Moving away from spreadsheet-based estimating

Whilst many UK builders still use spreadsheets to estimate extensions, renovations and new build projects, savvy building firm owners are moving away from estimating with spreadsheets. They have found a quicker and more efficient way to estimate. Using EstimatorXpress, estimating software developed specifically for small to medium-sized builders, they spend less time quoting, whilst accurately calculating construction costs and improving their profit margins.

Let’s look at the advantages of using purpose-designed construction estimating software over DIY spreadsheets:

Avoiding costly errors and omissionsMoving away from spreadsheets means fewer costly errors in your estimates

Profitable building projects start with a clear and precise estimate of costs before the project begins. Unfortunately, using spreadsheets sets you up for problems. Research by the University of Hawaii found that 88% of spreadsheets contain errors. Mistakes take many forms: typing in the wrong number, making an error in the logic or omitting items altogether (we’ll come to this in a moment). These errors are more likely when you’re working under pressure or when you’re tired, working in the evenings. Moving on from spreadsheets means moving on from costly errors.

Estimating with a safety net

You should be accounting for every last item in every estimate. Any oversights will come out of your back pocket. So you need to charge for every last screw, every last brick and tube of silicone. “How do I achieve that level of detail?” you may ask. EstimatorXpress comes pre-loaded with all of the materials required for each task (plus labour and plant). This means you don’t need to remember everything; the software has already thought of it.

Estimating without software means you may be leaking money elsewhere. If your spreadsheet doesn’t take into account wear and tear, theft or breakages, it’s not covering all of your costs. If it doesn’t include company overheads, inflation and VAT, it’s not a viable estimate. Calculating these costs properly can be the difference between making a profit and not. But you don’t have to work it all out by yourself. EstimatorXpress automatically applies a wastage percentage to material costs to cover breakages and losses. What’s more, it prompts you to add in a percentage for overheads, inflation and VAT to your estimate. EstimatorXpress ensures everything is included; it provides the safety net.

If your business revolves around new builds, construction costs only typically account for half of the budget so there are additional costs you need to consider. Design fees, site acquisition, finance costs and site preliminaries make up the other half of the costs. Failing to comprehensively account for these costs in your estimate will unquestionably have an impact on your profits. If you price the work using EstimatorXpress, however, you’ll be prompted – and given help – to estimate these costs.

Quoting with up-to-date prices

As you’re no doubt experiencing first-hand, inflation in the UK is currently tracking at 10% and building material prices are on the rise. It goes without saying that to protect your profits, you must estimate with the latest material prices. If you’re estimating with a spreadsheet, that means putting in the leg-work, calling your merchants or trawling merchant catalogues on the internet. If you’re estimating with EstimatorXpress, it’s as simple as clicking the “Download” button on the latest PriceTracker+ update and watching the new prices appear in your price book. Our building engineer, along with the development team, do the hard work for you, reviewing and delivering latest market prices directly into your software.

Staying ahead of inflation

Crucial as it is, getting the price right doesn’t end with using up-to-date material costs. If you quote for work using today’s prices, the prices will be out of date in a few months’ time when the project commences. Moreover, until completion of the project, costs will continue to increase. If you estimate with today’s prices rather than future prices, you stand to lose thousands of pounds. Does your spreadsheet measure the impact of inflation and add the costs accordingly? Builders using EstimatorXpress benefit from built-in inflation calculators. These clever calculators estimate how much every resource will increase by, between the estimate date and the order date. This means the client pays the true cost of the building work and you don’t take a hit when prices inevitably rise.

Managing projects smoothly

A good chunk of a project’s profit is made or lost during the construction phase, so keeping the project running smoothly is key to a healthy bottom line. This is where moving away from spreadsheets brings more, perhaps unexpected, benefits. EstimatorXpress offers more than just estimating. It gives you a number of project management tools to help you manage your projects better. Firstly, the software automatically generates a build programme, based on the labour calculations in your estimate. You can tweak the Gantt chart as you need to fit the available workforce and site conditions etc. and it’ll keep everyone on the same page.

EstimatorXpress also generates a portfolio of reports, from material order schedules to plant task lists, to help you keep tabs on what’s needed on site and when. What’s more, it gives you profit forecast and cashflow reports so you can maintain a tight rein on finances. In short, the powerful output you get from EstimatorXpress will ensure the project is efficient and profitable.

How to move on from spreadsheets

If you’re looking to develop your building firm into a resilient and profitable business, moving away from spreadsheet-based estimating is an essential next step. Join the thousands of EstimatorXpress users who are spending less time estimating and, moreover, running successful, money-making projects.

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