I was chatting with a 4th generation San Franciscan about life in the city. We got to comparing the costs of replacing our roofs, and he mentioned that he had recently repainted the outside of his house.
He is the kind of person who is easy to talk to and befriend, so it was no surprise to hear that he ended up having a beer with the owner of the painting company after his house was painted. During their conversation, he asked the painter how he estimated the cost of painting his house.
The painter told him that, after doing this for many years, he no longer does a site visit. While it's easy enough to look online to estimate how much paint will be needed, how much rot is likely to be found, and how many days the job will take he doesn’t really use any of that information either. Instead, he just estimates the job at 1% of the value of the house.
My friend was surprised by this and asked if the painter tells his customers this. The painter said of course not, but since they were just shooting the breeze, he was just being honest with him.
And this, folks, is a good reminder why you should always get multiple estimates—because sometimes, it's less about the labor and more about the leverage.