Advantage for Add-Vantage
Windows-based Estimating Program Comes Up a Winner
By Patti & William Feldman - Building & Remodeling News- Nov. '94
This article is a re-print from the November 1994 Building & Remodeling News article by Patti and William Feldman. It describes the previous generation of our Remodeler's Add-Vantage (now called Estimator's Add-Vantage System) program. Some of the observations about the prior version are no longer true with the new version. The changes are detailed at the end of the article. The article itself has been left intact.
As with many estimating programs, the developers of The Remodeler's Add-Vantage, a new Windows-based estimating program, are remodeling contractors who developed their program to conform to their own system of estimating. The software was developed in-house and used over a three-and-a-half year period to estimate more than $10 million of remodeling work. The program is on the market since May.
The modus operandi for The Remodeler's Add-Vantage is an outgrowth of using a spreadsheet program for estimating and works within Microsoft Excel, which is a spreadsheet program. Though You need Excel to use the program, you don't have to learn it, per se. After installing the program, I was able to build estimates in a comprehensive fashion within an hour. Anyone with basic computer experience can get up and running equally fast.
The program includes 10 templates for various types of residential remodeling projects, including one- and two-story additions, basement, bath, kitchen, and wood sun deck, as well as a repair category used for such items as siding, painting, replacement windows, and roofing.
The opening screen contains buttons for entering any of the templates. Each template looks like a spreadsheet with rows and columns and is a detailed sectional breakdown of many possible items for building the bid. The user has great flexibility in changing templates, creating new templates or simply changing the items for an individual estimate.
The software is designed for use by the experienced stick builder who is accustomed to estimating all items in a project; it doesn't work for estimates put together by the square foot.
The Remodelers Add-Vantage has a materials database of items, but does not list any cost factors. All prices for material can be entered on the templates as you use the forms for the first time. Then, when building a particular estimate, by slotting in the quantity, the material extensions are automatically calculated.
As the templates are formatted, you add the labor cost at the bottom of each category as a total for that category. The program concept is based on including overhead as part of your labor rate. The remodelers who develop the software use a fixed unit price for all labor and you can do it that way. Here is where experience in small remodeling estimating is important. The line items do not include labor prices so it is beneficial to have a feeling for how much time the work will actually take. If the projects you perform are largely of similar nature, this should not be difficult. Alternately, you can change the line items to reflect individual labor costs simply by changing any listed unit to "labor rate." Then, you can establish however many different labor rates you need.
The help file is not context sensitive; in fact, it is a plain text reproduction of the manual (without the manual's graphics or bold print).
The program prints out three forms: main estimate; executive summary; and schedules of doors and windows. In addition, you can cut and paste parts of the estimates into a Windows word processor for inclusion in a proposal or contract. The executive summary lists totals for each category, before tax on materials and margin on total cost.
lain Crerar, president of Add-Vantage Software, has himself been successful competing against other contractors by showing detailed estimates to his clients, rather than one grand total, believing that when prospects know what they are paying for, they are more apt to accept the project cost. Therefore, the three printouts show great detail - everything on the screen prints out except totals for labor costs, labor hours and materials costs, which appear on the screen version of the estimate for your evaluation.
For a remodeling contractor who has been using a pad to estimate by line items, is new to electronic estimating, and who doesn't want to bother with large coded databases, this program is a real winner.
Changes in the program which are not reflected in the above article
The following changes have been made to the current version of the program, which we feel have improved its quality, reliability and ease of use.
Add-Vantage Software Inc.
PO Box 173
Medway, MA 02053
e-mail: info @ addvantage.com