Murphy Brothers Blog

Competitive Bidding – Less Than You Bargain For?

Consumer advice columns will tell you that seeking competitive bids is the standard approach to get the best price for a remodeling project. But it also has some unfortunate consequences that go well beyond the pitfalls of choosing the cheapest proposal.

The best ideas you’ll never see

Let’s say you get a draftsman to draw up a simple plan and invite three or four contractors to submit bids.  The first given is that many contractors won’t share their best ideas if they think it will add to the cost.  For instance, they will start with second-tier cabinets to trim thousands of dollars off the bill or they may substitute a cheaper subfloor material to save $200. Or they will specify fiberglass batt insulation in the basement even if they would demand superior spray foam insulation in their own basement. The typical plan only relates to about one-third of a project’s cost.  Product selections and methods determine two-thirds of the price so bids can be all over the lot. This leads to the second problem.

Allowances are not kid stuff

Some contractors set allowances unreasonably low for things like lighting fixtures, cabinets and tile and let you select products after they get a signed contract and the initial check. It makes their bid’s bottom line look better, but you will be in for a big surprise when you go to finalize the selections and discover the budget is too low to specify what you really want.  At that point, you have two options, neither of them good. You can pay the difference to get what you really like or settle for inferior products that are less attractive, performing or durable. In the end, the lower bid wasn’t really better. It was just less realistic.

Value of an experienced general contractor

Competitive bidding is even scarier when homeowners try to serve as their own general contractor and coordinate several competitively-bid subcontractors without construction management experience.  In that case “A” quality contractors may be forced to work alongside “D” quality contractors who can’t even comprehend what a high-quality project demands. To make matters worse, the project typically takes three times as long as it should because the project starts before all of the materials are on hand and there are idle gaps between stages. What’s it worth to be out your kitchen for an extra month or two? Without an experienced general contractor to coordinate the trades and contain the scope, a remodeling project is like a pile of stones. With a GC to fill the gaps and give the project shape, it’s more like a bucket of concrete.  At Murphy Bros., we prefer things concrete.

Design-build approach puts you in control

When you start with an experienced design-build contractor whom you trust and establish a target budget at the outset, you can work together to achieve the design, product selections and methods that will best achieve your goals. You also will understand the impact of key choices along the way.  For instance, if you fall in love with a $1,200 sink and an $800 faucet and you are within the target budget, fine. But if they aren’t your top priority, a $300 sink and $300 faucet may make way for a creative tile backsplash that will personalize your kitchen and make the whole project pop.

When you are ready, please contact Murphy Bros. Trust me. We’re here to help.

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