What Is An Estimate?

December 17, 2015

Do you really know the difference between an estimate and a construction proposal? A lot of contractors will promise you a “FREE ESTIMATE” after an in home consultation. But what does this mean? What are they really giving you for free? We’ve seen how many home owners are taken advantage of with the promise of a free estimate.



An ESTIMATE is a fixed price contract based on an assumed design, material allowances and many other variables. Let’s face it. If you walk onto a car lot and tell the salesperson you’d like to buy a car, but provide no details or preferences, there’s no telling what you might drive home. Not to mention how much it will cost. Likewise, with almost ANY remodeling project – a two story addition, a master bath remodel, a finished basement, or a new kitchen – there are many different details that determine the final cost. Three of the biggest cost drivers are the design, the materials selected and the existing site conditions. If you were to select kitchen cabinets that cost $15,000, but your contractor had you sign a contract with a $10,000 cabinet allowance, guess what? You’ll be getting an additional $5,000 invoice for this Cost Overrun (also known as the dreaded “Change Order”). Some unsuspecting home owners have had project Change Orders exceed 50% of the original Estimate they signed. No one likes surprises like this. We simply consider this poor planning, and poor business practice. That’s why we don’t give Estimates. We start with an Opinion Of Probable Cost, then work toward a detailed Construction Proposal.

An Opinion Of Probable Cost is the first step in our process. So what’s the difference between an Opinion of Probable Cost and an Estimate? Our Opinion of Probable Cost is not a contract with vague design ideas and low-ball or missing material allowances. It’s a price range based on the size of the project, the information we gathered at our first meeting with you, and projects we’ve completed with scopes in the past. For example, we may tell you our Opinion of Probable Cost for your project is $40K to $60K. This may look like a fairly broad range, but we feel like it’s important to be upfront about the varying degree of costs this early in the process. If this range works with your investment comfort level, then we will send you our Design/Build Agreement. This agreement specifically references this target cost range, and allows us to focus on keeping you in your project comfort range during the design process and the material selection process. If for one reason or another you stray from this targeted cost range during design and material selections, we can work to get you back into the right budget range by making adjustments to the design or the materials selected. And this will happen BEFORE a construction proposal – which means NO CHANGE ORDERS or cost overruns.

Good upfront project planning and a thorough understanding of what your projects financial commitment cost is before moving forward is critical. Once the design is something you love and you’ve selected all your materials with the help of Rich and Stacy Lensis in our showroom, we will be ready to produce a…

Construction Proposal – with your design complete and your materials selected, we are ready to produce a detailed, accurate proposal based on the actual details – not just assumptions. No change orders. No cost overruns. Just exactly what you want with the materials you love. Simple, right? ;-)

If you live in the Northern Virginia area and you’re interested in a free estimate, or would like to know how Lensis Builders, Inc. can make your home even better, give us a call at 703-367-8999 or fill out a short contact form. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next project, visit our Pinterest page.

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