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Re: Idyllwild?--charging for Initial Site Visits?

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In a message dated 9/7/05 12:29:44 PM, dennis.wish(--nospam--at) writes:
He would like to meet with the engineer on the site to go over the history of the project and the scope of work.

I don't work in the Idyllwild area, but I'm curious how other engineers handle fees (or not) for an initial visit to a site to scope out a project.  (I'm talking about residential addition & remodelings, such as this cabin remodel sounds like.)  Do you charge or consider it marketing?  I realize that such a visit could involve just meeting the potential client and seeing that the situation is so you're able to submit a proposal for your services, but more often--almost invariably--it becomes a professional consultation, where I evaluate the existing structural conditions, make general recommendations for the direction the project should go, etc.  In other words I almost always provide a lot of useful structural guidance for the owner.  I dislike doing that for free, since it's often a half-day down the drain, and I dislike the idea that someone could call up a few engineers and get a *lot* of useful/valuable information without putting out a penny.  Of course many owners are unwilling to pay for such services.  (By the way IF I charge I *always* do it on a Fixed Fee basis, so there's no quibbling about minutes, and it's generally in the $200 - 500 range.  Remember this is the San Francisco Bay Area.  YMMV) 

When questioned about charging for such visits--"contractors do it for free!"--I ask if they're able to get several doctors to come to their house, examine them, and make a proposal for how they'd cure you--for free--and *then* you decide which one you'll hire as your MD.  Or I sometimes factiously ask if they take bids to find the cheapest brain surgeon for their wife.   :)

Obviously this is all about what the market allows. 

Just curious what others do,