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Apples to Apples: Comparing Contractor Bids

Make the Homebuilding Process Simpler

Apples to Apples: Comparing Contractor Bids

Building a custom home can be both a rewarding and overwhelming experience.  But this process doesn’t have to be challenging if you’re armed with the right information.  The Coastal Cottage Company is here to help!

In a previous post, we offered advice about the benefits of choosing a design-build contractor.  This post will help you compare “apples to apples” when evaluating multiple contractor bids.  Many folks base their final decision on price, but there are numerous factors that should be considered before signing a contract.  

Comparing Contractor Bids

Communicate Clearly and Consistently.  It’s not uncommon for two different contractors to look at the same project and deliver bids that are quite different. Thus, our first suggestion is to ensure you have provided the exact same information to each builder.  It’s vitally important to be clear and consistent about what you expect to ensure that each of your quotes are based upon the same scope of work.  So do your research and have a specific plan, sketches, and budget to present to each builder.  Otherwise, it will be impossible to compare “apples to apples.”

Evaluate Material Quality.  Builders quote prices using different specs, so if you receive a bid that is quite lower than another, it’s recommended that you dig deeper to determine why.  One way builders underbid each other is to use lower-quality materials.  Every bid should include a list of specific materials and the grade of those materials.  For example, will they be using sheetrock or blueboard and plaster?  Will they lay down sod or just seed and straw?  Everything from support beams and insulation to floor finishes and siding come in different grades, so make sure you know exactly which materials will be used.

Check for Licenses and Insurance. Builders can also underbid one another by using uninsured labor.  This puts the homeowner in jeopardy if anything happens on the premises.  So when comparing bids, make sure that every involved party has liability insurance and there is a workers compensation policy for every person who will be working on the project.  It’s also important to ensure you’re working with only licensed contractors.

Ask About Subcontractors.  Speaking of liability, you should also inquire about the use of subcontractors.  Who will actually be completing the work?  It’s not uncommon for the person making the bid to not be the one completing the project.  So ask about who will be the on-site labor and how frequently the builder will be present.

Assess Workmanship.  You should also scrutinize the reputation and workmanship of the contractors you are comparing.  How long have they been in business?  What do previous clients say about them?  Have they completed projects similar to yours?  Make sure you look through their portfolio of previous projects and check the references of everyone involved.

Get an Itemized List of Costs.  Finally, get a clear breakdown of all proposed charges.  Does the estimate include taxes, permits, and other fees?  Make sure you understand exactly what resources will be needed to complete your project so there will be no surprises later.

Even though price must be considered when building a home, it doesn’t have to be the determining factor in choosing a builder.  Make sure you investigate the backgrounds of the builders you are considering and gather all the necessary information about materials, insurance, subcontractors, and permits.  With all this information, you should be able to compare “apples to apples” and decide upon a builder who is right for you.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

The Benefits of Design-Build

The Outer Banks are consistently rated as one of the most desirable places on the East Coast to vacation. Once you visit, you’ll want to return, so there’s no better time to consider building your very own home away from home.  But with so many options for architects, engineers, builders, and subcontractors, the process can become overwhelming.  Choosing a design-build contractor may be exactly what you need to make your homebuilding experience fun and stress-free.

WHAT IS DESIGN-BUILD?  Design-build is a construction delivery method that provides owners with one contact point for both the design and construction phases of homebuilding.  One company holds the contractual responsibility for the entire process of building, including coordinating subcontractors.

WHY USE A DESIGN-BUILD CONTRACTOR?  In traditional building projects, the owner serves as the middle-man, managing multiple companies and contracts.  Synchronizing schedules, resolving disputes, and coordinating communication can quickly become exhausting and frustrating.  With a design-build contractor, the owner communicates with only one entity.  The designer and builder are on the same team (or are the same person) and handle all aspects of the build.  This not only relieves stress for the homeowner, but also can result in a smoother, more cost-effective construction process.  

Design-Build

When architectural design is completed separately, designers and contractors may not be in sync, or may even disagree, which can result in unforeseen delays and costs.  In contrast, packaging design and construction allows a single team to know the project inside and out, adhering to a defined budget and timeline.  In addition, design-build firms tend to use their own carefully chosen construction crews and subcontractors who they have worked with extensively and, therefore, trust to complete outstanding work.

HOW DO YOU SELECT A DESIGN-BUILD CONTRACTOR?  To limit risks, you’ll benefit from using a qualifications-based selection process.  Rather than choosing a contractor based solely on lowest bid, qualification-based selection involves choosing the company that has the best credentials, expertise, and reputation.  It’s important to hire a licensed and insured company who offers an experienced team and has a satisfied client base.  

On the design side, you want someone whose tastes are compatible with your own.  Ask to see their portfolio of designs and talk with former clients about how responsive and open they were to suggestions.  On the contractor side, you’ll want to ask about the types of jobs they’ve completed, how much work is completed by employees versus subcontractors, and any speciality expertise (such as green building).  To read more tips, click here.

Homebuilding should be a rewarding and exciting experience, not a nightmare of delays, miscommunication, and surprise costs.  Design-build can help alleviate these stressors.  Contact the Coastal Cottage Company to learn more about design-build and custom vacation homes!


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

quality outer banks home builder

Choosing a Quality Outer Banks Builder

A SHORT GUIDE TO FINDING THE RIGHT BUILDER FOR YOUR OUTER BANKS HOME

Building a home on the Outer Banks can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience. Choosing a quality home builder for your project is paramount to it’s success, so be sure to take time to do your homework. Here are a few things to help find the Outer Banks builder that’s right for you? 

THE RIGHT FIT: Find a quality outer banks home builder that’s right for you and your project. The Outer Banks is home to many residential contractors and home builders. Some contractors specialize in a particular style, size or price range while others build a broad range of homes. Some companies are large and some small. Some have in house design teams and others outsource the design. Start by defining your projects size, style and budget. Decide if you need a professional in-house design team that will follow the project through completion. Then determine if you want to use a large corporate company or a small hands on contractor. Defining your projects needs is key to finding an Outer Banks builder that best suits your project. 

quality outer banks home builderCUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Find out what previous customers have to say. Above all, talking to previous customers is one of the most important steps when choosing your Outer Banks home builder. The information you can obtain from a previous customer is invaluable. A trustworthy builder will proudly, and without hesitation, provide you with testimonials and references. If you didn’t receive a list of  references from your potential builder be sure to ask for them. A satisfied or dissatisfied customer will enjoy sharing their building experience with you so don’t hesitate to contact them. 

EXPERIENCE: Don’t confuse experience for quality and visa versa. You cannot discount experience as it is one of the most important attributes in construction. However, experience does not make a quality Outer Banks builder. Not every experienced architect is a quality architect. Not every experienced doctor is a quality doctor. And not every experienced home builder is a quality home builder. Fact is, every home building company, including the top quality firms, once built their first home. Most new or start-up companies are founded by highly experienced and qualified builders, so don’t be quick to discount them. Instead look for strong overall experience within the company as well of signs of quality construction when evaluating experience. 

TRUST AND COMMITMENT: Building a home is a balancing act between the design, the construction and the budget. It is imperative you partner with a builder who is committed to your project and one that you trust unequivocally. The relationship you form with your Outer Banks builder will be paramount for the projects success. With home construction lasting from 6-18 months, it is crucial to develop not only a professional relationship with your builder but a personal one as well. A great relationship with a builder who is committed to you, the design and the quality of your home will pay dividends in the end. 

quality outer banks home builderQUALITY AND DETAIL: A well built-quality home becomes quite apparent if you know what to look for. Take some time to tour a few homes that the company has built. Be sure to look at both new and older homes. Most new homes look great at first glance but viewing older homes gives an idea of how they hold up to the test of time. Look for quality and detail in every aspect of the home. What products are being used? What brand cabinetry and counters are in the homes? What type of doors are being used and  how do they fit? Look at the miters and joints on the trim? How is the outside detailed and what products are used? Look at the appliances, toilets, tubs, plumbing fixtures and lighting, are they reputable brands? Don’t get caught up by the look of the home, dig into whats underneath the presentation, that’s were you will determine the quality.

LICENSED AND INSURED: Be sure your dealing with a licensed and insured general contractor. North Carolina requires a residential contractors license for home construction and  any construction project over thirty thousand dollars, so be sure to ask your contractor for his/her license number. You can check online with the NC Board of General Contractors at www.nclbgc.org. Be sure to check the license type, status and validity. In addition to a valid license, be sure your builder is insured. Workman’s Compensation, General Liability Insurance and Builders Risk are the typical insurances which should be present throughout a typical building project. Discuss this with your potential Outer Banks builder and be sure the insurances are in place during the building process.  

WARRANTY SERVICE: One of the advantages of building a new home on the Outer Banks verses buying one is the warranty. A new home and everything within it, including all fixtures and appliances, should be warrantied for a minimum of one year. Some builders offer extended warranties and others handle extended service plans. Be sure to look for a structural warranty of 10 years or more. A builder who can offer this type of warranty stands behind his/her work and is willing to back it up.  Ask previous clients about prompt warranty service. Was the service handled quickly and professionally or were the warranty items put on the back burner? Issues will arise in home construction, its just a fact, but how the issues are handled by the builder is key. 

Lastly, you are entering into a long term commitment with your  builder. Be sure you take the time to ask the right questions, check references and look for signs of quality and outstanding character. Doing your homework and choosing the right builder for your new home will make the entire process more enjoyable and run smoother for both you and your builder.  


–blog by Michael K. York, The Coastal Cottage Company

 quality outer banks home builder

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