"Is it just about correct for me to assume that if a colony isn't up to grade right now that it most likely won't be by January w/out a lot of work? "
I would agree with that. The best bang for the buck in feeding is right now to keep the queens laying, unless there is some flow going on.
In a year like this one in the almonds , where there weren't enough GOOD hives to go around, everything was rent-able. Which is OK, as long as the grower KNOWS what he is paying for.