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janbb's avatar

How do you evaluate a great disparity in estimates for repairs?

Asked by janbb (54512points) May 27th, 2010

We need to get a new roof on the house. So far, we have two estimates and one is 4 times higher than the other! Both claim to be doing the same things and using the same shingles. The higher one is from a national chain, the lower a local guy we haven’t heard of. We will probably get a third estimate and check out references for the local guy. Obviously, we do not plan to go with the national chain, but why such a disparity?

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14 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I think each estimate you got is an outlier. The national chain is bound to be more expensive than a local shop, and your particular local guy seems to have lowballed you, which just means he would pad the bill later. Get references.

Cruiser's avatar

Get references and call and visit the job sites. Also get in writing the upfront cost for roofing substrate repairs for things like rotted wood replacement. Also ask about their cleanup protocols (protecting your home and landscaping and if they haul away all the debris. I had to pay for the dumpster with one company others brought their own) and if or when they start and stop work and bad weather contingencies. I would get 3 more estimates and it wouldn’t hurt to ask them to comment on the other companies reputation.

anartist's avatar

Check that material is exactly the same, that scope of work is exactly the same, and see how close man-hours are. This won’t be easy because every vendor has different ways of presenting things. Make your own form detailing what you want to know and ask vendors to fill it out.

For unknown local vendor, check chamber of commerce, and ask for references. Go look at contractor’s work.

LostInParadise's avatar

I used to run into a lot of frustration regarding home repairs. I have been using Angie’s List and have been satisfied with the results so far.

dpworkin's avatar

I’ve always thought Angie’s List would be useful, but it is so very expensive here.

anartist's avatar

@dpworkin I got a subscription for about $30–40/year.

janbb's avatar

We actually used something called Service Magic which is a free referral site. Friends had used it with great success and we used it and got 3 phone calls within ten minutes from roofers. I’m not sure what the vetting process is though.

dpworkin's avatar

In Albany it’s around $75.00.

janbb's avatar

Just did some reading and it seems like the vetting process at Service Magic is fairly basic and the contractors pay a fee for being listing so it is not a substitute for doing your own research. However, since it took us all winter to wrest some quotes from home insullation firms, we were impressed with the response from the roofers through the site. It’s We will get a third estimate from a prominent local roofer and also check out the work and references of the cheaper guy. And make sure if we use him that there will not be added on charges. Thanks all!

MissA's avatar

Many times the cost is whatever the traffic will bear. Whoever you are considering…check their work. However, they most likely are not going to give out bad references! So, check the BBB and ask around at local restaurants, etc. to see what others might have to say about them.

You might even ask competitors. Anymore, for major things, I don’t leave any rock unturned.

Siren's avatar

The roofing industry is fraught with swindlers who do shoddy work —or no work at all while taking your money. The problem is that half of it is trusting the company to do the job and do it right, since few people get on the roof of one’s house to evaluate the work afterwards, and even if you do the company usually doesn’t hang around to chitchat. And once they’re done it seems incredibly difficult to contact them again if you see problems. So, make sure your contract is crystal clear and DON’T pay up front for any of the work if you can help it. If they need the money to buy equipment, etc. go with them or order it yourself and they can pick it up. Make sure they don’t over-purchase and then take off with the leftover supplies.

And don’t answer the door to anyone claiming they worked on so-and-so’s roof down the street and can do yours next, and to hurry up and decide. When someone urges me to hurry up and make a decision, that is a red flag to shut the door or slow down and take your sweet old time.

anartist's avatar

I think that there are even “Travelers” who offer roofing services. Caveat emptor.
They are never bonded.,

YARNLADY's avatar

We used Service Magic for several repair projects and have been very happy. We are currently having the windows replaced on our rental We received three referrals, chose one, and looking forward to the work.

We have completed projects from several projects on our house over the years, using them. We still do our own research on their bonding and license. California has a website that makes it very easy.

janbb's avatar

Update: We had a third guy out this morning from a local firm who have been around many years. (I think they did the roof on our first house.) I liked the guy and the price they quoted was almost exactly the same as the first guy’s quote so it seems like the national chain was way out of line. We will probably go with these guys.

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