View Full Version : Haggling price with tradesmen in the current climate
11-04-2008, 02:19 PM
This post is about getting work done on your house, rather than DIY, but I guess this is the right place for it. I'm wondering if people are seeing tradesmen and builders being more open to negotatiation on price in the current economic climate?
Got off the phone with a builder/plumbing merchant today after trying to move him on the price of a quotation. Bloke would not give me the time of day, which surprised me. I need the following work done on my flat.
Replacement of an old gas central heating system with a new gas one, and a new kitchen. The new kitchen needs drainage / water supply moved as part of the works. I got both jobs quoted separately for (I was making up my mind what needed doing), with the guy in question being 20% over the nearest quote in both cases. What surprised me was the v small discount (IMO) he offered for doing both jobs, £250 off a total of 12 grand of work. There's clearly a significant overlap between the tradesmen needed for both kitchen and central heating in a small flat.
I may still go with him, as his firm has a reputation for great reliability (don't know about the US, but unreliable tradesmen cause huge stress over here in the UK). His attitude pissed me off though, it was if he got in a state of high dudgeon that I'd dare to try and negotiate a discount between the two jobs.
11-05-2008, 10:13 AM
What about geting a third quote, from someone whose reputation is equal to that of your bloke? Sounds to me like he gotta little pissed at you comparing his price and work to that of the inferior merchant. But then again he should realize most of his clients are not of the trades and don't know who actually subscribes to the brotherhood unitl we hire them, right? The price difference may be in the quality of materials picked, shortcuts on safety or efficiency. Better do some more research on the details of the quote.
And yes I would say the tradesman need the work! Twice since we had an addition built did we rehire the builder to do random carpentry jobs around here. Needless to say he is not busy at all, doing a lot of little jobs for past clients. Just yesterday he was here and installed two new windows and trimmed them in cedar to match the rest of the house. I think they should expect to bargain or at least leave room for haggling and reworking a quote to get it right, some just don't want to do that i guess.
04-07-2009, 05:41 PM
And yes I would say the tradesman need the work!
Not quite the term we use here in Maine for the most part but yes, most tradespeople need the work in this economy. As a builder I could be a little busier myself although I have been fortunate enough to have work. As for coming down in my quotes, that is not something I consider. I still have Liability and Heath insurances to pay, tools to upkeep and replace, and other business related issues that don't seem to go away. People tend to think we are wealthy charging $40/$50 an hour but after all the business expenses and taxes there isn't as much left as you would think. People collecting regular paychecks in an office make far more than I do but ask them their hourly wage, it's less that what I charge.
If I do lower my rates then when the economy turns for the better my customers will be irate when I go back to the original rate. I then end up taking the risk of going out of business entirely. There are bargains to be had however, but not all Tradespeople are the same.
07-22-2009, 03:42 PM
At the risk of stepping into a quagmire, can I speak a little from the other side, and as someone new to the industry?
Due to losing my office job I've somehow landed in construction/repair/rehab work. Long story, which we'll skip for now. I'm basically a sub-contractor for an old friend who is a general contractor (much simplified - granted I'm in Indiana, but we're a suburb of Chicago and the relationships between various trades and contractors and sub contractors and sub-sub contractors... well, read Ed's book, m'kay?).
Yes, people are asking us for discounts. We understand - you have no money. You know what? No one does. We don't either. The problem is, we have bills, too. We can't work for free. Nor can we work for a discount steep enough that we would lose money on the job. We have to make some profit otherwise our families don't eat. Below a certain floor no, we can't go lower and we're still taking a risk that if something happens we'll lose money instead of make money.
Now, perhaps the tradesman in the OP thought something needed to be done that wasn't considered by others. Maybe the others are trying to do it on the cheap and the more expensive guy was trying to do it right. I don't know. But he might have reasons for his quote that weren't immediately obvious to you.
I'll tell you another factor that gets us nervous these days - over the past two years the general contractor I work for has been stiffed for about 1/3 of the jobs we've taken on. That's right - someone signs a contract, we do the work, then whoops! Someone is bankrupt or just not freakin' paying the bill. Or they pay half of it, we finish the job, and then >poof!< - no more money. So maybe, when you started talking discount, the tradesman got nervous you didn't actually have the money for the job.
My impression is that no one has money, no one can get a loan, and everyone is distrustful with a short temper these days.
Or maybe the tradesman was trying to put one over on you. It can happen.
I do know haggling seems more of a minefield than ever before.
09-09-2009, 03:33 PM
In our community persons are buying up repo's and the like and hiring repair persons to put them back in order. It is more difficult to find someone to work on a home now than in 2006. I don't know about prices as there may be more low end persons who once worked in construction and are now freed up to work for repair and upgrade contractors.
09-11-2009, 10:35 AM
You don't need to negotiate per se...just let them know that you are entertaining multiple bids.
We just had a small bathroom redone...and the difference in bids was staggering...from $5000 to $16,700...for the exact same work! The higher bid ones sure warned us about lower bid ones but the warnings were a bit flat. Sure, they had some points but not enough to over double the freakin price!
It was interesting that the high bidders were actually a bit hostile...I sensed frustration from them and think they have not been getting the work/price they wanted and were getting eaten alive by smaller, hungrier competitors.
(The bathroom cost about $7000 to complete and is fabulous!)
On another note...we just replaced an old heater, air conditioner and hot water heater from a large/well known company...and their deals were about 40% lower than when this same company priced it 3 years ago.
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