That dreaded time has come. You need to replace your roof. Now you should know how to negotiate with a roofer. First of all, roofing is fairly different from most other trades, and certainly different from a general contractor. A GC will tell you what things cost because his pay, which is usually a percentage of the overall costs, is predicated on that in the first place. Other service trades often charge for a visit, whereas roofers don’t (unless it’s something specific, like an inspection for a property purchase). So, asking a roofer to break down his material and labor is probably not going to happen and, in any case, it is fairly pointless. It’s not going to really help you negotiate.
If you want to negotiate with a roofer to lower his price, first start by getting 3-4 reputable roofing companies to bid the exact same thing. Make sure they all have the same sort of insurance (if only one guy has general liability for instance, his price is probably going to be higher). If their prices are all about the same, then you’re probably dealing with a fairly bottom line figure. It’s a very competitive industry so, roofers will often send out their best price. If the prices were 8000, 7800, and 7750, then ask all three of them if they will do it for around 7400.
One of them may bite on that figure, or, you’ll at least get them to tell you what their bottom dollar is. If you start too close to their original figure, you don’t leave a lot of room to negotiate and anyway, you won’t know how low they could have gone if you only ask for 200 off.
If you particularly like one of the roofers, then let them in on it. Tell him you’ve got three bids, you’re budget is really 7400, and you’re asking all three if they can do it but you wanted to give him first shot at it. If he can do it, or, if he’s really that slow, he might take it, especially if you’re nice.
Don’t be surprised if they all say “I gave you my best price.” It really is possible, especially in the summer. In the middle of winter, it’s probably not his bottom dollar, but, you cannot expect him to come down too much either. In the winter, you’ll only be able to get them to knock off about 2% or so. In the summer, you might get 5% but the more important point is that the starting figure you’ll get in the summer is already going to be 5-10% lower than the winter price.
Don’t try to strong arm you’re contractor. This really doesn’t work, at least, it doesn’t work with me at all. However, if you’re honest, up front about what you can do, and especially if you indicate that you like us and want us to do the job – we really will give you our best shot (why wouldn’t we?). It may not work out, someone may undercut is by too much, but there will be no hard feelings.
Most roofing contractors are just that, contractors, and they don’t have a background in sales and rarely employ any sort of “sales” techniques. A good roofer will usually tell you honestly what he needs to make in order for the job to be worth his while.
The only thing you need to be sure of yourself is that you’re in the right ballpark. If you like a roofer, and he seems honest and he is insisting that what you’re asking for is really too low, then just make sure you’ve got solid numbers from other roofers before you tell him “sorry, it’s not low enough.” I’ve seen some pretty unfortunate things happen when a person who really wanted to hire me ended up hiring someone else, after I insisted to that person that there is no way the other roofer could honestly do the job for that amount. I found out later (when the homeowner called me and begged me to finish the job) that the whole deal went south right in the middle of the job and they ended up in court. The roofer had mis-measured, it was a high dollar job, and he walked out in the middle of the job rather than face the greater loss of finishing it up.
Last but not least, you can ask the roofers for their measurements (in an effort to be sure everyone is bidding the right amount) but don’t be surprised if they avoid giving them to you. It’s not that they don’t want to help you but they came out for free to give you the estimate, and their not in the business of helping you help another (probably inexperienced) roofer get his proposal squared away and correct.
Bottom line, use these steps in order to effectively negotiate with a roofer.