You have the renovation project you want clear in your head and enough money saved up to get started. Maybe you’ve even hired an architect to draw up plans for you. You’re ready to find the right contractor for the job. You probably figure the next best step is to meet with a few different contractors in your area to get bids. That’s what they do on all the home improvement shows, and you figure it’s the only way to make sure you’ll get the best rate.
But that assumption could hurt you. If you want to work with the best builder for the best value, soliciting several bids actually isn’t the best way to make your choice. That’s unintuitive to many people unfamiliar with the industry, but it’s true for a few key reasons.
4 Downsides of Getting Multiple Bids
A few brief meetings with several contractors seems like a simple enough process to gather information for the next step, but it comes with some significant downsides.
It’s time consuming
For every contractor you meet with, you have to spend time setting up appointments, getting to the meeting, waiting for them to show up, and then (finally) meeting with them. And that’s for when they do show up, not all contractors are reliable and there’s a decent chance you’ll end up spending all that time for a no show or two.
You’re busy. By trying to save some money by getting extra quotes (trying being the operative word here), you’ll make things harder on yourself and waste time. And isn’t your time worth something too?
- An early bid won’t match your desires to your set budget.
Every construction project a homeowner imagines has numerous possible variations it can take on—all of which would cost a different amount. The type of quote a contractor can provide after one meeting will necessarily be based on a number of assumptions about what the finished project will look like. When, in fact, you’ll have lots of opportunities to make decisions along the way that could bring the costs down if needed and bring the project more in line with what you really want.
Too often, homeowners meet with a contractor with their desired project specs in hand, only to walk away disappointed and ready to give up on the project because the quote they get far exceeds their budget. But it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the important values a good contractor provides is helping you figure out how to plan a construction project that fits within your budget.
That doesn’t happen after one short meeting though. It requires trusting a particular contractor to spend some real time with you, working out a plan that best balances what you want and what you can afford.
- Bids aren’t the best way to gauge a contractor’s ability at the job.
A home renovation project is a big deal. Making the right decision during the hiring process is important to accomplishing a successful project. But a brief meeting followed by a quote doesn’t actually give you much information about the kind of job a contractor will do. All you’ll really learn is what they’re like in one meeting and what they think it may cost.
This isn’t the kind of investment where you should choose based on the lowest price, especially when the prices in early bids usually don’t tell you much about the real price you’ll be dealing with. With the software available to contractors today, it’s easy to quickly work up a quote that looks detailed and impressive, but isn’t actually accurate to your particular project and priorities.
A bid just doesn’t tell you what you need to know about a contractor to make an informed decision.
- You can’t truly know the details of a project until after you’ve started working with a skilled contractor.
Even if you think you have a really clear idea about what you want, and even if you hired an architect to draw up plans, you won’t know all the details about what you need until you start the process of working with a contractor. They’ll have the experience to consider all the factors an architect doesn’t know to think about — how two different material options compare in price and quality, how different electrical and plumbing issues could affect your ultimate cost, or any special tools or equipment that might be required.
Early bids based on the limited information you know to provide in a first meeting will fill in all those details based on speculation, but all the little details can add up to a big difference in the first quoted price and your ultimate cost. Before you can begin to gain a clear picture of what your project will be and cost, you need a chance to hear about your different options from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Only then can you make the informed choices that will shape your project.
Why You Should Work with a Professional Contractor from the Beginning
The impulse to meet with a lot of contractors from day one is understandable, but based on years working in the home construction industry, we know that people who start the process by working with one trusted contractor have a better experience.
If you find someone with a good reputation, they can work out all the details of your project with you. They’ll:
- Provide their expertise and advice based on years of experience
- Fill you in on expenses and choices you weren’t aware of
- And help you tailor your desired project to the budget you have available.
And working with them throughout the design process does give you a really clear idea of what they’ll be like to work with and whether you should trust them with the completion of the project.
Working with one reputable contractor for the design process doesn’t require a promise to work with them to the project’s fruition. You always have the choice once the project’s design is complete to take it to another contractor for a second opinion or quote. But at that point, you really will be able to get an accurate quote because you’ll have all the details filled in.
How to Find a Contractor You Can Trust from Day One
Taking this approach may seem risky. What if the contractor you choose from day one isn’t the best choice for the job? If you make even a partial commitment to one contractor before hearing from others, couldn’t you end up with someone who isn’t honest or helpful and waste time and money?
The way to avoid that is to do a little research early on. Before deciding on one contractor:
- Read reviews – Look at what past customers have to say about them online. People who have a bad experience with contractors usually aren’t shy about letting others know on sites like Angie’s List or Home Advisor.
- Ask for referrals – Any good contractor should be able to give you the name and number of a couple of past customers willing to chat with you about their experience. You can ask them questions and hear honest answers from someone with no one to gain from your ultimate decision.
- Check their BBB rating– A good BBB rating is one indicator that a contractor runs a legitimate, reputable business.
- Check their licensing status – A licensed contractor is held to certain standards of knowledge and business practices that a contractor working without a license doesn’t have to bother with.
- Look at photos of past projects – Ask for pictures of similar projects they’ve completed in the past. You can get a glimpse of the quality of their work from a visual perspective.
- Consider how long they’ve been in business – Someone can’t run a successful construction business for years if they’re doing bad work. The longer a company’s been in business, the more likely they are to be trustworthy.
A good construction firm isn’t focused on the hard sell. Their end goal isn’t to get you to sign the dotted line; it’s to win you over for life.
Ask the contractor you consider how many repeat customers they have. If the people who work for them keep coming back, that’s a clear signal that they do good work.
Start Your Home Renovation Project Right
By going with a trustworthy contractor from day one, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, money, and trouble. And more importantly, you’ll start down the path of designing a dream project you can afford with someone who knows how to make it a reality.
In twenty of years of doing business in the Charlotte, NC area, Fineline Construction has earned the loyalty of dozens of families who consistently turn to us for all their construction needs. If you choose to work with us from day one of designing your project, you can trust that we’ll work hard to earn your loyalty too and deliver you the best home renovation project for your money.