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Should I get three bids when choosing a remodeling contractor?

Should I get three bids when choosing a remodeling contractor? It is a common tactic is to solicit three remodeling contractors for bids. The homeowner will often throw out the high and low bid and take the middle, confident he’s minimized his risk by dropping both extremes. Price drives the selection. As an afterthought, the homeowner may or may not check the remodelers’ reputation, references and insurance and licensing documentation.

Obtaining three bids is a tactic that makes sense in many business procurement decisions but is less logical than you might think when it comes to house or residential remodeling.

If you ever needed heart surgery, would you ever consider asking three surgeons to submit bids and then go with the lowest price? The rhetorical answer is an emphatic, “Of course not!” However, many homeowners think of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars and opening up their home to a remodeling contractor who they have selected based solely on his price. Granted, a remodeling project is not a life threatening operation. But it could have a definite effect on the family’s well being and financial health. Many factors other than price need to be considered before the best contractor for the specific project is found.

No job interview begins by negotiating salary, and hiring a contractor should be no different. Before you get to compensation, you want to be sure you have a qualified applicant.

One of the first things to check is references. It’s important that you talk with people who have hired the remodeler to do jobs similar to yours. A beautifully remodeled kitchen or bath sheds little light on the remodelers’ ability to add a second story to your home. You’ll want to ask the references if they had any problems with the quality, payment schedule, employees or completion time. The most telltale question you can ask a reference is, “Would you hire this contractor again?” Some people will be hesitant to make negative comments, but the enthusiasm with which this question is answered can usually tell you everything you need to know.

After you talked with the references, take a look at the work. Check the quality of the craftsmanship and materials, overall aesthetics and creativity, and how the project blends in with the rest of the house.

Also, verify the remodelers licensing and insurance. If you hire a remodeler who doesn’t carry worker’s Compensation and one of his employee’s falls off your roof, you could be liable for the medical bills and lost wages.

An excellent indication of a professional remodeler is membership in a national trade association such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelors Council. A fly-by-night con artist intent on ripping off is not going to leave a paper trail by joining a professional trade association.

Another indication of professionalism is the type of warranty offered. Most remodelers offer some sort of a warranty. But remember, a warranty is only as good as the company backing it.

Once you have done your homework and feel confident the remodeler has a proven track record of quality and service, then it’s time to discuss the project’s details and price.

As with most job applicants the decision may very well come down to feeling comfortable with the remodeler and being able to communicate. The remodeler will be spending many hours in your home, so it’s important you feel comfortable with him from the onset. You should be able to work together combining your ideas and his expertise to turn the vision into a final project.

When you are purchasing a new car, you’re purchasing a product and can see what it looks like, and test drive it to see how it feels. With a remodeling project, you’re purchasing a concept and don’t see the finished product until well after the contract is signed.

This is the reason why bid shopping works for automobiles but not for remodeling projects. You can ask three dealers to price a specific make and model car, and be fairly certain you are comparing like products. But with remodeling, the products could differ significantly. There can be many reasons for a lowball including shoddy materials, poor craftsmanship, inadequate safety precautions, and lack of insurance and licensing. Or if you’re lucky, the bid may just be from an inexperienced remodeler who’s never done a job like yours before.

When you selected a remodeler to ask for a bid, make sure the bid and eventual contract are as thorough as possible including material brand names and models, cost, payment schedule, procedure for change orders and completion date.

If you like the contractor and are confident with his work, but he comes in with a bid that’s beyond your budget, all hope is lost. Ask him what can be scaled down to meet your budget. It very well could be something minor such as using quality stock cabinets instead of custom designed ones, or selecting a different model of tiling, counter top or trim.

Quality is never cheap and good research may seem like a headache. But see what an expensive headache really is by having a low-ball bidder take the roof off your house, disconnect the plumbing and leave no forwarding address as he skips our on the final payment.

– Author unknown

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