By Karen Tyrrell
As I mentioned in the last article, we thought we had a good idea of how this program was going to go down – simply pick an architect/draftsman, bid the project, choose a builder, hire a designer to decorate, move into the house. Not quite.
We learned the hard way that in order to eat this elephant without choking, we needed to start with smaller bites. (I actually hate that saying but cannot think of another one that more accurately applies.) We have been blessed with so many friends who have offered help and guidance, and even still this seems a monumental task for us “laypeople. We were fortunate enough to have been referred to an excellent draftsman who got us going and provided us with a basic floor plan we used as a springboard into the bidding process.
We met with three builders – all referred by friends who have built lovely, quality homes and really respected their contractors and their work ethics. The bidding process alone is much more lengthy and complicated than we would have ever guessed. And, it required that we put in more research ahead of time than we realized.
I’m embarrassed by how much I underestimated this process. I figured they estimated square footage and level of finishes based on what I had on the information I provided them, plugged in some numbers, and out popped a bid in a few days. Evidently that is not the case. It is a significant amount of work for these builders and can take 2-4 weeks or more to get all the estimates back from their suppliers and subs depending on the complexity of the job.
So, after an incredibly frustrating process of bidding (for us and the contractors), these are my suggestions.
What to Consider Before Asking for Construction Bids
Make a list of “Must Haves” and “Absolutely Nots”
For example: “we must have 3 bedrooms plus a game room,” or “my office must be far away from kid zones,” or “we need a mother-in-law suite,” or “the master bedroom must be up or downstairs.” Do you have to have all wood floors or all tile or all carpet, marble in all bathrooms, no marble anywhere because it will be destroyed, tongue and groove ceilings, a workout or music room, separate master closets? Maybe you need a “safe room” – those are coming back in style.
Have a Rough Idea of Elevations and Floor Plans
Number of bedrooms and bathrooms, traditional, modern, single or two-story, courtyard, C-shaped…
List Your Ideal Exterior and Roofing Materials
Brick, cedar shakes, clapboard, stucco, or maybe a mix? Are you drawn to architectural shingles or metal roofs, a simple roofline or more dramatic? The more complex the roofline, the more expensive
Visit Stone, Tile, and Flooring Showrooms
It’s important to get a sense of price and selections upfront – porcelain tiles vs. marble in the bathroom, marble vs. quartzite vs. man-made products, maybe even butcher block or cement counters somewhere.
Consider Kitchen Appliances
Do you want or need top of the line or specialty appliances over mid-range appliances? The cost spread is significant between brands, with prices ranging from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on your choices.
Look at Faucets and Showers at Design Showrooms
Do you want very simple, affordable plumbing or do you view faucets as “jewelry” in bathrooms and kitchens? If you envision high-end appliances, a $15,000 budget will not work.
Think About Door Materials
Do you want wood or fiberglass? And do you need solid interior doors?
Will You be Building a Pool?
If so, will it be simple or do you want water or fire features, a spa, a screen? Pool estimates can come in anywhere from $40,000 to over $100,000 depending on what you want.
Think About Driveway Materials
It’s important to give your builder some direction – cement, bricks, gravel, cobblestone – in order to calculate a budget.
Envision Your Landscaping
Are you an eco-friendly minimalist or are you hoping for a full English garden situation?
Key Takeaway When You Are Ready To Select a Builder
The point here being, the more detailed you can get with what you want, the better and more accurate the bids. If the builder has to guess what level of materials you will put in the house, they will more than likely bid a lower price point which in turn makes the cost of building the home look more appealing. Choosing a builder on their bid alone is a terribly unwise decision. Tempting, but unwise.
We agonized over our decision – literally, we went back and forth 20 times in our choice, wrote lists of pros and cons, and had really in-depth arguments conversations about what we valued in each choice. As I mentioned, all three builders were highly qualified, had clients who raved about them and are honest and trustworthy.
In the end, we chose a builder with over 45 years of experience who has been using the same reliable subs for decades, has seen probably everything there is to see when problems arise, and who runs a clean and safe job site.
Next, we interview a designer! This is my favorite part of the process however, as an admitted commitment-phobe, it is proving to be the most challenging personally. Decision fatigue is setting in.