1. Christy says

    One thing I learned through my recent experinces is also DIY’ing part of the job.

    When my granite was installed a year ago I did the demo of the old counters myself, which saved some dough & time. I also got a nice SS Kincaid sink off their hands from a customer re-order for $100.

    When it came to my pool re-model, re-doing the piping ourselves helped shave a cool grand or 2 off the price too!

  2. Karrie says

    I’ve also heard that the highest estimate is sometimes from someone not interested in doing the job, so the contractor raises the estimate. I think I read that in This Old House.

  3. says

    I also suggest asking each contractors for suggestions to better the design, and recommendations of ways to trim major costs. After getting about 8 estimates we ended up taking contractors advice about adding a linen closet, and doing things like the electrical ourselves (though I don’t recommend the latter fi you don’t know what you are doing).

  4. says

    Can I add also: always make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. I would assume that in most state you can check the status of their license (easy in CA, on the internet), and you can ask the contractor to provide certificates for his insurance and bond in order for the project to move forward and him to get paid. Insurance is YOUR coverage in case anything goes wrong on the job or afterwards (shoddy construction, etc.), and the bond makes sure that you’re protected if he runs away with your money.

    Insurance especially isn’t cheap for contractors, but the ones worth doing business with will make sure they carry it and just figure it in as one of the costs of doing business. My general thought is, if the contractor is skimping on things like licensing, insurance, or a bond, what else would he be willing to cut corners on?

  5. ACL says

    Love the “can you do any better” advice – I use it often and it works almost every time for contractors, car salesmen, etc. Ask, then be quiet. Wait for their answer. Don’t keep talking (which some people do since they’re feeling uncomfortable about negotiating). A bit of patience can pay off.

    If they say they’ve already given you a discounted price and you think they’re pretty close to the price you want anyway, smile sweetly and ask, “well, can you just take off another $50 (or some other smallish number) so I can feel like I negotiated?”. Works every time.

    Also, if the contractor wants to put their sign in front of your house, demand a discount. I once saved $800 on a big job by agreeing to keep their sign up for four weeks.

  6. says

    As a former contractor I can vouch for the “can you do any better” line.

    Or try “is there anyway we can reduce the costs?”, that will make them think of different options.

    After asking that try asking “i’m interested but this is a little more than i wanted to spend, can you come down a bit on the cost?” That should get them down to their lowest price.

    Finally when they think they are closing the deal, ask for a little extra off: “can we round it down to this price?” or “can we just loose $50 more?”

    Smile and be persistent. If you dont ask you dont get.

  7. Danielle says

    When it comes to any and all things “electric”, do you always err on the side of hiring an electrician? If not, how did you learn to do it on your own (your DIY projects only, or maybe a handy free Home Depot workshop)?

    Or, at least, when it comes to re-installing a bathroom light fixture for the first time (which you thought would be a snap only to find that you’re not confident in the “before” pics anymore), should someone (me) hire an electrician in order to watch and learn…at least for the first time…? Wires can be scary!

    As always, thanks!!!

    • says

      For something like switching out a fixture we DIY those since we have learned how to do that easily and safely thanks to google and a few YouTube tutorials. First of all, turn off the power to your entire house (not just that room) and then follow the step by step instructions you find (might want to hit up the library and borrow a book on it or buy one at Home Depot). Good luck!


  8. says

    You are completely right-it never hurts to ask. I would say about 90% of the time a contractor will drop the price, even if it is very little. Today’s economy has people pinned against a wall, so they need the business. Of course they have to make a living too, but they knew what they were getting into when they got into their business. Just ask, you’ll be surprised.

  9. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I just got estimates on paving our driveway and my husband asked me to call back and haggle since he is deployed right now and can’t. I was so nervous because I’m not good at that so I remembered YHL had a post about negotiating with contractors and I just used your magic words and got another $100 off!! Since we are having this done in the winter when it is slow we are saving $1000 with our extra $100 discount. Thank you for making that so easy for me :)

  10. Kara says

    I was with my husband when he was calling to switch his flight and it was gonna cost us about $500 extra dollars to move the flight back to later in the day. I sat quietly while he told the representative he couldn’t pay that price and kept requesting for lower priced options. After he could only get her to go as low as $284 for a flight change I told him to put your words into use. He said the exact words, (in a nice way) “can you do any better?” and she found one for $80. Makes me wonder if we had insisted further we might have gotten a change for less! Thank you for those 5 simple words that I was able to use for even a non-house improvement related negotiation!!!

  11. says

    Thanks for this post. I usually have grand intentions of haggling and then I end up just taking the price and walk away kicking myself! Giving us actual words to say is helpful. :)

  12. Laura in Michigan says

    I was just getting an auto insurance quote and when the quote came back, I used those 5 little words- “Can you do any better?” – and while the agent couldn’t immediately lower the quote, he did provide some options/bundles that I could investigate further. I felt really empowered and just wanted to thank you for this post! I read your post a long time ago, but it stuck with me!

  13. says

    I travel in the Far East a lot and over there an asking price is only a starting point for negotiation. To them this haggling is as natural as eating and drinking.Our culture is only just getting round to this idea, there’s a lot we can learn from these people!

  14. Rhapsody says

    Just thought I’d let you know I used your five little words via my property manager on a contractor for some painting in my rental property. I was able to get two extra rooms done for the same price. Hopefully my manager will realize the value in negotiating (which I got into when I spent a lot of time overseas — they love to haggle in other countries! For some reason Americans will usually just pay what’s listed or mentioned.)


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