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

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I practically never do a free consultation for a new (owner) client, and it has only ever happened once when it involved travel. For established clients who use me on a non-compete basis, I will do 2-3 hours of work before an approval.  That's mostly so that I can get a scope of work and a fee together.  The onsite time gets rolled into the total fee.

I have a fixed fee for residential consults (~$300) where there is an identifiable issue, and include a short written report. For multiple issues, the fee increases, but that is generally agreed upon before the visit. I think I bill somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-4/mi for non-local (<15mi) jobs. 

I didn't get the full text of Dennis' message, but it sounds like just a meeting, and he (owner? architect?) wants to do it on site.  I would try to have the meeting in my office. If it needs to be on site, and if its a local site (no extensive traveling), and the job had the potential to be more than 40 billable hours, I'd probably set up a limited time meeting - "squeeze them in between appointments" for about 20-30 minutes, and stick to it.  That way, you get enough to scope your services, but you don't lose too much time.

I've tried to be more up front with my fees as time has gone on.  It helps to scare away the freeloaders.  People who value the service understand that time is money, and rarely quibble. Of course, I'm saying this while my calendar is filled dead solid for the next month and a half, and I rarely do jobs that will take more than 30-40 billable hours to complete.


Rhkratzse(--nospam--at)aol.com wrote:
In a message dated 9/7/05 12:29:44 PM, dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net 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,

Ralph
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