Q. How do I compare construction bids apples to apples?
A. You’ve heard the advice, “Get multiple bids.” However in order to accurately compare, you must be looking at the same scope, product, specifications, materials, and quality of work. Even within specialty trades, contractors are diverse in their quality, experience, materials and methods. Comparing bids apples to apples is nearly impossible, and leaves much to the imagination. Rather, the goal should be to achieve a complete understanding of what work will be produced within the scope of each bid.
The lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid. In fact, it may be a red flag that indicates inferior materials, a misunderstanding, or corner-cutting on quality or code compliance. In some instances you may be presented with a low bid only to be surprised later with expensive change orders for extras or upgrades. Good contractors are respectful of your expectations and seek to understand that information up front.
In the best scenario, a system is set in place for design and estimating that work hand in hand. A preliminary budget is set early, and the design is “married” to the budget as it develops. Final bids are based on a detailed design that most accurately reflects the owner’s intentions.