Debunking the 3-bid Myth

A remodel is one of the largest expenses that you will undertake. Although it will not cost as much as your mortgage, it is still a very large sum of money. You want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. Conventional wisdom says that you should get three bids in order to get the best deal. While you absolutely should talk to multiple contractors to find the right fit for you, the three bid idea is a horrible way to choose who will do your remodel. In this post, we’ll break down why.

What’s in a Construction Bid?

Imagine you are at your local grocery store shopping for cereal. You may find that the store has your favorite box of cereal for $4, while the store across the street sells that same box of cereal for $3.50. In this case, it is very easy to see that the store across the street has the best deal. Now imagine that the $3.50 version isn’t your favorite cereal, but a generic brand. Will it be as good as your old standby? Maybe. And at $3.50 for something you are going to have for a few weeks or so, it might be worth trying. But you aren’t comparing apples to apples and the cheaper product comes with some risk. Now expand those prices to the scale of remodel and those few weeks you’ll have the cereal to the decades you’ll be living with your remodeling decision. Suddenly the risk to reward ratio seems a lot more skewed.

Basing your purchase decisions on price alone can be great when you are comparing two identical products. It can also be great when the price is so low that making the wrong decision can be shrugged off. Neither of those things is the case with a remodeling project. Every contractor you may hire will deliver a different result, both in terms of the design and in terms of quality. For this reason, basing your hiring decisions for a remodel on price alone is not a good metric at all.

A remodel is a decision that you will be living with for a very long time, possibly the rest of your life. It is a decision that will affect the resale value of your home. It is not a decision to be given to the lowest bidder.

Picking the Best Contractor

The correct way to pick the best contractor still involves talking to many different options. You want to find a contractor that not only does quality work, but one that will fit well with your vision of what you want your home to be.

The ideal contractor will ask what your budget is and give you options that will fit within it. Remodels can be very expensive, but a good contractor can still find ways to help you reach your goals even on smaller budgets. Look for a contractor that is not constantly trying to upsell you past your stated budget, but is instead enthusiastic about what they can do within your budget.

It is also very important to have a contractor that has the expertise to help you figure out exactly what it is that you want. In the course of picking your contractor, try to pay attention to these key things to ask or look out for.

  • Licenses – This is very important. Any contractor you hire should be licensed to work in the Bethesda/Upper Northwest Washington DC area (or wherever you happen to live)
  • References – A contractor may talk a big game to get your business, but then turn out to be a dud. It is always a good idea to ask them for references that you can contact for an unbiased opinion on their work.
  • Portfolio – A good remodeling contractor will have plenty of photos of their work that you can look at to get a feel for their design style and the quality of their work. (Ours can be found here.)
  • Impressions – First impressions matter a lot. The person you hire will be spending a lot of time in your home. They’ll also be making drastic changes to your home. You want to make sure that you can trust them with your most valuable possession and your vision for it.

If you follow these tips and trust your gut, you’ll be doing a much better service to your home than if you just seek out the cheapest bid. During the whole process, remind yourself that this large expense is also an investment and the goal should be to maximize the value added to your home.

What to Expect

Every contractor will be slightly different, but some things are fairly universal. Understanding the process a little bit will help you be a little more confident in evaluating your options. For a detailing look at our specific process, you can check this page on our website. A more general guideline is below.

In this first meeting, your potential contractor will discuss with you the changes that you want to make to your home and your budget. Here is a great opportunity to get a feel for how invested in the project he or she is. You’ll want someone who makes an effort to really understand what you are looking for. Sometimes, your expectations might not match the budget, but a good contractor will happily present you with options that will not only fit into your budget but give you the best value for your money. You’ll also want to make sure that you feel the contractor is being upfront and honest with you and not overpromising.

The actual fleshing out of the design work and product selections will happen at later meetings. Before you sign off on work to begin, you’ll want to make sure that everyone has a thorough understanding of the scope of the project. It is important to have a contractor that you can feel comfortable asking any clarifying questions and getting detailed and thoughtful answers. This will avoid any surprises or disappointments later.

The running theme throughout this section has been the importance of a contractor that you can trust to have the attention to detail required to establish, agree upon, and meet the expectations that you have for your project. This type of relationship with a contractor is not something that can be reflected in the price alone. If a contractor offers an unbelievable price but isn’t very thorough in that first meeting, you can expect a rocky path ahead after money has changed hands.

We value your home as much as you do because we know that the work we do to your home is a reflection of our business. You can trust us to work our hardest to make your dream a reality, to work within the budget that you have decided on, and to increase the value of your home. To talk about your remodeling project, contact us today!