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Understanding Your New Construction Bid

5 Things to Know Before You Read Yours

You’ve received four bids for your new construction project. Now what?

  1. You simply choose the lowest price.
  2. You make a detailed spreadsheet comparing each bid while simultaneously contacting references and then pause indefinitely with a major headache.
  3. You try your best to decipher this new language.
  4. All of the above except option 1.

Don’t panic. Here at Debowsky Design Group, we speak fluent architecture, construction, and design, and we are more than happy to translate for our clients.

We’ve compiled a few things you need to know when you’re presented with your new construction bid:

  1. First, it’s important to understand what a bid is and is not. A bid is an introductory proposal that details how a builder will complete your build, based on their past experience with similar projects. It is an educated guess. It is not a contract, which is a legal document detailing complete and specific scope, timing, and payment for the work.
  2. All bids are not created equal. Were they paying attention to the architect’s plan? (Read more about what exactly architects do for your new build project) Do they share your aesthetic, and have they priced features accordingly? It’s crucial to question the pricing, an understanding of the scope of work needed, and budget and schedule compliance.
  3. Don’t be swayed by a low bid. Look closer. Is the low bid a result of a lack of experience? Also, after construction begins, a change order occurs. That means the scope of the project has changed, either by the owner’s decision, a requirement from the permitting authorities, or the unfortunate discovery of a property condition that affects construction. Make sure your selected bid isn’t low because the builder is relying on a later change order to increase the budget.
  4. Look for specificity. Is there a general line item for cabinet hardware or a more detailed estimate for the correct amount, room by room? More experienced firms will be more specific in their bid.
  5. Check the firm’s reputation. Do their past clients have positive things to say? Do they have a good rating with the Better Business Bureau? If your project needs special certification, like LEED, do they have the right credentials? Are their subcontractors licensed and bonded? Trust your gut when gathering this information, and don’t give leeway just because you like their price.

Finally, don’t discount your in-person meeting and first impressions of each firm bidding. We recommend visiting them on-site to gain further insight into their professionalism, work process, and construction technology level. You’re going to be working closely with the firm you select, so make sure your visions and work ethics align.

Bonus points if you actually enjoy being around them for the next six or so months.

If you need an extra set of eyes to review your new construction bids, we’re here for you. As architects, we have a vested interest in making sure our designs are executed perfectly.


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