In today’s changing economy, it’s critical to clearly communicate project costs with the homeowner. A detailed estimate sets homeowner expectations on overall cost, and when done consistently, ensures builders over time develop a profitable, respected business that wins more work.

Builders often struggle establishing this winning reputation because traditional estimating demands so much time. Understandably, builders don’t want to be pinned down by paperwork. They itch to be on the job site managing their teams and solving the daily problems that go with every build.

Successful builders have learned a trick for getting more time on the job site while also writing the estimates that grow their business.

These builders use estimate templates to simplify the preconstruction phase of their projects, leaving time to work directly with their home construction project teams. Having some free nights to spend with family and friends rather than writing estimates doesn’t hurt either. 

It’s easy to get started with free templates. You’ll find abundant samples on the internet that you can download and use to write estimates. But it pays to be careful. Using confusing spreadsheets or online documents can lead to trouble down the road.

More on that to come, but first let’s review some of the basics:

The benefit of estimate templates

Whether just starting out or well-established, builders need a thorough, accurate estimate. Estimate too low, and you lose money on a project. Estimate too high, and you may not win enough jobs to generate the cash flow you need to carry your construction company forward. After all, you’re in this to make money, right? 

Making money means more than covering your expenses. It means adding some extra income to give you a fair profit. Good builders know customers will pay for their expertise, and a detailed estimate explains the entire build package to the homeowner. 

The construction estimate covers all your labor and material expenses, overhead, permits and profit margin while delivering an on-time custom home project to the customer. Accurate estimates include all the tasks required to complete the job, from site prep to site cleanup, and give the homeowner power to make informed decisions on financing their project before you turn the first shovel of dirt. 

Finally, a clear estimate prevents misunderstandings down the road as the frame goes up and your subcontractors shift to different subtasks of the build, such as electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Builders with complete estimates often have to deal with less change orders.

Estimate efficiency

Now that you’ve reviewed the benefits of estimating, let’s turn to how you can do it quickly. To estimate quickly, builders like you use templates to save time.

Templates prevent you from starting from scratch when working similar projects. Whether it be single or two-story houses, or specific renovating or home extension projects, you jump start the estimation process using saved templates of your most successful jobs. 

Templates can list tasks and pre-price materials to avoid repetitive data entry that wastes time and leaves you open to making needless errors. More sophisticated templates, typically offered in construction estimation software, allow you to also pre-populate custom quote letters and generate basic construction project schedules to give your client a solid idea of a project’s length. With today’s labor shortages, having an estimate of cost and length of time is critical information.

Different types of construction estimate templates 

Estimate templates can take many forms. Builders swear by anything and everything, from notebooks scribbled with pencil, all the way to the latest cloud-based software. As mentioned previously, it’s good to be aware of the pros and cons. So let’s review. 

The tried and true ways of estimating a construction project

Obviously writing an estimate on paper is the basic way to get the job done. It’s especially tempting for experienced builders who, after years of working, have all the figures in their head. Sure, it may seem faster to just write estimates down from memory, but there are hidden hassles. 

First, you have to make a copy of your customer estimate for your own records, and then you have to file that in your office so you can find it later. And even if you find it months from now to use as a template for a new job with similar specifications, you then have to rewrite and update that estimate. Do you really have time to work so inefficiently?

Today, you have too many better options to notebooks and pencils that require less time and are more accurate.

The trouble with some free construction estimate templates

Spreadsheets and word documents offer a second way to use free construction estimate templates. No doubt you’ve seen these on the internet. Typically, they offer a free download with some basic instructions. 

Yes, these are better than writing things on paper. But You should keep in mind that free offers for estimate templates are typically just a way to rope you into a sales conversation about another, fee-based tool for construction projects. Free downloads typically require you to enter contact information and answer some questions that prequalify you to speak to a sales person so they can upsell you to another product.

Even when you put off the sales pitch and stick to the free products, there are hazards to using these spreadsheets and document tables. Typically, there are formulas hidden behind the rows of numbers that you enter. As a home construction business owner, you really need to understand what those formulas are calculating. You have to be sure what others have built for you is right for your business, and that can be time-consuming.

Also, a free construction estimate template is often isolated from other parts of your work. For instance, you have to perform material takeoffs as an entirely separate process and then copy the material counts into your spreadsheet. That leaves you open to make costly errors that can cut into your profit margin.

The same holds true for material prices. You have to take time to look up pricing from your supplier and then copy those figures into your spreadsheet or table. When you think about it, it could take days of emails and phone calls just to get those material prices. That’s just added delay and frustration.

Software offers a better construction estimate template

In today’s world of fast-moving labor and material prices, construction management software offers your best option for a construction estimate template.

Yes, there is a recurring cost if you subscribe, typically paid monthly. But the best software comes with a no-obligation trial period and ongoing subscriber support and service.

And unlike with free downloads, you know exactly what you are using because it’s explained in clear language and graphical interfaces that show you how labor and material costs are calculated.

Cloud-based software also allows you to either use standard templates that are ready-to-use once you login, or you can create your own estimate templates based on your favorite jobs. All of it is stored in one central place that you can access from anywhere that has an internet connection.

Because the best software is easy-to-use, builders can rely on it no matter how detailed the estimate or the type of estimate they want to show the customer.

Multifunction software offers more than cost estimation

But software does more than offer templates. It connects those estimates to digital takeoff tools and supplier catalogs that help you accurately estimate and quote customers 5x faster than with notebooks, pencils and confusing spreadsheets.

Takeoff software that’s included in the same monthly price calculates material counts from digital plans. No more hunting for plans on a crowded desk that you rarely have time to organize. With a simple point-and-click, material counts load directly into your estimate, which eliminates the manual errors that occur when copying figures by hand. And the best software also includes options for supplier catalogs and prices that ensure you are working with the latest information.

Learn more how software meets your estimate template needs

Today, builders like you are using modern software as their go-to source for estimate templates. Buildxact offers an all-in-one platform for takeoffs, estimates, quoting and job management.

Learn more about Buildxact pricing, or begin working today with a friendly Buildxact team member. Book a demo or start working with templates right away with a 14-day trial that is free to use.