Avoid these three pitfalls:
- Price shop based on plans.
This may seem like it would be prudent, but it can lead to so many problems. Some people and architects believe that if they make a set of plans, then have 3-5 contractors “Bid” on those plans, they are being prudent and the competition will result in better pricing for them. In reality, the opposite is true. Although the practice is changing, the idea of getting multiple building experts to spend thousands of dollars in their time and expertise on your plans for free was and still is pretty common. However, most good contractors will refuse to do so. Think of it this way, what do you get for free that is worth anything? Customers think that the plans make the “bids” apples to apples, but that is simply not true. As an exercise, from the same set of plans, I often make two “bids” that are drastically different in quality, service, and therefore price. I give them both to the client and ask them what the difference is. Both are to the plans, both are legal and not shady in any way, but the prices are waaaaaay different. Most customers would not have the skill set to differentiate the two. Contractors know this and the lazy ones or deceitful ones will go low, knowing that they are either going to make it up later or just put less into the project. Unless you know the building trades and quality/service metrics of a project, avoid trying to create a “bidding” war that just brings out the worst in a project. Instead have discussions with your professional about the quality metrics of each line item, find out why prices vary in each category and why people would opt to pay more instead of less, and why paying more is often a better value than less.
- Get a permit before getting a contractor involved.
Some design professionals will try to get to permit before the estimating process begins. This is a HUGE mistake unless you are doing the project without regard to budget. I cannot tell you how many times a client tells me they spent $25k on plans and permits only to have the estimates come in $200-300k higher than their max budget. Most contractors can get you a basic estimate with very little detail in the plans, the goal should be within 30% of the target budget. Going all the way to permit before the builder can weigh in on the project design and costs can crash a project with no chance of recovery.
- Try to Live on-site during a major remodel.
Trying to save a few $$ while doing a major remodel by living on the job site is a bad idea. Besides the noise, dust, and general activity, it will not save you money. Unless you have a way to get a separate entrance and wall off your living area from the work area, do not do it. The General Contractor will have to pay carpenters each day to do extra cleanup. These guys are not cheap and that extra 20-30 minutes daily will cost you. If you add this cost to the costs of eating out more if the kitchen is under construction, and add the cost of added stress, it is simply not worth it! I have seen families buy a used camper or RV and live in it on site or at a local camp ground, and then sell it after the remodel for almost what they paid for it. Not for everybody, but a little creativity and help not make a project less stressful and costly.