Construction Estimating Software
Construction Estimating Software Buyers Guide
Last updated: October 05, 2022
Your construction company requires accurate and fast estimates in order to win bids. If you bid too low, you can lose profit. But if you bid too high, you risk losing your job. A software for construction estimates allows construction professionals to forecast expenses to ensure more accurate bidding. You can have a better view of future spending, including how to save time and money on construction projects and avoid costly mistakes.
Construction estimating is a crucial step in every building project. When looking for construction estimating software that will let you accurately gauge the cost of a construction project, you should know what functionalities to consider so that you can avoid buyer’s remorse. This guide will help you get started by presenting a basic framework for selecting and evaluating construction estimating software. It will begin with a brief overview of the construction estimating process and then dive into the software vendors construction professionals can consider to improve it. We will also walk you through the key features you should look for when purchasing construction estimating software, strategies for choosing the right deployment options, and tips to extract the most out of it.
What you'll find inside:
- What is construction estimating?
- Understanding construction estimating software
- Benefits of construction estimating software
- What type of buyer are you?
- Tips on how to identify your needs
- Common features of a construction estimating software
- Specific features to look for
- Online vs. desktop estimating software
- Assessing the expenses
- Customer support & training services
- Popular construction estimating software
What is Construction Estimating?
Construction estimating is a crucial step in every construction project. During the process, builders and contractors submit bids or project estimates to project owners, offering to provide materials and services. These bids provide an overview of the costs that contractor has to pay for the development of the infrastructure. For large construction projects, contractors have to submit detailed bids, and the process requires due diligence to determine accurate cost estimates. However, for small projects, they can deal with the process much more easily.
Understanding Construction Estimating Software
Construction estimating software is a technology-driven product that helps contractors, estimators, and other professionals to streamline the process of creating cost estimates for construction projects. These tools assist users in pulling updated prices of equipment & materials, automating data entry, and identifying labor & overhead costs. Having access to an all-inclusive software for construction estimates enables you to create professional proposals for clients. These software systems are available in many forms, ranging from basic spreadsheet templates to online collaborative tools, with an array of features that optimize so much more than the construction estimating process.
Benefits of Construction Estimating Software
The key benefits of construction estimating software include, but are not limited to:
- Increased productivity & efficiency
- Better accuracy
- Lower IT costs
- Consistent estimates
- Improved job cost estimating
- Better project management
- Visibility into project life stages
- Improved bidding
- Up-to-date cost databases
- Reduced rework
- Faster project delivery
What Type of Buyer are You?
Before you begin to shortlist construction estimating software vendors, you'll want to understand what type of buyer you are.
General contractor: General contractor is the buyer category where the buyer is concerned with every aspect of the project preconstruction and estimation process. These buyers should use construction estimating systems that are integrated with functionalities, such as cost estimating, digital takeoffs, bid day analysis, reporting, bid management, and more.
Project managers: Construction project managers belong to the buyer category where the buyer is looking for a tool to manage project management tasks, such as construction project scheduling, job cost estimation, document management, and cost control. Which is why they prefer to go for the construction estimating tools that are offered as a part of construction project management systems.
Goal Setting: Areas You Want to Improve
Before you begin with the process of evaluating construction software, you should first and foremost determine why you will be using it. You should evaluate your current process to highlight the areas you intend to improve with your software implementation. Set effective goals and figure out if you need to streamline project scheduling, optimize efficiency, or require a fully-functional estimating system to win more bids.
Define Your Current Problems Before Seeking a Solution
To ensure successful software selection, you need to identify pain points and deficiencies in the current setting that must be resolved. Specify the areas you need to improve with the estimating tool. This will help you choose the best software for construction estimates.
Vendor Shopping: Features to Look For
So, you’ve determined the estimating needs of your construction business? Now it’s time to find a software vendor that closely matches your unique requirements. Keep a few key features in mind as you evaluate the shortlisted options. When a construction business looks out for a new estimating solution, it’s likely that they are certain of their specific needs and have a particular feature-set in mind. Read as many construction estimating software reviews as possible to develop basic understanding of a particular product. You have to make sure that the estimating software you choose meets your unique needs. You don’t want to invest in a product only to find out it doesn’t work for your requirements, or that it’s missing a fundamental feature that causes problems for your workflows. Make sure that the construction estimating software you have shortlisted meets your specific estimating needs before you lock yourself into a contract with the software provider.
Software for construction estimates come with a variety of different features, depending on the type of your construction business and the functionalities you need from the vendor.
When purchasing construction estimating software for your projects, be sure it offers the following features:
- Pre-built templates
- Job costing
- Historical database
- Proposal generation
- What-if analysis
- Up-to-date estimating database
- Subcontractor portal
Job costing: Job costing feature helps users in calculating the approximate cost involved in completing a particular construction project by using references from the past and estimating the material, labor, and equipment costs.
Proposal generation: One of the best features of construction estimating software is the proposal generation tool. It allows contractors to create an accurate bid proposal based on costs of materials and labor.
Estimating database: Estimating databases use the internet connection to keep track of the continuously changing costs of building materials. Contractors and subcontractors can use that information to bid for jobs more accurately, saving the stress of budget overruns later.
Pre-built templates: The estimating software that offers a variety of pre-built templates is a must-have. Every construction estimating tool comes with some templates, which users can use to display cost estimates. More robust software solutions offer multiple templates.
What-if analysis: Contractors are often faced with change cost requests after submitting bids. The best cost estimating tools enable users to update bids, as well as track historical changes.
Reporting/analytics: Reporting & analytics is one of the staples of estimating software. It allows you to generate cost breakdown reports using graphs and charts in order to measure project construction costs accurately.
Historical database: This allows contractors to store all of their past projects with related labor and materials cost estimates in a single database.
Online vs. Desktop Estimating Software
Construction estimating software vendors allow customers to choose between two deployment options—installing the software onto your company’s personal computers or servers, or giving access to the tool online, via mobile devices and web browsers.
Online or cloud-based products give users ease of access as they can be instantly accessed via any device that is connected to the internet. Today, many construction estimating software vendors are offering solutions that can be accessed online with web browsers.
On-premise products are installed on your computers or servers. You can either download these tools on each computer that will use the software or install it on your company’s server so that you can distribute the program to your employees.
Assessing the Expenses
The bid to win estimating software systems are typically very affordable, especially when compared to enterprise-level software products. These tools automate the process of calculating and totalling costs involved in construction, saving contractors a significant amount of time. The pricing model typically varies between software providers, but the cost of purchasing construction estimating software is actually dependent on the following three factors:
- Number of users – Most software vendors charge construction businesses according to the number of users that will be sharing access to the software.
- Features offered – Construction estimating software companies offer a variety of features with their products that are optional. You will have to pay a higher cost if you choose to include more features in the deployment.
- Online vs. desktop deployment – The up-front cost of purchasing the software is much higher with on-premise deployment as compared to the online products, which don’t require installation on your servers.
The pricing for construction estimating software systems range between $30 and $250 per month per estimator. Some free templates and tools are available, but most of the tools that provide advanced functionalities come at a cost.
Considerations While Purchasing Construction Estimating Software
Ask the construction estimating software vendor about the type of support and training they offer, and get details for its cost too. In these times, you should choose a company with excellent customer service so that you can make your processes hassle free.
User Experience/Product Design
It is vital that you choose an estimating tool that offers a user-friendly, intuitive interface. You can request free trials or watch product demos to evaluate a software’s design and interface. Make sure that the controls of the software aren’t too outdated, and you’re comfortable with the workflow.
Look for the software for construction estimates that supports seamless integration with tools you are already using, such as project management, inventory management, and accounting. This will save you a lot of time by preventing you from re-entering the same data into different software systems.
The Top Construction Estimating Software
The following integrated construction estimating tools have positioned themselves as market leaders:
Choosing What's Best for Your Company
Selecting the most suitable software for construction estimates isn’t an easy task, but it’s better to deal with the process before throwing off a project by making estimating mistakes. The best construction estimating software can help you prevent errors that could result in a million-dollar mistake. You can also rely on these technology-driven products to simplify the entire cost estimating process. Overall, having access to a relevant estimating tool will enable you to create accurate cost estimates and win more bids, enhancing the professionalism of your construction company.