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June 11, 2024

How to get the most out of your property restoration estimates

Getting your property restoration estimates right is crucial‌ — ‌not only does it ensure that your team is fairly compensated, but it also protects your payments from being delayed or disputed.

To help you refine your estimating process, we’re sharing insights from Ben Justesen, an expert in property restoration pricing and the Chairman of RIA AGA Pricing. Below, Ben lists useful tips and tricks that range from general best practices to advanced techniques in Xactimate.

General estimating practices for restorers 📝

Before we learn about Xactimate, let's go over some basics about estimates and getting paid.

Get your customer involved from the get-go

Onboard your customer before you even start the job, and keep them in the loop as the job progresses. Keeping them informed from the get-go will ensure that their claim is settled quickly, their property is restored back to normal faster, and also that you as the contractor are paid for your work.

Make your restoration estimates sooner

Just because you’re used to making an estimate after the fact, doesn’t mean that that’s the right thing to do. You can (and should) be making estimates before even starting the work! Find a way that your team can write up an estimate so that it’s ready before you’ve finished the job. If the job takes longer than expected, quickly adjust your estimate.

Get it on contract & get it signed

It’s important to note that you aren’t doing all of this to get paid by the insurance, but rather to get paid by the customer. To support your company in any negotiations to get paid, get a contract signed with the amount that you’re charging, ideally before you even start the work.

Pro tip: If you aren’t already, we recommend that you look into becoming an RIA member; through this membership, you’ll get free access to many helpful tools and resources, including Ben’s labor rate calculator!

Property restoration estimating tips within Xactimate 👀

What should you be looking for when reviewing a restoration estimate? When reviewing line items, keep these things in mind:

Use the right trade codes

Your rate’s impacted by using the right trade code! If you use any other trades such as contents, mitigation for trauma scene, or hazardous material remediation, you should dive into this pricing information in your estimate.

Include some cleaning in your restoration estimate

We're always cleaning when dealing with water damage. You may have some cleaning in your restoration estimate, but consider if you’ve included enough for the number of areas that were on site.

Make sure the dimensions & details are accurate

Does your square footage seem accurate given the number of rooms in your property? It's also helpful to include a detailed sketch. Include details like doors, windows, vanities, showers, and cabinets. It can be a useful starting point.

Document the trades that you used

Did you put in ‌a specific trade on this loss, such as a framer? If this is the case, provide documentation supporting that they were there. Document who you’ve got, take a picture, and make sure that you’ve got the time card or some other kind of reporting from your accounting.

Make sure that your landfill fees are appropriate

Double-check what your landfill fees are in your components. Xactimate typically does a fairly good job of knowing what ‌landfill fees should be, but every once in a while it’s inaccurate.

For instance, you might have been in a rural area that used a price list from a more suburban or metro area. You can look up the fee schedules for your specific area, and change it in Xactimate to reflect what’s accurate.

Pro tip: The best place to review a restoration estimate in Xactimate is to go to the components. To spot any red flags for your job, look for any really small amounts and dive into if there’s anything missing.

Xactimate tech tips: Getting the most out of the platform 🧑‍💻

Now that you know some basic tips on both getting paid and reviewing restoration estimates, it’s time to get into some tech tips for Xactimate itself.

Look at & change all of your line items at once

It’s helpful when reviewing an estimate to be able to look at all of the line items at once, and even change them all at the same time. The steps to do this are fairly simple:

  1. In your estimate, go back to the items and select one room so that it’s highlighted blue.
  2. Hit Ctrl+A on your keyboard, which will select all of the rooms together.
  3. Now you'll see all of these line items; Xactimate gives you the ability to then drag a column header, and drop it here to group by that column. Select the category code and drag it over so that it now categorizes everything by code.
  4. Now, you’ve got everything organized by category, allowing you to look at just one category at a time.


Using F9 notes and note templates

Another useful trick is to take advantage of the F9 notes. If you make any note that you’d like to reuse later, you‌ can save it as a note template.

We suggest using this feature so you don't have to recall codes each time you need them for a new estimate. Now it’s easier to provide the proof and justification that your restoration estimates need!

When should you use Xactimate mobile instead?

Sometimes, using Xactimate mobile can help you estimate better. This isn’t the best tool to be using for the repair side, but on the mitigation side, it can help you write an estimate faster than anybody else.

Another mobile solution that Ben recommends is using Encircle to create your own reports. Designed to be field-first, your technicians and project managers can easily create reports on the first day. Once they’ve established the scope of work, an estimator can then write up a restoration estimate in roughly 5–10 minutes.

Pro tip: For a longer list of items, use a vertical screen to see more items at once.

Estimating with more confidence

By following these practices in your operations, estimates, and Xactimate, you can rest assured that you're getting paid correctly with the proof to back it up.

Join Ben Justesen in our on-demand webinar to see him tackle real-world mitigation estimates. Don’t miss out on expert insights — watch now!


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Learn how Encircle can help you and your field teams ease the documentation burden.