The real cost of cheap construction estimates

The Real Cost of Cheap Cost Estimating in Construction

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How a short-term saving could cause long-term headaches for your next construction project.

Let’s be honest:

Your primary goal with any construction project is to keep costs low and profits high, all without compromising the quality of the finished product. 

So, when it comes to your construction cost estimates, it’s no wonder that you’re keen to spend as little as possible.

It’s for this reason that the lure of using low-cost estimating software can be pretty tempting.

The ability to crank out estimates quickly and cheaply whenever you need them? 

It sounds ideal, doesn’t it.

Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

To be honest with you, there’s quite a lot that could go wrong.

You see, whilst software packages may be able to offer an immediate, short-term saving on the cost of your estimates, they lack one vital ingredient that often makes all the difference between a smooth, successful project and one wrought with hassles, headaches, and hidden costs. 

That ingredient?

The Human Touch 

Estimating software can be useful for churning out a bunch of figures based on the data you input, but there’s so many other things that it simply doesn’t do all that well.

For one thing, it can’t tell you whether the data you input is accurate,  up-to-date, or even the best possible price you could get for a particular material. 

For another, even the most advanced software in the world can’t factor in those variables that only an experienced estimator with expert insight into the unique nature of a particular project would be able to consider. 

What kind of variables?

Well, take the location of your project for one thing. 

Location, Location, Location

Most cheap estimates, particularly those churned out by a computer, come up with their numbers based on data averages and what it should take to complete a project if all the conditions were perfect.

Yet as we all know, conditions are rarely, if ever, perfect. 

So, sure, it may be entirely possible for estimating software to determine that a project requires X man hours at Y cost, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that the project’s location presents some pretty unique challenges such as there only being one lane of traffic or other obstacles that make site access difficult. 

The Experience Factor 

This is where the experience of a professional estimator really proves their worth. 

Sure, you may know that access restrictions are going to cause you a problem, but do you know, realistically, what kind of costs they are going to incur, or even how to get around those restrictions safely and legally while spending as little money as possible?

Working with an estimator means working with someone who’s been there and has first-hand experience of dealing with problems similar to the ones your project is likely to present.

As such, they can offer unique advice on not only the kind of otherwise-unforeseen challenges you might face in your project but also the most cost-effective way of overcoming them.

How Cheap Construction Estimating Costs You More in the Long-Run 

Let’s say you know all this, but decide to forge on ahead anyway.

After all, you’re convinced that your estimate has got everything covered and will allow you to achieve those three conditions for a successful project:

  • Solid profits
  • Reduced, realistic costs
  • Quality work. 

In the short term, you may be able to save as much as $100 off the price that you would have otherwise paid to a professional estimating service.

Listen, I’m not one to turn my nose up at $100, no matter how big the project might be. If you’re anything like me, you may believe that getting a cheap cost estimate for your project is going to pay dividends.

Then work commences, and it turns out that a certain material you normally use on most projects isn’t going to be suitable for this one, and now you’re going to have to shell out an extra $1,000 or so to get the right materials.

Suddenly, $100 doesn’t sound like such a good deal, does it? 

If you’d invested just a little bit more to hire a professional estimator in the first place, there’s every chance they would have seen this problem coming and accounted for it in the estimate.

Or let’s say that you know about certain access restrictions and dutifully entered them into your estimating software, only to find out that you’ve grossly underestimated the impact of those restrictions, an impact that a seasoned, professional estimator could have well known about. 

The result? Not only added costs, but added time, added complications, and plenty of added headaches before you can get your project back on track.

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