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Last updated on June 26th, 2012 - Many residential remodeling contractors are still developing their estimates by hand with a pad and paper, or perhaps using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Others are using the rudimentary estimating capabilities offered within Quickbooks, the accounting system of choice for the small contractor. There are, however, some fairly sophisticated top-rated estimating systems designed for residential contracting companies working on everything from kitchen remodeling and bath remodeling to total renovations. When used properly and consistently, these tools will enable the contractor to develop more detailed, accurate remodeling estimates for home renovation costs in far less time than manual methods.
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 construction estimating 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.
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 software.
|Manage customers||Your residential estimating 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.|
The following topics have been discussion items in 2012: