How Homeowners Can Accurately Compare Bids on Custom Home Construction and Remodeling

Homeowners are used to hearing "get at least 3 bids" before proceeding on a construction project. This is sound advice as well as getting referrals from friends and family. Bids are only useful however, if they come from comparable companies, and if they are structured so that they can be accurate compared. Many owners, and even some architects, don't do a good job at detailing the project.

The most important requirement is a complete set of plans and specs. If everything about the project isn't clearly spelled out, each bidder will make different assumptions – about fixtures, appliances, finishes, and so on – leading to widely divergent bids. And because each bidder's assumptions will likely differ from the buyer's, the stage is set for conflict during the project. The way to make bidding more productive for everyone is to eliminate assumptions and to give each bidder a legitimate chance of succeeding.

1) Buyers should interview three to five builders to see whom they would like to work with. If a buyer is working with an architect, the architect will likely have a list of builders that seem a good fit for the project. The buyers may also want to call previous customers of each builder for references.

2) Buyers should invite two or three builders to submit budgets. Note that the bidders may want to know who they are bidding against. For example, an established professional company may choose not to compete against a small, less-professional outfit with a reputation of lowballing.

3) Provide as detailed plans and specs to each builder as possible-besides being necessary for an accurate bid, it also allows the builders to look for discrepancies, incomplete items, and other problems. Plans are rarely perfect, so a good architect should welcome such feedback and be willing to …

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