What I'm Seeing Now

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My Client Got An Estimate And Asked My Opinion

It was a big house, 15 years old, wood siding, wood windows, wood window sills and lots of rot.  How far the rot extends under the siding, or around the windows and doors, or under the gutters, and so forth is UNKNOWN.  That will certainly need attention.

My client wanted to change the siding to fiber cement, replace the windows with vinyl and wrap all the trim with aluminum.  Smart plan.

My client got an estimate and asked my opinion.

I am not without opinions and ask my clients to contact me when they have questions.  NOT ALL DO THAT!

The contractor was arranged by his Realtor.  The contractor never went to the house but provided an estimate from a couple of photos.  The contractor never met his customer, my client.  The material suggested was vinyl siding, which I understood my client to say he did not like or want.  This contractor does not do windows and they were not addressed. 

ALL THOSE THINGS ARE RED FLAGS TO ME. 

The estimate left lots of gaps, lots of things not addressed.  That is also a RED FLAG to me as it leaves open the opportunity to add dramatically to the job later. 

What was an original estimate becomes something much bigger, takes longer and is a whole lot more expensive.  Was that intentional here?

While an estimate cannot count all the beans, it must count as many as possible.  It should anticipate problems and address their potential.

IN MY OPINION AN ESTIMATE SHOULD DEMONSTRATE THOUGHT, SPECIFICITY AND MAKE CHANGES TO THINGS THAT HAVE CREATED THE EXISTING PROBLEMS SUCH THAT THEY DO NOT CROP UP AGAIN.

THIS ESTIMATE DID NONE OF THAT.

Here is how his home inspector answered him:

  • Did you do your own research?  What do you know about the company?  Did you compare this estimate with anyone else?  Did you meet the contractor?  Did you look him in the eye and hear his words?  Who are they sending to do the work?  What is the skill set of the installers?  Their experience?  Etc!
  • The estimate is not specific.  What is the square footage of under-layment?  Square footage of siding?  The linear feet of gutters?  The linear feet of aluminum wraps? 
  • The estimate was done with the site unseen by the contractor
  • There is rot on the existing wood trim, siding and window sills.  Is the material underneath wet, moldy, damaged?  If so, your price will vary dramatically.  Does this contractor have the expertise to deal with that?  You will not be able to control a price tacked on to what is proposed.. are you comfie with that?
  • The estimate was done with the site unseen by the contractor
  • Does the new, styro-foam under-layment proposed trap moisture underneath like the original EIFS product?  What would be done about any existing rot or mold trapped under that?
  • The estimate was done with the site unseen by the contractor
  • Have you seen the product they propose?  Have you looked into the product?  Or compared the product to others?  Have you seen reviews of the product?  I thought you didn't want vinyl siding...
  • The estimate was done with the site unseen by the contractor
  • The estimate does not include priming and painting.  What would need to be and when would it be done - before or after?
  • The estimate was done with ... well, you get it
  • The estimate does not propose a different gutter arrangement to alter water flow to properly direct water so it does not rot wood.  It does not propose a different discharge method so that it no longer sends a lot of square footage of roof surface water right into the same spot.  The current gutter arrangement, as we discussed during the inspection, has caused a lot of the existing problems.  Also, the estimate does not mention kick out flashing, again as we discussed.  See my attachments on the report as to what kick out flashing is.
  • Is this before or after the new window installation?
  • You only have one estimate from one company!
  • THE REALTOR'S NAME APPEARS ON THE ESTIMATE.  YOURS DOES NOT!!  WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?

That is a pretty aggressive answer by his home inspector!  My client could not believe that he would get such a detailed answer in response.

My recommendation:   when you want to do work on the house, consult your home inspector!  It will be well worth your time.  And please:

DO SOME RESEARCH AND GET MORE THAN ONE ESTIMATE!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 32 commentsJay Markanich • May 08 2012 04:26AM

Comments

Great blog and great job. Keep up the good work and good luck to you this year. Thanks.
Posted by JOSH EVANS *JoshEvansHomes 516-655-5000 (Village Properties of Mineola, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay-any contractor who won't take the time to come to the house to do a detailed estimate shouldn't even be considered for the job.  You pointed out all the right questions to ask. 

 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 7 years ago

I am sure glad I was a general contractor/builder, as to not get fooled by such nonsense out in the field. 

Posted by Winston Heverly, GRI, ABR, SFR, CDPE, CIAS, PA (Winston Realty, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Great response! I can't imagine anyone giving an estimate for something like that without going to look at it.  Even for my standard jobs, I really need to see the place. You can't tell from drawings or sq ft what something looks like and what sort of prep work may be needed (or sometimes even the best materials to use).  But, most especially when there is known damage, you have to look.

Oh, and I agree if it's a large/expensive job, multiple estimates as well as opinions on how the work should be done is a a must have.  I'm glad that at least they consulted you.  that at least was smart.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 7 years ago

Sounds like that agent is taking huge risks being involved with contractor estimates. From what I read, I would not even consider using a contractor that doesn't even inspect the job or meet with the owner. This has bait and switch written all over it. The estimates will keep going up and up, and the job will soon come to a standstill. Get at least 2 or 3 detailed written estimates. I use to work with some builders that would give me a written " Request for Estimate" to provide the following. Then they would have a written list of exactly what they wanted and what materials they wanted used for the project.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 7 years ago

Thanks Josh for stopping by again!

Cindy - I was shocked reading how general the estimate was - basically a price for siding, a price for gutters, a price for under-layment.  It went on.  And this is a big house, with, ahem, a cracked truss!

Winston - I guess this contractor was trying, but I found it all pretty unprofessional.

Debbie - would you give an estimate that says, "Refinish floors, $XXXX?"  That's pretty much this one!  I tell EVERY client to call me with questions, especially if they get estimates for something.  About 1 in 1000 does call.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Good advice, Jay.  Specifity is a must.  It protects the homeowner and the contractor.  I just had a client send her bill back because she said it was too much to move a fixture.  She didn't seem to remember it was 5 things she requested with 4.5 hours labor for one of my guys.  I need to make sure the guys always use the "additional work authorization forms" because homeowners, just like contractors will seek an advantage if given the opportunity.  

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 7 years ago

You are right Jeff.  This was a Swiss cheese estimate.  There were holes everywhere!

Mike - added work is one thing, when what is discovered during the job was not suspected or known.  In this case, there was a lot known that was not addressed.  Time is time!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Clearly the real estate agent has a brother who is a "contractor".

 

 

 

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

All good stuff Lenn.  But this Realtor works for a local company that has an extensive "approved vendor" list, which they recommend.  These vendors are on the list because they pay money to this local realty company.  You know what I am referring to, right?

You might be right about the family relationship too.

P.s.  I am not on that list because I do not pay money for such "privileges."  They should pay me to use my name instead...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

You have to be kidding me when the estimate was written up by not even going to the home?

I would not accept it even if it was a good one.

How can you know what is wrong when you did'nt even see the home in person.

And no name on the estimate. What's going on around there?

Have a good day and keep up the great work you do.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Doing research and learning as much as you can regarding a job that needs to be done will help.

Three estimates seems to be a magical number. Get as many as you need and learn from each one. 

Estimates should be a learning experience. 

Ask questions. 

Posted by Erv Fleishman, Luxury Prop Specialist Realty Associates (Realty Associates) almost 7 years ago

Good morning Jay. I would never even consider a contractor who hasn't visited the site. That is not only poor work ethics but setting someone up for disappointment. Yikes!

 

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I feel the particulars of this post might be attributed to one realtor rather than all realtors.  My friends and clients often ask me for referrals for all sorts of household and personal services.  I have never, and will never take a referral fee or gift (rather asking that it be passed on to the principle).  I have never referred anyone that I have not met and talked to, if not seen evidence of their work. 

A contractor I refer would never work like the one you mention.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

Clint - I could not believe that either!  You notice I mentioned that a couple of times to the client.  And that the homeowner's name was not on the estimate was a laugh riot.

Erv - works for me!  And be sure you have a visit with each contractor.

Randy - my client got my message.  This all happend yesterday!  This morning I got an email saying I am "the man."

Chris - see my answer to Lenn above.  This company has its own "network."  I don't trust that either.  You can get "approved" by the company and be a part of the network by paying money.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I guess the first thing to look for is that the estimate is for what you asked for. This was unbelievable! How did this guy get on the company's list of approved vendors?

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 7 years ago

Yikes!  Thank goodness that home owner contact you!  The real estate agent was not looking out for the owner by recommending someone who does not even take the time to come to the house to give a well conceived estimate.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 7 years ago

By paying the fee Michael!  Do you know the company I am speaking about?  Bottom line, an estimate should be professional.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Kathryn - how that estimate can possibly be rendered without seeing the house is beyond me.  This happened yesterday.  Already this morning the client has contacted me three times, twice to thank me.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I've heard stranger things, but this smells pretty rotten. Always good to get two estimates, at least.

Posted by Melissa Zavala, Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County (Broadpoint Properties) almost 7 years ago

I agree with that Melissa, and after your own investigation!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

There are seasoned pros in the business that just know things. I will give you that. However, on large jobs, getting seasoned, hands on EYES so that all goes well makes sense....Sometimes things work out and some times they don't...$$$

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 7 years ago

I recently did an inspection and the listing agent got an estimate of repairs using the inspection report and gave it to the buyer. The buyer knew that the estimate didn't address allot of the issues and was way too low. In your case the vinyl can cover up the old stuff and out of sight out of mind I guess.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- when the client asks for a particular product type, and the contractor changes that, without thorough consultation with the client, on site, then that contractor has told the client he doesn't want the job.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Hello Jay,

Hmmm, an estimate from a contractor "sight unseen"...that's right up there with a Realtor writing up an offer for their Buyer on a home the Realtor never went to....RED FLAGS!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) almost 7 years ago

For sure Richie, but a seasoned pro would be on site and giving a detailed estimate!

Rob - yeah, cover it and all the problems are bye bye.  And low estimates are another form of red flag!

Steven - I didn't know if the client changed the siding he wanted or not, but still, even if he had that estimate was waaaay too vague.

That's a good analogy Lisa.  Can't be done!  At least, not well...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, you are a wise man. This contractor was plain lazy as far as I'm concerned which wouldn't bode well for the service he would provide later. You gave your client excellent advice. He's lucky he had you to confer with.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thank you Tammie.  You are very kind.  The estimate was so vague and had so many holes, it really bothered me!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

What's amazing to me is the homeowner even thought this was okay. The best way to weed out the tripe is to get multiple estimates. The shmucks will begin to shine in the light of the quality companies. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I was a little surprised he turned this over to his realtor Jim.  He is a retired fighter pilot and a pretty aggressive guy.  He did have enough of a twinge to send it to me though.  The estimate had three things - siding (with him picking the ultimate design and color) with price, the underlayment with price and the aluminum wrap and gutters with price.  That's it!

Swiss cheese, that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay - the next time I have a client ask me about an estimate they received, I'll be sure to send it over to you for analysis.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

No problem Reubs!  I got all day!  You mean in Minnesooooota they don't still do things with a hand shake?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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