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Merchant Quotes – The Good And The Bad

Merchant quotes: where would we be without them?

Materials are a huge part of a project, can’t do much without them that’s for sure!

Most guys seem to have a few accounts at a few different places, here’s some tips to make sure that you are getting the most out of them, and a few things to watch out for.

Matching Time Frames

If you are getting merchant quotes, be really mindful of time frames.

Merchants are busy, and sometimes their lead times to turnaround measures and pricing can be 4 weeks or more.

If you are pricing a tender with a strict time frame then you need to make sure the very first thing you do is get your plans to your rep, don’t leave them on your desk!

Get The Spec Right

If you are sending your plans to more than one merchant and then comparing your prices, have a super close check of the specifications used by each merchant.

The specifications should match those stated by the architect in the plans and if they don’t you are simply not comparing apples with apples.

The last thing you want to do is get caught out on a cheeky tag that you didn’t spot where an item has been swapped and you forgot to pull the tag through to your pricing to your customer.

I’ve seen it happen before, it can cost you a fortune and the only person in pain will be you.

Beware of the estimate clause

Generally, merchant prices are estimates only, and they will have that stated clearly on the document they present you.

I have seen the level of detail in some of the plans they get sent by builders, and to be fair they are frequently having a guess at details based on previous experience rather than referring to the lack of details and tagging things out.

They do this to help out the builder, which is awesome, but it is another reason to be really clear when an estimate is an estimate and why so you can also be clear with your client about the variations they may encounter.

One of my biggest bugbears is when a builder uses a materials estimate from a merchant to price their labour.

On one hand, it is a great habit to apply labour constants to a measure rather than having a guess at it as a lump sum because it is far more accurate, and you can use the info to run the job.

On the other hand, an estimate is an estimate, so if that materials measure is incorrect in any way then you can muck up your labour total too all in one foul swoop.

Guide, not gospel

Generally, I reckon use the merchant quotes as an excellent guide, but not as gospel.

Either you or your QS needs to run through it with a fine tooth comb for any tags, missing items, or inaccurate measures.

Spot check the big ones, like plasterboard for instance as a double check.

Remember too, these guys are doing it for free, so cut them some slack but also remember that the most important information you will get out of it will be your trade prices, that’s what will set you apart from the rest!

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