Material prices – how and why we track them for you

Are you undercharging your material prices?

  • Read on to find out why it makes a huge difference to your bottom line
  • Discover the service we provide that sorts it all out – at no extra cost

Do you let customers off a few pounds or hundreds of pounds maybe? Would you go so far as to say you’ve helped finance your customers’ loft, garage conversion, knock-through, extension…?

No way?

So think of what you quote the customer and then go on to pay the builders merchant. Is it the same, give or take a few pennies? Always? Never?

Maybe you’re cautious and always overcharge the customer for materials, because you haven’t had a chance to check the actual prices. Hopefully that worked out in your favour (and the over-priced quote still won you the job).

But if you took a guess based on the last time you paid for the same materials, say a few months back, maybe it won’t have turned out so well and you’ll have lost money.

The bottom line about your material prices

  • Tracking the accuracy of your material pricing once the job is complete is complex and time-consuming
  • So you need to be as accurate as possible when you quote in the first place
  • Materials make up most of the job cost – a good 40-45% – you can’t afford to guess
  • Keeping the price of a bag of sand in your head isn’t enough – there are hundreds and hundreds of products you need on a job
  • But you haven’t got time to research prices every time you quote
  • We make time every month – a whole team of us – ready to research on your behalf
  • And why should you pay towards the cost of the customer’s project anyway?

We have over 20 years’ experience of monitoring material prices, and we’ve estimated billions of pounds of projects through the HBXL Estimating Service. That’s why we’re in the position to help you stay on top of prices.

Help! You could be funding your customers’ projects!

Every time you underquote an item – bags of sand, plasterboard, insulation, lintels, timber – you are donating to their dream project. That’s unless the customer agrees to make up the shortfall when you ask – if you ask…

Because you may not even realise it’s happening. Jobs often overlap, materials can end up on the next job. It’s difficult to monitor. You may only question the shortfall at the end of the financial year, when your profit figure is less than you’d hoped it would be.

It’s not easy keeping track of material prices. Actually, it’s really hard. A lot of product prices keep yoyo-ing. And by now we all know the reasons why: supply and demand; issues with raw materials; labour shortages; transportation problems; rising energy prices; economic instability across the globe…

The Federation of Master Builders’ “State of the Trade Survey Q1 2022” reported that 98% of builders have experienced material cost increases. I’m curious to know whether those builders surveyed realised the price increase a) at the point they purchased from their merchants or b) earlier, as they were estimating? The answer makes a big difference to a company’s bottom line. If they have been under quoting their materials week-in, week-out, over time it could add up to £1000s off the profit.

We’ll track down the latest prices for you – no extra charge

All part of the service.

Buy or subscribe to any version of EstimatorXpress and we’ll track the material prices every month – it’s all included in your Support & Updates package.

We have a team which is tasked to do just that, every single month. They check well over 6000 products in the EstimatorXpress Price Book. It’s a huge undertaking. But it makes a massive difference to our users. Utilising a range of data sources they scan and collate average prices, sense checking as they go.  We’re not tied to one particular chain of merchants so we’re able to give users a carefully considered cross-section of prices.

Once all the information has come together it goes into our unique tool, Price Tracker+, which the user simply downloads each month to ensure up-to-date prices. The same applies to our estimators from the HBXL Estimating Service. They use EstimatorXpress and download the same Price Tracker+ results every month, like our users. We trust the results for our own estimating. Our software users can trust the numbers too.

So how do we research the material prices?

Well there’s no secret source of prices that only we have access to. We just give it the time our software users can’t afford. Our data researchers look at websites and spreadsheets that anyone can look at, painstakingly recording the numbers. So unless you have the availability over a man week or so – per month – to literally scan and record thousands of costs (and make sense of them) we’d argue it’s too big a job for a builder owner or estimator to do, whilst juggling so many other jobs as well. And this is how it works:

  • A range of public facing ‘real buy’ prices are sourced
  • Multiple builders merchants websites are scanned
  • Specialist suppliers are monitored
  • Manufacturer’s spreadsheets are downloaded – comparisons are made
  • Artificially cheap products (like seasonal sales and random discounts) are sense checked
  • There’s lots of manual checking as well – reviewing unders and overs
  • Errors where merchants have used Inc VAT instead of EX VAT are weeded out
  • Timber and steel are priced by the lengths you’ll need – we work out a per cubic price and per tonne price
  • Using algorithms we arrive at sensible conclusions and finalise the prices
  • And then they’re loaded into our unique Price Tracker+ tool for users to access*.

And there’s more…

The EstimatorXpress user can still tailor the price book to work for them personally. Perhaps they find we’re generally over by 3% based on where they get their materials. That’s fine. There’s a field for your own percentage. And any discount you get from your merchant can be added in too.

But it doesn’t end with the right material prices. EstimatorXpress also allows you to include wastage and inflation.

Not convinced that you’ll know where the prices will be in 6 months time when your job is underway? Use the inflation tool to add whatever level of inflation you feel is sensible and it will give you a quote using today’s prices plus the inflation so it’s a profit protected quote you hand over.

Better still, it gives you a rounding tool so that when you come to buy, it’s worked out you need 3 boxes of nails not 2.70 boxes.

We’re also hooked into a number of merchants. We provide national coverage, with catalogue links to Travis Perkins, Crystal Direct (PVCu and aluminium doors and windows) and Comera Energy (solar PV and EV charging points).

What next?


Give us a call on 0117 916 7898. We can have a quick chat and set up a short 1-2-1 online demonstration of EstimatorXpress. Or go straight to the booking page on the website.

And then there’s our HBXL Estimating Service for when you’re too busy to estimate building projects yourself and when you want the support of experienced professionals on an important project. Find out more here.

*Please note that all subscribers of EstimatorXpress automatically get the monthly price updates, as do perpetual licence holders with an in-date Support & Updates package.