When the weather turns warm, your thoughts may turn to…home improvement projects! From redoing the tile in the bathroom to having a deck installed, many homeowners and renters upgrade during the warm months.
Quotes from contractors can be expensive, and negotiating with them about prices can be daunting. Not only that, but price is one of a number of things you might have to negotiate. There’s timing, materials, completion dates and a score of other potential items to consider.
That can be intimidating, especially if you’re not comfortable with negotiation anyway. But fear not. Contractors expect potential clients to negotiate. It’s part of their business. There are tips to know that will make it easier. The more you negotiate, the easier it will become.
Here are nine tips for negotiating contractor quotes.
In any process where prices and amenities are negotiable, it’s wise to look at several choices. You wouldn’t buy the first house or car you looked at with no compromise about the price, right? Contracting work is no different. Consulting three contractors about your project is a good rule of thumb. Ask them about prices, materials and completion dates.
Remember to ask if they do the work or subcontract it out. Subcontractors can add a hefty price, so make sure your bill is itemized.
Don’t keep the fact of receiving other bids private! Let them know you are talking to several contractors. This makes you look professional and knowledgeable about their industry. Even more importantly, it makes them realize your business is theirs to win or lose. Competition brings the price down.
As you begin to negotiate, you want to know your potential contractors are good quality. There is no point in picking the most inexpensive if the contractor turns out to be less than adequate. It can cost you in redoing or repairing the work. So first, make sure your candidates are all bonded, licensed and insured. This protects you if they injure themselves, you or your property. It’s also a mark of professionalism.
Second, ask for references. Can they give you examples of their work and testimonials from the homeowners? If not, reconsider using their services.
Contractors have very busy schedules once the weather turns warm. Construction of all types comes to a halt once it starts to rain. So, prices may be highest and availability lowest during the warm weather months. If your home improvement project can be done during the winter, make life easy and do it then. Most interior remodels could be done then, and prices may be cheaper. Availability may be better as well.
Ask if materials will make a difference in the cost. They often do. A marble or fieldstone patio may well be more expensive than a concrete one. Granite kitchen counters are more expensive than Formica. This is a particularly good negotiating technique if your budget is limited. Contractors will be able to give you advice on getting the project you want with materials that are manageable in cost.
If you can, doing some initial work can lower costs. Painting walls or moldings can be a relatively simple job and improve both costs and timing. Even ripping out kitchen counters is not hard if you’re handy.
Be sure to discuss this openly with the contractor. You want to make sure you will not be in the contracting crew’s way. You also want to make sure you will not be ripping out that counter only to have them tell you the new one is two weeks away due to delays on their other project.
It will help both you and the contractor to establish a firm scope to your home improvement plans. Contractors are businesspeople. Businesspeople upsell to get more money. Many clients may like to be upsold. If they’re having a deck put in, why not a fire pit for outdoor cooking at the same time?
If you are concerned about costs, upselling can wreak havoc with your budget. Make it clear you only want the project you are paying for.
If the bids come in high, a great technique is to ask for advice. Let the contractors know you have a budget in mind. Directly inquire whether less expensive materials, an alternative design or different methods could lower the budget. Treat them respectfully. They do this all the time and may be able to suggest workable alternatives.
See if paying in cash will earn you a discount. It may be advantageous for contractors to deal with cash rather than with credit cards or checks. If it makes their life less expensive or more convenient, they may be willing to pass that benefit on to you.
While dealing with contractors can be anxiety-provoking, there are many ways to negotiate their quotes. These nine methods will help you get the best deal possible on your home improvement project.