Earlier this week a young gentleman called looking for a survey. He just purchased a house and wasn't really sure of what he was asking for, as is father-in-law, supposedly a "builder", had told him what he needed. Long story short, what he was asking for wasn't entirely what he needed.
Unfortunately, I had already quoted him a price for half of what he really needed when he finally consulted with his "builder" father-in-law, who I could hear in the background. But before I could even set him straight as to all of the work he actually needed, his father-in-law blurts out in the background, "He wants how much! So and so will do it for...". So and so is a competitor that I am familiar with and his price was around $400 less than my quoted price, which only included half the work!
I wished him luck and hung up the phone. Pricing a survey can be tough - one surveyor can see a job as a burden while another surveyor sees it as a creampuff, thinking that he or she will still hit a home run even with a low fee. I do know this, though, that with the economy being what it is, my estimates are pretty close to the bone, with little to spare. I also know that I know what it takes to do the job properly and factor that in in every case.
So how is this other surveyor going to survey this young gentleman's property, provide the additional services that are needed and survive? I do know, in large part, what the answer is, but let's throw a few other ideas out there:
- First, he may cut corners. Sure, he will tell himself that he won't, but when the survey hits the pavement and the clock starts a ticking, with the cost rising hour by hour, temptation to save a little here, save a little there, skip this or skip that, just may win the day. It's more than a little sad.
- Second, maybe he has already cut corners - Professional Liability Insurance, Workers' Compensation Insurance. Who needs those? Well, the client does. Unfortunately the former is not required and the latter can be avoided, in certain circumstances, in this state. This leaves little protection for the consumer should the so-called professional not act professional or if he is injured, or injures someone else, while performing that survey. Another cost cutting measure may be in not maintaining an office. Hey, having a spiffy truck is enough, isn't it?
- Last, is bait and switch. Those services which the customer was uncertain of, or not very clear themselves about needing, but does need, will most certainly be "added on" services with an "Oh, I didn't know you needed thaaaat. That was not included in my price and will be extra!" I see this a lot.
With that said, and any or all of the above may or may not be true, the main reason that this other surveyor can offer such low pricing is because he is subsidized. You see, his real full time job is working for a municipality.
Now I don’t have any issue with someone like this who works full time and tries to make a little extra on the weekend. However, when does he have the time to do the research? Even with an hour for lunch, does this surveyor have enough time to travel to the city/town hall to do research, whether it’s his own municipalities or another city or town? What if it rains or snows on Saturday?
So in addition to being subsidized, like having paid health insurance, the real question is, does this person take advantage of the situation and do things like: Say they are researching something for the municipality when in fact they are researching their private project, or do they happen to do a “drive by” for a supposed municipal purpose when in fact they are doing reconnaissance and/or out and out surveying on the municipalities dime?
I certainly can’t prove any of the above and I hope that that’s not what is happening. But I do know this, the new client thinks he is paying for a full time professional land surveyor when, at best, he is only getting a part time weekend warrior.
If this other surveyor fessed up, and was open and honest with his new client, do you think the client would hire him?