Q: We are on a budget. Should I choose the contractor with the cheapest estimate?
A: If you are shopping for the cheapest price, there is nothing I can say to help you choose a good contractor. Anyone can finagle a bid to come in at the lowest price. This can be very costly to the homeowner. A lowest bidder may be low because he has left something out of the bid or he is new to the industry and underestimates the cost of doing business. He will need to add change orders to compensate for what he forgot on the estimate or he may run out of money before the job is complete.
Once you have found a contractor that you can trust based on the guidelines above, ask them for an estimate without telling them your budget. Calculating an accurate bid for a project takes lots of time. For that reason, many companies charge for the estimate. Once you are given the price, ask them what is covered and, just as importantly, what is not covered. If the price seems high, ask the company what about their services sets them apart and makes their pricing worth the money. If it is low, ask them how they are able to bid low. If it seems too good to be true, it is.
Rosie Romero is the host of the Saturday morning “Rosie on the House” radio program, heard locally from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST (790-AM) in Tucson.