The Benefits of Estimating Software

Save time and speed up damage settlements with computerized programs.

In 2001 tropical storm Alicia struck the Houston area, inundating about half the city with floodwaters. For the city's ABC Restoration Inc., a $2 million construction firm specializing in restoring homes and apartments that have been hit by floods, hail and fires, it was time to go to work.

Alicia left about 2 feet of floodwater damage in most homes, so they all needed the same kind of repairs. Using the company's main estimating program, ABC estimators were able to create "macros" — cookie-cutter estimates of typical restoration costs, room by room — and apply them to many flood-damaged homes.

The benefits of this type of software also include:

  • For the experienced estimator, it can save large blocks of time.

  • For the inexperienced estimator, it assures that no details, such as door hardware or towel-bar resetting, will be overlooked.

  • Damage estimates can be prepared quickly and sent to insurance companies to start the settlement process earlier.

  • In a small firm, estimators and salespeople can spend more time selling and less time estimating.

The use of software probably cuts 20 percent off the time it takes to put together an estimate, according to ABC. If an estimator makes $55,000 a year, that's $11,000 in savings. Looking at the numbers a different way, if a company has five estimators, the time saved increases each estimator's productivity by 25 percent — a huge jump by almost any standard.

Keeping Up With Upgrades

Most software makers offer regularly updated prices for all remodeling items, though estimators need to take care with the timeliness of certain costs. In some cases, quarterly updates aren’t enough. The price of paint, for example, can rise many times within a quarter.

The software also provides for special options. For example, the estimator can specify three grades of appliances — standard, high-grade and premium. If the client specified a particular model of appliance, the estimator can enter the information for the appliance, including its cost.

Most estimating software produces the following documents for internal use or presentation to the client:

  • A cover page with the client's name and address and a description of the project

  • A one-page estimate for each room's remodeling work, including a code, a line item, a quantity and a price for each item

  • A final page showing the total estimate, the material tax, overhead and profit (typically, 10 percent overhead and 10 percent profit are added to the estimate)

The software codes necessary for the elements in the project take a while for new estimators to learn, but once they do, an estimate can be done in about four hours.

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