“Everyone,” says you should get three estimates for your remodeling project before you make a decision. While this advice is well-meaning, oftentimes, unless we are in the profession of reviewing estimates this can overwhelm homeowners who want to do a renovation project. Let’s talk about what usually happens and what should happen.
Usually what happens is a homeowner wants to make a change to their home, let’s say their kitchen. So they start looking online at third-party websites like Angie’s List or Home Adviser for what a kitchen remodel should cost in their area. For more information on why this may not be the best first step check out this blog post here. After getting this information they begin calling around and trying to get “estimates” or “quotes” from contractors. Sometimes they start calling specific trades like tiling contractors or electricians and plumbers getting multiple quotes for multiple parts of the project. In this case, they are heading down the road of becoming the General Contractor on the project themselves without really knowing what is involved in that role. But is there a difference between an estimate and a quote? Actually, yes. So it is important that you know the difference so that when you get what you’re asking for you can compare apples to apples.
An estimate is a rough number based on previous jobs of a similar nature. A similar nature would include scope of work, layouts, and finishes. A quote, is an exact number, based on precise measurements, detailed scope of work, and selected finishes. The former is used to help see what a potential budget would look like, whereas the latter becomes the budget for the project.
So if you ask two contractors for a quote and one for an estimate, you’ll get three numbers to review but do they really hold the same weight or value? You may throw out the two quotes because they were “too high” and go with the third “estimate” only to find out that when the contractor gets into the project they find out that there is a game-changing situation that is going through the whole budget off. Then no one is happy. The cost of the project gets inflated, and the timeline gets pushed out. This can happen even when the estimating contractor comes on-site and looks at things.
So how can you get three numbers from contractors and evaluate them so you know which contractor is truly going to do the work for you at the best value, the best price, and the best quality for your needs? What criteria will you use to do that? There are lots of ways to evaluate both your estimates and your quotes. Here are the Top 5 we recommend:
- Check their license. Hiring a licensed contractor in the State of California won’t protect you 100% of the time, but checking a contractor’s license to see that it is valid and active and that there are no complaints, or what complaints are listed on the CSLB website is a good place to start.
- Social Proof their company. Check out their company to see if they are on the main social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TickTok, and the like. This has become the new way for businesses to share with the public what they are like, and what their company culture is like, highlight their employees, and for the public to leave reviews of their work.
- Check their reviews. Check out what kind of Google Reviews they have. Reviews have quickly become an even more valuable resource for businesses than referrals. Businesses that want to maintain good standings on Google deliver top-quality service, and this is reflected in the reviews they get from their customers.
- Check their website. Do they have a website? Does share pricing? Does it show their work, or link back to their Social platforms to highlight their work? Do they have testimonials on their website? Do they have a resources page? Do they keep the website up to date?
- What does your gut say about them? Once you actually talk to someone, what does your gut say about the company? Do they really know what you’re trying to achieve with your project, or did they come out and tell you all of their own ideas? Did they listen to what you’re looking for in a contractor or did they just tell you how great they are, how clean they are, and how “all of their customers are 100% satisfied with their work at the end of the project?” Did they really hear you and what you want?
- Bonus: Did everyone get the exact same scope of work? Did everyone get the exact same information from you so they could produce the best and most accurate number for you to consider? Here’s a hint: That is almost impossible because you’re dealing with at least three different human beings and they are all going to read, hear, and interpret things differently. They’ll even ask you different questions and your answers will give them different information. You might even answer the same question differently three times because the information you have might have changed or been modified since the last contractor met with you.
Sometimes price is the most important factor for homeowners, in some cases, it all works out, but unfortunately in a lot of cases when that happens, homeowners can make brash decisions that they end up regretting. Getting three numbers is a good idea if you feel like you need to have the security of making sure you’re hiring the right contractor, but as we discussed, having three different numbers in front of you without some sort of criteria to evaluate these numbers, the contractors can end up making your decision harder. Ultimately the right decision to work with a contractor comes down to what you as a homeowner value most. Construction projects can be stressful enough, so is it a ridiculous idea that you should have some way of determining what each contractor actually brings to the project besides just a number?