Builders: Price like a PRO by using ProntoCALC house building cost calculator

Nick Cook, an experienced builder and Founder of the online build cost calculator ProntoCALC, explains why he developed the house building cost calculator to help Builders ensure project profitability, to win more work and improve the bottom line as you go.

ProntoCALC’s format allows Builders to estimate the cost of the building works and also to regain control of budget over runs on both new and existing projects. Once you have been awarded the contract, the system can be used to easily manage all aspects of the build.

We all know as Builders that we can spend a phenomenal amount of time pricing work that we don’t win. I used to spend days pricing jobs and now I spend hours. It’s accurate and it works.

ProntoCALC has two sections. The first section is where the calculations are done to produce a price for a project. The second section allows you to financially manage the project itself.

There are simple equations on overall square meterage that does all the calculations and produces what is always a well-received PDF format. It also has the benefits of the room section which includes:

  • Floor finishes

  • Tile finishes

  • Underfloor heating

  • Number of radiators

  • Number of electrical outlets

All of that is quantified and goes into the system so that the client can understand where their costs lie. Then you deal with the allowances, the summary of all of the figures before getting into the variations section.

The variations section for a Builder, is one of the most outstanding parts of the system, because it records everything. It adapts the budget, and this can be sent to the client at any time. So the Client and the Builder, and if necessary, the Architect, knows exactly where they are within the budget. That, in my 30 years’ experience, is highly valuable!

I say to clients often that I run a ‘no-shock’ building company. I won’t shock them, if they want any alterations, I can tell them what the figures are, I can show them what the budget changes are, and they don’t feel like they are bounced into anything. Most Builders will have experienced the nightmare of a loss leading building project. If you’re a developer, builder or subcontractor working on residential, commercial, and homebuilding projects, the chances are you’ve had a bad experience in the past.

I often have projects that run over 4, 5, 6 or 7 months. How we deal with that financially, is on a month-by-month account. The invoice is raised at the end of the month and the ProntoCALC Project statement is sent across to them. This lists where they started off and any changes to the budget. That of course, can go either way, things can be taken out and things can be put in.

The benefit of that in legal terms, is that if I send someone an invoice and I’ve also sent them a statement of account, the details of the budgets are all included at the end of every month. Consequently it is very difficult for a client to argue at the end of the contract that they were unaware of the changes. This is a huge benefit as it’s very common that as builder you will often have to give way on sums.

What do you say to a client, if they say to you “well, you know, you are asking me for another 6, 8, 10, 20, 30 thousand pounds, I didn’t know that was coming, how has this happened?”

Unfortunately, that is an all too common, uncomfortable situation for both parties to be in. By using the ProntoCALC build cost estimating system, that simply doesn’t happen. So when a Client says “I would like…..” you can log in to your ProntoCALC that day and you can put in the changes to the floor tiles, or whatever that is, and you can say “this is how your budget is affected, are you ok with that?” And then you have a paper trail. And that’s what gets you away from that crunch point that could happen under other circumstances when you get towards the end of a project. So that functionality for me as a builder, is highly valuable.

A major benefit for a Builder using the ProntoCALC `Go Build` section, is knowing where you are within the contract financially. This is about peace of mind, it’s a strategy for coping with any stress that comes your way with these sort of building projects. It takes just 10 minutes a day to financially control your building project. The output is 16 pages and it details every aspect of the project that the customer would need to know.

ProntoCALC also makes it easier and quicker for you to provide estimates for work. All of your rates are contained in the site. If you are a Builder like me who physically does building work, and also does estimating and costing, you can`t remember all of these rates. If you go into the section ‘My Rates’ there’s over 100 different rates, if you put in the quantities of the size of the building, it calculates it all.

Let’s look at an example: Last week I priced three projects that were worth a total of £647,000 plus VAT and I did that in three hours. The old way, it would have taken me days and days to price.

Also, just to take it to a presentable format that people will understand is, in itself a task, ProntoCALC does all that for you. It’s designed to be a very simple and easy to use data entry process.

If you are already working on a project, and you realise that something has been omitted, it’s a very awkward conversation to have with the Client, and in truth, you will probably have to wear the cost, because it’s your error. These errors can add up to lots of money. I know Builders who have made errors that have cost thousands and thousands of pounds. The systematic function of ProntoCALC eliminates that completely.

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