WTH: “…the fence company was surprised your fee was that high”

value and pricing professional feesBelow is an email thread that happened over the last couple of days related to survey pricing and a request that came in from a potential client. I wanted to share it with surveyors and other potential clients for a number of reasons.

One reason is so that surveyors know they’re not alone out there. We’ve all gotten calls and comments like this. So, don’t get upset or offended when you do. Unfortunately our profession hasn’t had or developed the professional reputation that we would desire. Folks still think of us as “contractors” who they can get low bids from. And, others like realtors, attorneys, and fence contractors don’t help us much. So, be patient and be ready to explain why our costs are the way they are.

Second reason is to give you a possible response when we DO get these comments to give your potential client some insights into how we price surveying. I make a few “arguments” and “justifications” as to why surveying is worth what we quote, and many times much more than we quote.

Here is the exchange, which I will post in it’s entirety, changing the names of course.

First Email Contact: Xavier D. Owner (Potential Client) to Me

Hi There,
My wife and I are having a fence put in and are needing to locate one corner and get a confirmation of another corner in our back yard. 
I have the official property docs. with the locations of the corners have measured out and believed to have found one but have not been able to find the other. Using both measurements and a metal detector I have tried to locate the iron pipe noted in the drawing and have not been able to locate it. There are a bunch of metal scraps in the area but no iron pipe. 
We are not needing the whole property surveyed just the one corner and maybe the other corner confirmed.
Thanks,
Xavier D. Owner

I forwarded this email to a local surveyor whom I have worked with for a number of years, who does a great job with these type requests. He quoted between $350 and $400 for finding the corner(s). Personally, I think this isn’t enough but he is willing to do this and he has that right to charge what he wants for his time, effort, and risk.

Xavier’s Response to Local Surveyor (he hit Reply All so I got it too. 🙂

Hey {local surveyor},
Thanks for the quick responded (sic). I spoke with the fence company today and they are planning to come out Monday morning to start putting the posts in. I do feel that the quoted estimate is a little high and when I spoke with the fence company they also were surprised at how high it was.
They suggested that I make sure that it's not for a full property line or house location survey but just the boundary line for two corners. I have the property line lay out that was provided when we bought the house with all the measurements.
I tried calling your number today but I believe I called outside of your business hours so I wasn't able to reach you, but will try again tomorrow morning.
Thanks again for the quick response and I look forward to talking with you about our options.
Xavier D. Owner

“when I spoke with the fence company
they also were surprised at how high it was.”

My Response to Xavier D. Owner & {local surveyor}

Xavier,
I turned this job over to {local surveyor} because it was somewhat small and most surveyors don't really want to help on these smaller jobs. In that regard, {local surveyor} stays very busy, as other surveyors are now as well. This is a good thing for our businesses, but not so much always for owners who have to wait.
Regarding the pricing, there are always a number of factors that affect the price surveyors charge for their work. There's timing, scope of work, our workload, the inherent risks of the job for the surveyor, the terrain, the vegetation, and value of the work. Some or all of these will play a part in pricing.
I could go into detail about all of those, but the important thing in this case is that {local surveyor} has given you a fair price for the work he will do and the risk he will take on for doing that work.
Let me say that the fence contractors aren't surveyors and don't set prices for surveying. Surveying is a professional service and not a product that is offered. I could go into the fencing business tomorrow, but surveyors are required to accomplish ALL of the following before being allowed to practice land surveying in Alabama:
1. a 4-year degree in land surveying,
2. an additional 4 years of experience, and
3. a passing grade on 16 hours of testing.
I hope this gives you some insight into this.  Whatever {local surveyor} decides to do is between you and he, we have separate companies. But since I'm still shared in this email exchange I wanted to try and help you to understand and defend him to an extent. I know {local surveyor} can help you, and I hope you have taken this email as constructive remarks as I've intended it. Sincerely,
Keith

I hope that sharing this exchange and my comments has been helpful to you in questions about your pricing that you probably get every day.

engineering and surveying pricingJ. Keith Maxwell, PE, PLS, just sits around half-awake working on his two or three businesses, but still finds time to rant about something on occasion. (jk as the kids say, just in case some lawyer finds this in the future and asks me about this in court.)

 

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Keith