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by Forrest Burnson,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: August 22, 2016


Traditionally, residential remodelers have relied on pen and paper and to draw up estimates for their customers. While many remodelers swear by this method, it can be time consuming and can lead to inaccurate estimates. So if you’re looking to streamline your estimating process and put together tighter, more accurate bids, you will want to look into purchasing residential remodeling estimating software.

We put this guide together to help you better understand this type of software. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Residential Remodeling Estimating Software?
Common Features of Residential Remodeling Estimating Software
Residential Remodeling Estimating Software Pricing
Residential Remodeling Estimating Software Deployment
Other Considerations

What Is Residential Remodeling Estimating Software?

Cost estimating software helps residential remodeling contractors calculate material and labor costs and produce detailed remodeling proposals. As competition for projects continues to increase and more contractors are pressured to deliver fixed-bid work, buyers are adopting modern systems, including Web-based systems, to deliver accurate and professional proposals. At the same time, owners are using these systems to create their own home remodeling estimates and double check the accuracy of project bids they receive.

Common Features of Residential Remodeling Estimating Software

When we speak to residential contractors, the two primary criteria they have for estimating systems are: 1) that it be easy to use; and, 2) that it is affordable. There are a number of systems that meet these criteria, but they vary in their feature breadth and sophistication. Below is a table of the top core modules you should look for as you evaluate home estimating systems.

Manage customers Your system should serve as a basic customer management system. For example, it should track your prospect and client contact information, as well as the notes you create when you interact with them. More advanced programs will help you organize and automate your new project sales pipeline.
Manage projects While an estimating system does not function as a construction project management system, it should organize estimates by project and maintain information on each project. You should be able to pull up a client contact, select one of that client’s projects and see the estimates you have developed for that project.
Track material costs The core of an estimating system is the ability to maintain an extensive database of materials. This database should be updated regularly with up-to-date prices for materials in your region through a subscription pricing service like RemodelMAX. You should also be able to modify this database yourself.
Manage assemblies Rather than specify every 2x4 and nail you need for a job, you’ll want to create assemblies that combine all of the items needed to build a specific unit of work (e.g., a residential interior wall). Vendors should offer pre-built assemblies, as well as the ability to create custom assemblies.
Build and reuse templates Templates are like assemblies at the project level. They allow the remodeling cost estimator to start with a completed estimate for a similar job (e.g., kitchen remodel) and then make modifications to make the estimate specific to the job that is being estimated. The system should come with a library of templates, and allow you to create custom templates.
Reflect change orders Of course, things change during the pre-construction process and during the project. So, the system should enable you to process change orders in the system. The system should generate a change order report that illustrates the cost impact of the change. Finally, this feature should have a status for accepted, declined, pending etc.
Generate reports and proposals The output of your estimating activities should be well-formatted reports, contracts, and proposals that impress your clients with their professional level of detail and polish. The system should make it easy to customize these reports with your company logo and contact information, as well as contract terms specific to how you do business.

Residential Remodeling Estimating Software Pricing

Residential remodeling estimating software is typically priced in two different ways: subscription pricing and perpetual license pricing.

Subscription pricing: With subscription pricing, users typically pay a monthly fee for as long as they want to use the software. This fee might be determined by the breadth of features you want included, or it can also be determined by the number of remodeling jobs your business does on average.

Perpetual license pricing: With a perpetual license, you pay one large fee upfront and own the software indefinitely. However, with a perpetual license, you may have to pay annual fees for support, maintenance and upgrades.

It is worth noting that some vendors offer “per job” pricing, meaning you’ll only be charged for every individual remodeling job, and typically it’s a small percentage of the remodeling job’s overall price. Some vendors also offer free versions of their software that have limited features, allowing you to try it and out and see if you want to pay for the full version.

Residential Remodeling Estimating Software Deployment

Residential remodeling software is deployed one of two ways: cloud-based and on-premise.

On-premise. With on-premise software, you install the software directly on your own computers or servers. On premise software is typically associated with perpetual license pricing.

Cloud-based. Cloud-based software is accessed through a web browser or a native mobile application and is hosted on the software vendor’s servers. Many residential remodelers prefer to use cloud-based estimating software as it allows them to draw up estimates from their mobile device when they’re on the go.

Other Considerations

It is important to keep in mind that not all estimating software platforms can accommodate residential remodelers. Some platforms are better suited for specific types of estimating work, while others can work as multi-purpose systems that can cover most of your bases.

Also consider vendor viability. We frequently see in the market for construction software smaller vendors getting acquired—and sometimes sunsetted—by bigger vendors. While smaller vendors often have cheaper pricing, you might have less confidence that the vendor will be around for a long time. This is particularly important if the vendor offers a perpetual license and then goes defunct—that can be a bad investment if you end up stuck with “abandoned” software that is no longer being updated.

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