We wanted to save four images that we will have to paint over during house remodel. The cost was quoted at $250. Now the quote for a print seems very high. Can we just ask to pay for the proof so that we can print on our own and frame?
Your question doesn't really make sense. I don't think you know what a proof is and I think you are using it interchangeably with "digital file". Also, I don't get why painting your house results in losing four images. Did the photographer have them printed directly on your walls?
If the photographer owns the rights to the images, what choice do you have but to pay what they are asking for the images? Are you looking for legal advice?
Also, a 4x6 image can run up to $40 in my area. So $250 for 4 images you are hanging on the wall seems extremely inexpensive!
Can we just ask to pay for the proof so that we can print on our own and frame?
No, Unless the photographer has granted you rights to do so.
the quote for a print seems very high.
It seems more than reasonable from a professional standpoint. If anything the photographer is undervaluing their work. Photography is one of those fields where, like sausages, everybody enjoys the end product and they know when they like it but few ever consider what goes into the production. Photography is a painstaking process but all the client really sees is a few clicks, some prints and a bill that looks much larger than they think it should be for the work they've seen.
The production costs are pretty large, a pro camera body runs to a few thousand bucks, pro lenses are frequently in the $1,000+ range and you need a few, not to mention the many accessories and post-production hardware/software.
Then you can factor in the time spent mastering the capture and editing skills necessary to produce work that you, the client, see every day and are still so happy with that you want to replace the prints rather than lose them. Ultimately that skill is what you're paying for, if you value the images then you should value the producers need to make a living too and you wouldn't see their prices as being high at all.