Angie's List: comparing at least 3 bids could save you money, time and frustration

Make it your 'bid-ness' to get multiple bids

TAMPA - Whether you are starting a home improvement project with your kitchen, bathroom or your roof, it is important to be thoroughly educated before making your hiring decision. Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List , advises getting three solid bids for your project. "For the last 17 years I've talked a ton to consumers about the importance about getting three estimates when thinking about a remodel job," she said. "I think the one thing that consumers often overlook is the fact that (the contractor) is going to have this team of people in your house for an extended period of time. They're going to be there in the morning when you are having breakfast and they also might be there in the evening when you are having dinner. So you want to be sure you are comfortable with the crew. It's another reason why getting three estimates is good, so you get a chance to talk and compare what it's going to be like to work with each team."

Angie's List offers these tips on why you should get three or more bids:

  • Feel comfortable: Depending on the type of project, contractors could be in and out of your house quite often – you need to feel comfortable with them.
  • Communication is key: You need to be able to communicate with your contractor easily. If something isn't going right, speak up early in the project. If you're dealing with problems early on and don't address them, you're probably not going to be happy with the finished product. If your contractor isn't responsive to your wishes, it's easier to cut ties early. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could be to move on.
  • Are you on the same page? You should choose a contractor that collaborates with you throughout your project. You have to live with this, so make sure it's something you like as well.
  • Keeping in touch: Many members complained that after the initial estimate they could not get ahold of the contractor by phone or email in order to get further information or to even talk about doing the job.
  • Weed out the bad: If you find one bid is a lot lower than the others, it could be an indicator of an outlier and the quality of that contractor's work might not be up to your standards. That's another reason it's important to get three bids. 

Get as much detail in writing as you can. "Things like how payment is going to be handled, how long the job is going to take, what's going to happen if there are delays on the project," Hicks said. "And you want to be sure that it lists out actual items that are going to be used in the project so you can get a real good apples-to-apples comparison. What make and model and brand of refrigerator is going to be used in your kitchen remodel, for example."

Many homeowners admit their search for a contractor ends if they think the bid is too high. But a recent Angie's List poll showed that more than 80 percent of contractors are willing to negotiate with homeowners to get jobs. So don't let sticker shock keep you from making a good hire. If you have three bids to compare, you have leverage to potentially talk down that high bidder. There might be a good reason the bid is higher than you expected but you'll never know if you don't have a side-by-side comparison.
What should be in a bid?

  • Payment terms
  • Start and completion dates
  • Materials being used and how much (spelled out line by line)
  • Cost of permits (if any need to be pulled)
  • Cost of final payment 

Remember, the bidding process is essentially you conducting an interview with the contractor. That contractor will be the one responsible for how your project turns out. If you see red flags from the beginning, end the relationship then. Trust your instincts.
5 Questions to ask while deciding:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. Can I see examples of previous work?
  3. Are you licensed, insured and bonded?
  4. What certifications do you have?
  5. Who will be assigned to my project if I have any questions?
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