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

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"The times, they are a changin' " I don't think I can absorb the cost of losing two or three hours let alone most of one work day to take a look at a job outside the area. The price of gas and the pressure to be more competitive (which will increase as the outsourcing of small projects to lower priced professional services outside the country) demands that we are paid for an initial site visit. If it isn't the standard for now, it soon will be. I recall back in 1985 I was taking a course at Cal State Northridge in Urban Planning. By this time, I was starting to see the potential for computers to communicate with one another and for the workplace to be flexible. I wrote my paper on the idea of new Satillite communities where there was no longer a central business district that kept rejentrifying (if this is a proper use of the word) over the last 100 years or more. I took a break between Architecture and Engineering between 1973 and 1978 to join the family bottle business (we were the largest distributers of glass and plastic containers in the midwest). I entered the job at the start of the first energy crunch where everything was dependent on crude oil - plastic, heating oil, gasoline, shipping and more. If you recall your engineering class called numeric methods, there was a dynamic model that defined optimum profit where all variables were at their optimum values. The model was dynamic so as the cost of doing business rose, the business had to begin cutting back. First it was space, today it is benefits and labor cost.

Contractors are a hands on business that can not be outsourced easily. Yes, labor can be brought in following H-1b standards to force the direction of wages down, but hands on service industries are still fairly stable in the US. This will change only when Americans can no longer afford the services such as building, fixing a car, plumbing, landscaping, cleaning etc.

My point is that we are becoming a compressed society and the controlling hand is outside of our control. If people were more united and less apathetic, there would be a chance, but those in power use apathy as a lever to justify their cause. Similarly, SEAOC exists because the minority benefits from the organization and the majority are apathetic and continue to pay dues and support an organization that does not represent its members.

Our professional practice is no different, except that a site visit like fixing a car is a hands on service and therefore, becomes a commodity that helps put food on our table. This is not to say that we should take advantage, I won't charge a client who walks in my door to discuss a set of plans and have me give him a price. However, if I have to go out of my way and this takes away from my ability to bill hours, then I am forced to charge for my service.

BTW, the teacher of the Urban Planning course was a City of LA Planner who was close to retirement and had no real computer skills. He laughed off my paper and nearly failed me. I moved from Los Angeles the next year and have been working from a Small Office / Home Office for nearly 20 years. He was wrong and this is the direction we are moving on more than a local level - we are moving to satillite communities on a global level.

I either charge for this type of service, or I pass it along to another who will do it for less or for free.

Best Regards,

Rhkratzse(--nospam--at) wrote:

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,


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