November 1, 2023

How to compare home improvement proposals

Getting the best deal for your home improvement project means getting the best value. It’s easy to compare the price, but the key to getting the best value is evaluating and comparing the project details offered for that price.

Estimates for home improvement

A suggested approach for comparing home improvement proposals

A common mistake that I see homeowners make is to invite several home improvement contractors over, point them to the project they are considering, and then ask them for a quote for the work—without providing any additional guidance.

Maybe those homeowners didn’t want to offend contractors with excessive job descriptions. Or perhaps they thought that a professional would know best. A professional should know best, but each contractor’s approach may differ. For example, one bidder may include an extra finishing step—maybe this is how their old boss always did it. Another bidder may entirely omit the step—perhaps this is how they outbid the competition.

What will happen with these proposals is that the scope of work, job specifications, and price will be dissimilar, making these proposals nearly impossible to compare. This leaves the homeowner with the need to redo the bidding process from scratch or, even worse, with the need to revisit the entire process. Especially when it comes to light that something the homeowner wanted to be included was not a part of the winning proposal.

Homeowners can easily avoid confusion by providing all bidders with a detailed project description. This description does not have to be very complicated, providing it is the same for every bidder.

Here is an example of what we mean:

• Renovate the entryway at 123 Main Street.

• Paint or refinish the exterior and interior of the door.

• Remove and renovate all hardware.

• Discuss appropriate upgrades to enhance security.

• Include the following services.

• Clean, scrape, and prepare all surfaces to be painted.

• Use one complete coat of primer and one coat of finish paint.

• Paint will be the top grade of XYZ Paint Company.

• ABC Hardware will source all new hardware.

Even with a detailed project description, you may find that some bidders will recommend something different than what was described. At this stage of the game, you should resist the temptation to stray from your project description and keep in mind your goal of getting comparable proposals. Even if you like the recommendation for an extra finish coat, you should ask the recommending bidder to provide an alternate—a separate price for only that extra coat. When the time comes to compare proposals, you will not end up trying to compare apples to oranges or some other completely different type of fruit.

How to get the best deal on a home improvement project

I frequently receive phone calls from people looking for an entryway makeover quote. These homeowners typically provide me with photos and then request a price. Some believe they will find the best deal by calling several home improvement contractors. I can’t blame them for trying. Most projects of this nature are big-ticket items.

In the internet age, shopping for products has become much more manageable. However, shopping for services such as home improvement doesn’t work the same way as shopping for flat-screen TVs. The typical front door project is rarely the same as one with another. There are many variables to consider:

• The door size, age, and condition

• The level of repair, decline, insulation ability, security issues and the level of prep before finishing.

• The final finish chosen, stain vs. paint. Separate frames and sidelights from door or panels?

• The option of upgrading locksets and hinges.

• New parts such as sweeps, adjustable saddles, astragals, and insulations.

A change in any one of these variables can mean a difference of work hours. The best price does not necessarily mean the best deal. Getting the best deal means getting the best value for a variety of services needed. It’s easy to compare the price, but the key to getting the best deal is evaluating and comparing the project details offered for that price. Call now for details. 631-278-5096