When it comes to major remodeling projects, searching for the best price is often a path to big problems. If you don’t have a complete set of plans for each of the contractors to look at in order to get an apples-to-apples bid, each contractor will give his bid in his style. The honorable contractor will include everything so he doesn’t have the stress of having to keep telling you the cost is going up during the project, while a shady contractor will lowball the bid by leaving out items for you to supply—like fans, towel bars and other fixtures—so his bid will appear lower. You will soon figure out the project costs what it costs, usually when it’s too late to do anything about it. Often the lowball project not only ends up costing more, but is also more stressful to live through, and ends up not as well-built.
Even if you do have plans for your project and start searching for contractors to give a competitive bid, most good, experienced, self-respecting contractors will decline the offer. They decline because those scenarios are typically enormous time wasters for them.
So, what to do? Search for an excellent contractor rather than an excellent price. The technological advancements in computers and estimating have enabled professional contractors to be very accurate in their pricing. Your focus should be on finding the right contractor by meeting with him face to face, talking to several of his references, visiting job sites and searching reviews on the internet to be sure he has the experience, reputation and disposition to provide you with a great project and remodeling experience.
I highly recommend using a contractor who has his own design team. Hiring an architect or independent designer can lead to a lot of frustration in cost and execution of the project. Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of plans that had to be abandoned because the bidding process revealed the project would be two to three times more than the client thought. It’s better to work with a design-build contractor who understands the budget requirements before designing the project.