It’s Not All About the Benjamins: Choosing a Contractor

by Nalina

COSTSAfter meeting all four of the contractors who were interested in my remodel, I already had a hunch that I would work with Martin and his team. Nonetheless I wanted to analyze the bids they submitted and make a sound decision.

Just the way in which the four contractors submitted their bids was revealing. Only two contractors submitted a bit on the date I had requested. One actually submitted his three weeks afterwards, apologizing that he had been out of the country. All of the bids were sent via email. Most were in PDF format but one was entirely written within the body of the email in a florid, bright blue font. One bid arrived from an email address that I didn’t recognize; the contractor had asked his wife to type up his estimate and she had sent it to me from her personal email account.

All the contractors broke out costs, listing subtotals for different materials and types of work. But each one broke them costs out in a different way and to a different level of detail. I’m certain that each one understood the scope of the work and considered it carefully as he prepared his bid. But each of the bids itemized work in a different way so that no easy comparison could be made.

For example, all contractors listed “Electrical Work.” But Contractor A listed a total price for work in both the bath and kitchen. Contractor B listed separate prices for work in the bath and the kitchen. And Contractor C listed the prices to relocate or install each individual outlet, switch, appliance and light fixture.

Of course for each bid the total construction cost was the first number that I saw and the number that stayed with me. But I wanted to make sure that I was making a fair comparison and made an ExCel spreadsheet, as I would for any other architecture project, confirming that each contractor had included each work item shown in the drawings. (There is something deeply reassuring to me about using ExCel; it makes me feel entirely grown-up and rational.) I wrote back to each contractor, asking him to confirm that his price included each item in the scope of work.

SCOPE OF WORK

In the end, though, I chose a contractor using both my heart and my head. This remodel was important to me and that I wanted to work with someone I liked, someone I felt comfortable speaking with, and someone I would be comfortable having inside my home. So I chose Martin. He had made the strongest first impression and also submitted a competitive bid. For me this very important decision was an easy one.

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