“Free” Quotes – Why You Can’t Trust Them

Believe it or not, paying a professional builder to quote your renovation plans is going to save you money in the long run… 


You’ve decided to renovate your home and embarked on your journey to find the right builder.  Perhaps you have some plans drawn up already and you’re looking for builders to give you a quote.

You start researching for local builders and come across a couple that offer FREE quotes.  You send off your plans and eagerly anticipate the arrival of their quotes.

But wait, how confident are you that their quote will be a true and accurate indication of how much it will cost you to renovate your home?

home adviceOur advice is to be wary of builders who are offering free quotes – projects that start this way almost always end up costing much more (and not to mention the additional stress).

To create an accurate and detailed fixed price quote, it will take a builder a significant amount of time – probably between 40 and 100 hours, depending on the scope and complexity of the project.

Developing a fixed price quote for a home renovation, involves numerous processes, and meetings and should take into consideration various factors and items requiring the input from several professional third parties.

No one likes to work for free, so chances are the free quotation you receive will not have had the required amount of time and effort spent on it to ensure it is as comprehensive and accurate as it should be.  That’s when the additional costs come rolling in throughout the project and you find your budget coming under considerable pressure.


In order to develop an accurate quote for your home renovation, a professional builder first needs to carefully study your plans to understand exactly what building work is required and what subcontractors and other specialists will need to be used.

They should meet with you to run through your plans almost room by room, item by item so they can write a complete and comprehensive scope of work for the project.  It might be that you wish to complete the renovation in stages, or that you wish to do some of work yourself such as the painting.  They will need to know this information before pricing your project.

The builder should also discuss the quality of finish you would like in each area so they are aware of your expectations and can include the necessary items.

quote insights

For example – what floor coverings would you like, carpet, tiles, wooden overlay?  If you are tiling the bathroom, are you tiling to the ceiling? Do you want a 20mm or a 40mm stone bench top in your kitchen?  If so, do you want waterfall ends?  What type of doors are you installing and what about the hardware?

These sorts of details are not generally included in construction drawings but need to be known when developing a detailed and accurate quote.  They often need to be priced individually and can have a significant impact on the overall price for your renovation.

Once the finer aspects of your project are determined, the builder then needs to spend time quantifying and sourcing the building materials and other fixtures, as well as estimating the labour hours to do the required carpentry work.

In addition, the plans often need to be sent to various subcontractors with an outline of the work they need to price on.  Things such as roof trusses, structural steel, concrete, brick/block laying, insulation, tiling, painting, plumbing and electrical can all have a material effect on your project costings.  It’s important that they are not missed off your quote or just ‘guesstimated’.

As you can imagine it takes a lot of time to calculate, request, review and compile all this information into a comprehensive and accurate quote.

renovation projectsEvery renovation project is different – it’s never been built before so it’s not a matter of cutting and pasting from a previous quote!

Considering the amount of time and effort required in the above process, a builder providing free quotes will usually have cut corners, rushed their process, left out specific details or simply given you a price made up using a list of ‘estimates’ or ‘allowances’.  All of which ends up costing you more later.



If you are handed a one or two paged ‘quotation’ then alarm bells should start ringing for you.  A professional quotation for your home renovation should be a sizable document – at least 30 to 40 pages.

It should specify how every aspect of your project will be handled including details of the materials to be used, what’s included and what might be excluded from the price, any reference drawings or modelling used and perhaps even a draft build schedule or timeframe.

If a builder has enough spare time to offer you a free quote then arguably their time and services are not in demand – so be cautious.  These builders can be so desperate to sign you up that they’ll offer you anything for free in the beginning just to get your business.  You can be sure they’ll make up the shortfall by charging you more somewhere else in the process.

expertiseProfessional builders already know the true cost of their time and expertise and will charge appropriately for their services. 

They won’t be looking for ways down the line to recoup initial losses – they’re simply looking to cover their basic quoting costs.

So if you don’t want to be caught out and would like a comprehensive and accurate quote for you renovation, do your research.  When interviewing builders ask how much they charge for their quote up-front.  This will help you understand their process and allow you to select a professional builder.

You’ll enjoy a much stronger working relationship and find the whole project goes smoothly from the outset without any unwelcome surprises.


To get started on your renovation journey, talk to us today about our quoting process and charges.

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