When choosing a home builder or contractor, you should get between three and five home builder estimates. Understanding and comparing these estimates, will lead you to one of the most important decisions involved in building your home. Choosing the right builder or contractor should not be based entirely on the bid, but the bid will no doubt weigh heavily in the decision. Interpreting that bid is crucial to the process, and bids are not always what they seem on the surface. A bid must be a lot more than just a single amount.

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates: Conformity of Specifications
It is vital to determine what exactly you want before talking to any contractors or homebuilders. You should write down your specifications and the types and weights of all the important materials you wish to use and share this with the contractor. Make sure these instructions do not vary. It is common for client desires to change, between the first and last contractor, as they learn and speak with different contractors. Contractors frequently make good suggestions during this process, and so the plan alters in some way. Often, by the time the bids come in, many of the contractors have varying criteria on which they formulated their bid. It is your responsibility to keep these bids as similar as possible, and to know of any variations from the original specifications which may be included in your bid.

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates: Keeping it Fair
It is not fair to compare a home built with lower quality materials and craftsmanship to a home with higher quality materials and craftsmanship. It is not fair to compare a home with significantly more square footage to a home with less square footage. It is also not fair to compare the bid of a well known and highly respected local builder, with the bid presented by a salesman who works with a mega-mart style home builder, without qualifying these bids accordingly. In both cases it is important to consider how well your questions are answered, and the accuracy of these answers. In the end, you must have a clear idea of exactly what quality and craftsmanship you would be getting from each contractor.

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates: How Accurate are Bids
Before the advent of inexpensive software to facilitate accurate quotes, errors in calculation were very common. Building contractors have been known to make a quick quote by using the back of an envelope for scratch paper. They didn’t even use calculators in the old days, so there was a greater margin for error. Today home builders have very accurate spreadsheet software, which can pinpoint all the costs. Ask for a copy of each builder’s spread-sheet to see the elements of each quote.

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates: Signed Specifications List
Ask questions, and make sure you verify each type of material and that these specifications are on a sheet of paper signed by the contractor before you select. It is very easy for contractors and home builders to substitute cheaper materials, and claim they never agreed to ¾ inch plywood roof sheathing instead of 5/8ths for example. Get it all in writing to clarify exactly what you are getting.

Interpreting Home Builder Estimates: Compare the Bids
Once you have all the bids you plan to collect, compare them item by item. If something seems disproportionately high or unusually low, compared to the other bids, you may want to ask why. Small differences in the price of materials depend on the supplier, but large differences may indicate a difference in quality or an error in their calculations.

In the end, price will definitely play a part in your decision, but it should not be the only factor. Other factors should include the overall reputation of the builder, and your personal feelings. Remember, you will be communicating with this individual and the rest of the company’s employees over the course of construction. It is very important to choose people you can work with. Today’s home builder estimates are an accurate representation of the price, and the specification sheet defines materials, but only you can evaluate which is the best homebuilder or contractor for your home.

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