I have a problem with my roof that I'm not equipped or interested in fixing myself. I found an appropriate contractor who sent a contract with a price that I feel is to high.

I would like to ask the contractor to do the job for a lesser amount.

My question is, is it acceptable and productive to negotiate these prices or am I wasting my time?

  • 1
    Ask other contractors for bids, if you find others are giving bids in line with what you envisioned then you can tell your preferred contractor that you like him best and want him to do the work but that several others have outbid him. He may then meet your price, or justify his need. Perhaps he’s using higher quality materials, or thinks it would look better to do a little more work than your imaging. By getting multiple bids you should learn much.
    – Tyson
    May 11 '18 at 22:27

Lots of good advice here already, but maybe I can step back and explain where that price came from.

Labor + materials + overhead + profit.

Labor is pretty obvious... some firms pay more; some pay less. Some provide health benefits; some don't. Built into the labor price is how long the job is expected to take: some firms will cut corners and reduce their labor cost and others will do everything pretty well and have higher labor costs. Some will exclude "unknown conditions" from the contract and issue you a change order that will cost you more; others will anticipate likely problems and have a little money built into the contract so that they don't have to annoy you with a flurry of change orders. (There are plenty of contractors out there that get their feet in the door with a low bid and then make a ton of extra money with change orders.)

Materials are something you'd see on comparative quotes if you got multiples. You'd see that one guy was offering 15# felt and the other was offering Grace Ice and Water Shield. That's not the whole story, though, as the price a big firm pays for shingles isn't necessarily the price that a little firm pays. And maybe the guy that's offering you a massive deal is just trying to burn through some leftovers from another job. So material choices and prices vary. You shouldn't concern yourself with what the materials cost; just be concerned with what materials are specified in your contract.

Overhead is what it costs a company to keep their doors open whether they're working or not. That's rent on the office, truck payments, certain insurances, cost of ownership of tools, licenses (if applicable), their advertising spend... the list goes on. A big company is apt to have more overhead than some dude with a truck and a couple of buddies. Be sure that the dude with a truck has liability and workman's comp, otherwise, you could be paying for his buddy that fell off the roof and crippled himself. (Top tip: ask for proof of insurance, then call the companies to verify. I know that sounds like you aren't trusting, but consider the alternative.)

Profit is what's left over at the end of the year, after the first 3 have been covered. Profit gets used to weather hard times or grow the business or buy a big stupid bro truck. You can decide for yourself whether a business deserves to make a profit, but I can assure you of two things: you want the business to be around in a few years if a warranty claim happens, and there's very little incentive for people to run businesses without profit as one of the motives. (And, I should note, some businessmen are greedy, so try to make an unreasonably high profit. Some guys do astonishingly good work in expensive markets where an unreasonably high profit is almost forced upon them so that they can keep up the veneer of exclusivity.)

So with all that in mind, how did you decide the price was too high? If you're not running that particular roofing business, you have no insight into anything other than material costs.

You might ask for a lower price and you might get a lower price, but most businesses aren't running strictly on charity, so I doubt you'd get as good a product as you would've at the original price.

If, hypothetically, roofer X was the only game in town and you needed to get the price down without compromising on quality of execution, then a productive route would be to ask what they can remove from the quote to cut the price. Cheaper materials? You haul all the tearoff? Shingle over existing? (Btw, that's usually a bad idea that gets you far less lifespan, but if you only need a roof for 5 years, it might work...)

Get a few more quotes. Try to compare apples to apples regarding materials. You might get a quote you like more.

  • The part about not getting as good of work really stood out to me. Thanks for breaking it all out very helpful. May 12 '18 at 15:11

A lot of this is cultural. But in my opinion (USA) it is reasonable to negotiate with a contractor. Whether you will be successful or not depends on many factors. For example, a contractor who is relatively idle at the moment may decide to cut profit on this job to keep his employees working - I have heard ads from a local roofer who (supposedly) cuts prices in the winter because it is the slow season, just to keep his employees working full time. I would even expect some contractors to build some "wiggle room" into the price to allow for negotiation. On the other hand, some companies may have much more of a "take it or leave it" attitude. It doesn't hurt to ask. However, keep in mind that some contractors may do a cut-rate job when working for a cut rate - you are relying on the honesty of the contractor to still do an appropriate job even at a lower negotiated rate, and in some cases that will not be the case. Good luck!

  • I’d presume they’ve already taken into account their current work load. Asking for a reduction in their bid “after-the-fact” will be non-productive.
    – Lee Sam
    May 12 '18 at 2:06
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    Your answer makes me think the better question would be "are you offering any discounts at this time". May 12 '18 at 15:07

Estimating (time or materials) is not an exact science. A lot of estimating is done by past experiences and the bidders understanding of how complex the project will be...including what they think of the building owner.

I’d recommend getting multiple bids if you’re not comfortable using a “selected” contractor. When I have work to do, I Select the preferred contractor and accept his bid. If I don’t have a preferred contractor to do the work, I get recommendations and then multiple bids from those contractors.

There are so many ways to cheat the client, that I want the contractor “comfortable “ in doing the work so he’ll do the best he can.

If you’re going to negotiate the price, I’d recommend you suggest that the bid is higher than you can afford, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help reduce the costs, like: pick up his trash, help pack materials, etc. Usually, they don’t want you in the way so they’ll give you a small discount.

Otherwise, if you talk him into reducing his bid, you’d better know everything about roofing, like, type of moisture barrier, required nailing pattern, lap of flashing, etc. I inspect construction for a living, and they can hide things from me if they work at it. You can’t be everywhere all the time.

BTW, fun fact, in parts of Europe and Asia, they throw out the high and low bids and award projects to the middle bidder.

  • 1
    ”I’d recommend you suggest that the bid is higher than you can afford“ I’ve learned never to adjust a bid due to this claim. Why? Because the people that put that claim on the table use it for a discount that they don’t need, and those truly in need rarely use it to lower the price. The exception is certain customers that start the conversation with, “I have no idea how I’m going to afford this but I have a problem.” For those customers I’ll look for ways to make it most economical for them before even quoting.
    – Tyson
    May 12 '18 at 1:46

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