first person you call and give the the job

  23. I totally agree with the prospective client paying for the quote / My builder service, this would weed out the poor quality leads & time wasters. Some of the leads posted are an absolute joke.

  24. Totally agree with what most have said here regarding short list fees & cost's of providing quote's.
    Some of the short list fees seem a little expensive now depending on what job it is.
    I don't think customers realize how much time & effort goes in to preparing quotes, and that somewhere along the line someone has to pay for this.
    It's hard enough out there at the moment without working for free.

  25. I have to say when my builder changed there billing i e,mailed them saying this was unfair and going to be a problem, seems i was right!

    the way to combat the dreamers i think is to maybe set up a page where the poster can put there details of there job, for a guestimated pricing this will give them a idea.

    if there not just dreaming then they pay a small amount to get a good builder they have a maximum of 2 builders to shortlist and whichever builder wins pays the shortlist fee!

    this would be more fair!

    at the moment this month i have won 5 jobs and have had to pay fee's on 15 jobs

    and 1 of the 5 jobs that i won had bought his floor of the internet and the company has run of with £6000 of his money ( don't by wood of the internet lots of scams going on at the min )

    ok back to the original posting !

    the only time i have ever been paid for a estimate is when I do shop work for there customers

    i tryed to charge for estimates for private work and there was alot of oh we will think it over! never to be heard from again!

    If we charge quite simply someone else won't

    I now invoice customers in stages and charge in stages

    for exsample

    ground work price - deposite - do the work - take balance
    joisting price - deposite - do the work - take balance

    and so on

    since doing things this way we have not fallen in to the trap of running out of money, having a bad paying customer and so on

    this has cut down the amount of time pricing a job for hours only to be left without the jobs

    We find the customer seems to like it to cos they can keep control of the money at every stage of the job ! sounds strange to do things this way but it really is working for us

    hope this helps
    JD Flooring

  26. I have been shortlisted by customers who do not respond to emails or text messages. I have made appointments which when I contact to confirm say I am too late they have given the job to someone else. When questioned some do not remember shortlisting me. I am lucky if I get 3 jobs out of ten. My Builder are on a win win service and the people who spend there evenings and weekends doing the estimates and visits are being fleeced. If you do not get a chance to quote you should get a refund. That is fair. If some one says they want a free quote I will ask them to pay the lead fee for the quote and agree to give a refund if I get the job. Thats fair. I think My Builder need to sort this problem out and soon.

  27. My builder,definitely need to consider refunding fees for time wasters or spend time vetting job posters

  28. 100% agree that you should be refunded if you are not able to make contact after being shortlisted, i have had this happen to me on a number of occassions and am now very selective over which leads i choose to take interest in.

  29. It seems to me we are all in the same boat regarding quoting, is it possible that if we all started charging a small fee that covered our petrol and time this would start to stop time wasters from asking for quotes, genuine customers would only then want two or three quotes.this should be backed up with my builder by charging a small fee to the home owner for each tradesman they short list, this again will discourage time wasters,. my builder could then reduce the fees to the tradesmen, i mean lets face it we aren't getting a fair deal. I know what I'm saying is very unlikely, but to make changes and to create a tipping point this is a great place to start, when other tradesmen start to hear that it is now the norm to do this it just might start to snow ball, Lets face it we are all feeling the crunch, its ridiculous how people can expect you to quote for no charge

  30. Richard Branson just spent £15M on a tender to renew his contract on for the west coast Railway service and did not get the job!

    Most homeowners are not going to pay for quotes even though it is a good idea if not somewhat idealistic and possibly out of touch.

    Yes it makes perfect sense for all sorts of reasons, it is logical but it won't happen in more than 1/100 cases at best. Let's have some practical real world idea's please.

  31. I think I would be great to charge the customer a fee for arranging good honest tradesmen to give them a quote at a lower rate than currently charged to us. My Builder then charge us for actually getting the job once hired, i think customers would pay if they know that they are getting quality quotation service. The hired charge would keep my builder profits the same If offering the customers a lower rate and would really motivate tradesmen to spend time quoting knowing they have a high chance of getting the job having less people short listed if the customer is payong and not costing us money if we don't get the job and would also limit the amount of time wasters!!!

  32. well sounds like there is a lot of un happy tradesmen , but lets face it MYBUILDER is out there to make money any way they can , They put up the membership this year
    they wont give you any credit on blow out jobs or non existing jobs
    if they started to charge the customers do you think they will drop there fees a little ,I dont think so

  33. Lots of unhappy tradesmen here. I even noticed people with 100 jobs completed via mybuilder and still they are not happy.
    I think mybuilder is brilliant.
    The worst case scenario: Let's say you quote for 10 jobs and only get one. If the client is happy with the results they would recommend you to someone else for sure...and so on. So in the long run, it is still worth it. Keep the clients happy and the jobs won't stop coming...and stop complaining!!!

  34. Why have you made it so hard to contact you can't find the contact you . why are prospecting clients not ringing me and saying they don't receive our numbers the point being the last job i went for on my builder the guy was actually away on business in Finland the phone number given by my builder this is not on and should be checked . rather than going on about clients paying for quotes id like to save on my phone bill . And you also seem to be asking for your fees earlier these days some jobs take a while we have to wait for our money as well sort it out please regards tradtudor

  35. I'd be happy to pay for quotes for builders so long as they GET ON AND DO THEM! It takes so long to get quotes that 3 months or more can pass before they're all in. If cash made builders a little more enthusiastic I'd pay. Site visit plus a couple of hours? I can see people might go overboard though.

  36. Oh, and another thing, people complaining about mybuilder charging, it costs just £4/month to pay for web hosting with unlimited traffic, mysql database, php etc.. the rest is programming, so if you don't like the way the funding structure works you could always club together and form your own site? There is already trust-a-trader (which I've found relatively useless). I guess there is room for more, since it seems many traders aren't affiliated with any sites like this and get work through word of mouth.

    Mybuilder, however does represent a good way to get rep. so you could perhaps use it while launching your career and then rely on word-of-mouth to get your follow-on work. I mean, no need to consider it the way you get all your jobs.

  37. I have been using my builders since 8 month now at the beguining was getting a lot of shortlist paying on average 55£ a week getting 1 out 10 shortlisted with lot of expenses for petrol and quote remember that anytime you going for a quote accross the town you spending a lots of time going there plus petrol and shorlisted fees you on average waisting 35£ for your time and expenses mostly for the clients to just compare you between 4 other oe 5 builders plus they will be getting others from others website too i give up now its high cost for nothing my builders need to review its policy we are getting ripped twice

  38. I started using MyBuilder some years ago and it was absolutely brilliant. I gained £10,000 worth of work in just over a month. It was free to join and you only had to pay a fee if you gained the job (up to a maximum of £250 if I remember rightly). Therefore, you could gain a £60,000 extension from the site and would only pay £250 for it. Needless to say at that time it was a brilliant idea for us tradesman. Nobody would complain at paying a small success fee for a genuine job they had gained.

    Then it changed to a membership charge and success fees and again I still thought it was brilliant value for money and most of my work still came from it.

    However, we now have to pay a membership and shortlist fees. Its getting stupidly expensive and for little or no work. I understand that MyBuilder have grown and expanded and with that comes more associated costs. However, look at the number of members all paying a quarterly membership fee and on average 4 builders paying shortlist fees for the same job....Well they are making an absolute fortune! I was shortlisted for a few jobs last month and gained 0! In many cases the clients cancelled or were only looking for a price comparison, but MyBuilder still chased for their "shortlist fee"!!! I am giving it one more quarter and if it goes the same as the previous on I will not renew.

    I think the guys at MyBuilder need to go back to basics and charge a fair success fee for jobs gained and a membership fee to cover costs etc. MyBuilder is a brilliant platform no doubt about that, but I think they are losing site of the people that make their company profit...us tradesman! Carry on doing that and I think its clear from all the comments on here your company will not be around in a few years.

    In short MyBuilder was and is a great idea, but they seem to be losing their way.

  39. The practice of charging for a survey, quote or call-out is still accepted by many property owners. Take damp proofing firms for example. It's not uncommon to pay for a survey which simply translates as time spent on-site. Many plumbers insist on a minimum call-out charge. As a homeowner, I accept this. MyBuilder tradesmen are currently quoting for refurbishment works at my new home. I have been impressed by the professionalism of these firms and would have been happy to pay a small fee for their time and advice.

    Stakes are high of course, especially if your competition offers free quotes. On the other hand, a well-designed, re-usable quotation pack and the right pitch could help differentiate your business and attract the right clients.

  40. Paying for quotes or buying leads. I think the message from MyBuilder here is buying the lead, not getting paid by the prospective client to submit a quite. So MyBuilder advises us to buy the lead from them. That makes sense, as it helps with MyBuilder funds for running their business. But does it help yours? I'm not so sure. You get a lot of time wasters on all of these types of sites. Someone just trying to find out how much it might cost and those who want the job for nothing.

    I had one the other week. He had the bathroom installed by someone else and it was an awful job. The grouting in particular was really bad. I said I would spend a day sorting it out and sealing the bath etc. I said £120 labour to do the job. He thought it was very expensive and declined my offer. It would have been a very long day to try and recover the mess of the very poor craftsmanship. So I am now out of pocket for buying the lead and MyBuilder is in credit for allowing me to quote on the work. So there we have it.

  41. quotes are the biggest bane of my life. i always give very detailed quotes which have involved me going to see a job to measure up, then sourcing materials, and then all too often not winning the job. i seriously believe quotes for most jobs that take more than 30 minutes to work out should be paid for. i like your idea of refunding the quote costs if the job is won. i think i am going to trial this out in future to see what the response is.
    like many said above, its hard enough winning a job in first place, so cant see the mention of having to pay for a quote being a success sadly. sometimes i hate my career choice.

  42. You would not ask a dentist or surgeon for a free in depth survey and a free itemised quote. You would not ask a structural engineer or architect for a free survey and a detailed condition report before giving you a price for their designs. They would laugh at you. Property owners wonder why so often it all goes wrong with building projects. Trying to get something for nothing is the start and end of the problem.

    If clients expect a professional, fully detailed and totally reliable quote without paying for it, they are living in la-la-land. If only they realised that the best way to assess the professionalism of a contractor is to pay them a proper fee to prepare a properly considered quote, they would not waste their time.

    And the ridiculous part is that they really are actually paying for the 'free' quotes we all have to offer. The contracts we actually win have to pay for all the time we spend pricing the jobs we fail to win. Providing free quotes pushes up the cost of building for everyone. Someone has to pay for all the time we waste and that cost will have to be added to our general business overheads which at the end of the day has to be passed on to the clients who pay us our living.

  43. Quotes can be the making of good customer relations and the ending of bad ones.
    I don't charge for quotes, What you have to do is build the time into the daily rate you charge all the customers. So if you're spending 5 hours a week doing quotes, add this to the daily rate for all your pricing.. most pricing is done on the hour or daily rate.
    Once you start to quote for works with a cost that the client knows what they'll be paying then you build up trust and understanding and generally get recommends and repeat customers.

    The building industry is so far removed from proper business practice..When was the last time your Accountant gave you a freebee?? Or the bank didn't charge you for paying in a cheque?

    It costs more to be a builder than you may think.

  44. If I had a builder who came round with a guesstimate of between £60,000 and £25,000 for an extension I wouldnt even bother ringing him back. The consumer also need to know how much something going to cost before they buy it. It is the work of a builder to ensure that a proper survey has been done to find out things such as `wether the building contains asbestos?` etc before taking the job on. If every member of a building team did their part then there would be no issues with quoting. These days many jobs can be per-assessed using phones, skype and Google plus. A good conversation with a client before going out to quote will save you a lot of time, is it a job that can be done there and then? Is the client ready to do that? Should you be taking all relevant tools with you? A good booking system will also save you money. If you are working in Horsham surely this is the time to take quotes from this area. I think quoting is a necessary evil, other wise no one knows where they are. I think it also helps if plumbers/builders can offer dual rates depending upon the complexity of the work eg £25 an hour for simple jobs, £40 an hour for something more complicated where higher training is involved. By quoting the hourly rate and the call out charge before coming round to quote avoids disappointment at a later stage as the client struggles with the quote or bill.

  45. Totally agree customers would not pay. I spend time quoting detailing everything that is visible and what we would be doing, just to find out I have been beat to the job by some one who, for example, has said I will do it 2000 cheaper, which is crazy - but it's the old saying once they get their foot in the door you’re hooked,even though I have 5 star ratings and good comments it means nothing. People care about price to start with and don't think about quality, what standard materials etc?

  46. Hi, even though you wrote this article a couple of years ago it's still very relevant. I've just written an article to help people understand that being a builder is not as straight forward as they may think. While they see large quotes and this builders making fortunes, in reality is it hard to make a decent profit as a builder.

    Free quotes is an issue and can ultimately end up costing the client more money, either through the builders covering their general costs or even some potential driving up of quotes as builders speak to each other.

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