How to Get the Best Deal

April 9, 2013

ContractorEveryone wants to get the best value when planning a home renovation job and the best way to achieve that is to fully understand just what it is you are buying. Professional contractors like to work with informed customers. Not only is it easier to meet expectations when the buyer knows what he or she wants but an informed customer can also quickly spot discrepancies in bids submitted by lowballers who rely on selling upgrades once the job has begun.

In order to find the best value you want to get as close to an “apples to apples” comparison between contractor bids as possible. Here are a few tips that will level the playing field a bit:

  • In your project description be as precise as possible. A simple job like “paint a bedroom” also begs the questions do you want the trim painted? How about the ceiling? Do your research and come up with the quality of materials you want. There is a huge difference in flooring materials depending on the composition and ease of installing. Find a flooring you like and ask that the contractors bid on that product or its “equivalent.”
  • Ask that bids be broken down into Labor costs and Material costs with each category detailing line items. For example electrician, 5 hours @ $60, total $300 and cabinetry, Faircrest glazed cherry or equivalent, total $1633.
  • Make sure the terms are completely spelled out. Don’t pay in advance but do expect to pay when the materials are delivered to your door. Expect progress payments but make certain that the events that trigger those payments have in fact been completed. In any case, don’t let payments get ahead of work.
  • You might consider buying your own materials especially after seeing the markup charged on the bid. However, if you go this route you are responsible for the material arriving on time, undamaged and any down time the contractor has as a result of not having materials available.
  • Lastly, if your budget is within 10% to 15% of your preferred contractor’s bid, talk to him. These are competitive times and contractors will work with reasonable buyers to get the deal done.

The key to a successful home improvement project is vetting the contractor. Knowing you have a professional who is just as concerned about his reputation as you are about the project takes much of the stress out of the event. Then it’s a matter of knowing exactly what you want and exactly what it will cost.

Think it’s a lot of work? Well maybe it is but think of it as a training exercise. Once you complete the renovation of the kitchen your spouse is going to find some other space in the house that looks shabby by comparison and you may be going through this all over again.

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