Did you ever try to buy a mattress by shopping all the local mattress stores and trying the beds? You probably talked to a salesperson at every location and were bombarded with features for each mattress. When you went to the next store, there were more mattresses, but none was exactly the same as the first store. Again, you heard a litany of features and incentives. As you moved from one mattress store to the next, all the mattresses began to look the same. Worse yet, they began to feel the same. Yet, no two mattresses could be compared directly, feature for feature, price against price.
Hiring a builder is a little bit like buying a mattress. You’ll never be able to compare one bid directly against another. Every builder brings a different style and perspective to the project. Every bid is different because each builder will approach the project differently. Therefore, you won’t be able to compare apples to apples on price. How do you know which builder to choose, then?
First, look carefully at the bids. Labor costs are estimated based on the amount of time the builder thinks it will take to get the job done. Higher labor costs can mean more detailed workmanship, additional hours on the job or more subcontractors who are specialists in their fields. It costs money to do a job professionally. It costs the homeowner more money to do a job unprofessionally – that is, it has to be redone either immediately or in the near future at twice as much money as the homeowner planned to spend. The builder who is always the low bidder won’t survive in the marketplace for very long — he’ll either be cutting corners on his work to make money, or, he’ll simply lose money on every job if he doesn’t estimate the labor costs correctly. Try to find the value in the bid – whether it’s the experience of the builder or the fresh ideas for your renovation. If, indeed, you get what you pay for, evaluate what you ultimately want to pay and then choose the best contractor you can afford. Not via comparisons alone.