Understanding Differences in Remodeling Quotes

Homeowners ask us all the time: “Why are there such differences in the numbers I get from various contractors?” It’s complicated to answer, but we’d like to give it a try.

We know homeowners usually want to involve two or three remodelers in the estimating process. When you compare these quotes, it’s very tempting to make decisions based just on the numbers.

Before making your decision, though, be aware of the factors that may account for the price disparities. And be sure to get answers to questions like these:

What’s included — and not included — in the preliminary specification?

It’s all about comparing apples vs. apples. A reputable contractor will provide extensive details about products and services. At Custom Contracting, we’re completely transparent about what we’re delivering, which makes your job easier when evaluating quotes.

Equally important is what the specification doesn’t include and we make it a point to call out such items. This approach eliminates the possibility of the homeowner making incorrect assumptions. It can also stimulate conversation with us so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed.

Is it a fixed-rate quote?

There are two basic ways to estimate a project. One is to provide a fixed cost for work, while the other is based on “cost plus” (a fancy way to describe charging based on time and materials plus a percentage).

If you deal with the “cost plus” contractor, you risk not knowing the final cost of your project. “Cost plus” means they will give you a rough idea on cost, but will charge you more if the project takes longer than they think or because they did not estimate the materials properly.

While “cost plus” contractors might give you a low quote at the beginning of the process, they may start charging for products or services that they supposedly didn’t anticipate. “We assumed mahogany rather than composite decking.” “We didn’t account for painting the living room”

In contrast, Custom Contracting has always had a fixed-price mentality. With few exceptions, the figure we quote you will be fixed, meaning we take the full risk for bringing the project in on time and on budget.

Who’s working on your job?

In this economic environment, it’s easy for contractors to bring in cheap help off the street. But are these workers genuinely skilled? And are you going to feel safe with them working in your home?

When you hire Custom Contracting, your project team consists of our employees and our professional trade partners. Obviously, we know our employees well. But we’ve also maintained long-term relationships with our network of professional trade partners. Anyone who works on your project is both highly skilled and worthy of your trust.

In addition, we have a lead carpenter onsite to supervise the job on a day-to-day basis along with office staff who can help out with any questions you may have.

Are you protected?

Carrying liability and worker’s compensation insurance costs a contractor money — and protects your interests as a homeowner. Make sure all of the contractor’s workers, including subcontractors, are covered. Make sure you get an insurance certificate sent directly from the insurer. If not, you’re putting yourself at great financial risk.

Also find out if the contractor is a registered Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The HIC Law has a program for resolving homeowner/contractor disputes and can even assist in recovering money from the contractor for incomplete work.

What’s the contractor’s experience in remodeling?

We’ve written before about “fly-by-night” contractors who specialize in new construction but take on remodeling jobs to stay busy. The problem is, new construction and remodeling are different ballgames that require different skill sets.

Custom Contracting has a 20-year track record exclusively in remodeling, and we have the client testimonials to back up our work. Contractors coming over from new construction can’t match our experience — or our level of craftsmanship and service.

A Final Word

Pricing a remodeling project is a difficult task. There are countless variables to consider, and no two jobs are exactly the same. So having some variation in contractor quotes is only natural.

But again, before signing up with a contractor based solely on price, get answers to the questions outlined above. If you’ve worked with Custom Contracting before, keep in mind why you began the relationship in the first place. And whether or not you’ve had previous experience with us, we’ll be happy to meet with you to review the competing bids and convey the value we can offer.