Choosing the Right Remodel Contractor & Running Your Own Bid (Part 1 of 6)

“. . . the whole remodel process involves a lot of homework on your part”

Bear with me as this is a lengthy presentation, but I believe a very strategic and important one for you as a homeowner.  You are about to embark on perhaps some major demolition and reconstruction of your largest asset.  And, you are about to invite a contractor and his/her workers and trade partners into your home and daily routines for a while.  Please be patient and learn of the relationship that you are undertaking, particularly if you have never paid for remodeling work before, or if you’ve had a bad remodeling experience.

Choosing a home remodeling contractor is not nearly as simple as picking the lowest bid for the job.  The low bidder is usually just the apparent low bidder.

Here’s a good quote explaining why:
“QUALITY! There is hardly anything in the world that some men cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.  It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s more unwise to pay too little.  When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all.  When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.  The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done.  If you deal with the lowest bidder, it’s well to add something for the risk you take.  And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”  John Ruskin, Economist

So, as the homeowner, the whole remodel process involves a lot of homework on your part.

The first item you want to prepare even before thinking about getting bids or proposals is to have a complete ‘bid package’ ready for each bidding contractor.  This package includes, but is not limited to: complete construction drawings; specifications and selections for the products and materials you want in the project; full bidding instructions explaining the way the bidding will be run, and when and where bids will be received (all bids should be received from all bidders at the same time and place); the times and dates of meetings to look at the project and to meet with you; how you will handle questions and comments that arise; how additional information will be transmitted to each bidder as the bid progresses; if the bids will be opened while the bidders are present on the bid day, or if you will be contacting them afterward to tell them how they did on their bid compared to the others bidding; any other instructions that will be helpful in preparing a bid: site access, family routines, and such.  These documents should communicate all of the information necessary for each bidder to prepare bids that you can compare, without a lot of questions, inclusions and exclusions to the bids presented.  For every item that is excluded (or extras included) you have to make a decision about how to compare that bid with others that you get.


Without this package you will not be receiving ‘bids’ which can be compared – these prices that you get will be merely ‘estimates.’  Estimates can be given over the phone and don’t require any time to prepare – just knowledge and experience.  A proper ‘bid,’ on the other hand, takes hours of time, meetings at the site, full documents to work with, and a number of other things.

“. . . if you feel you trust the contractor enough . . .”

I have stood in spaces too many times before where someone is waving their arms around in the air and trying to communicate what is in their mind, only to realize that the complete project that I bid on was something entirely different than what another ‘bidder’ heard at a similar meeting with the same owner.  Then, it’s often determined that someone was missing key pieces of information that may have made their ‘bid’ either far too high, or far too low.  This is a complete disservice to all involved, not to mention a huge waste of valuable time.  Many times owners will select the apparent low bidder thinking that all of the ‘bids’ must be for the same work (project) as they thought they had communicated in the same fashion with each bidder.  Ultimately, if you feel you trust the contractor enough to invite him/her into your life and your daily routine, not to mention tearing apart and reconstructing your largest single asset, and if you’ve checked this person out with some past clients, then why spend a huge amount of time, energy and emotional effort to run so many ‘bidders’ through the process, just so you feel you’ve done the due diligence.  The real due diligence is better done up front, even before contacting potential bidders.  The process of remodeling should be a pleasant and enjoyable one for you and your family, and it should have a lot to do with how well the contractor manages your experience and your project.

Are you sure you’re ready to go on?  Or, is it time to call someone to help you out?

(continued in Part 2 . . . )

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