Making Informed Choices for Home Improvement Purchases

Making Informed Choices for Home Improvement Purchases
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    In today’s economy, it has become more important than ever to be a smart consumer and make informed choices when buying any goods and/or services.


For homeowners considering large home improvements this is a crucial concept. Every penny counts, but how to best determine value and cost eludes most. Many will waste countless hours calling and meeting contractors only to receive sales pitches, conflicting information and self-serving project recommendations. Often, owners tire of the process and “give up” conceding to the provider who “appears” to be the most professional.

This is, to say the least, very risky business.

Far too often, buying decisions rely solely on the basis of information provided by contractors whose primary responsibility is to themselves not their client. Construction details, materials and contractual agreements are typically defined by the Contractor performing the work. It is no accident that successful contractors craft such recommendations in ways that best suit their company’s bottom line.

For a number of reasons, engaging in large projects defined solely (or predominantly) by the provider is not good business practice.

These factors (details, materials and rules of engagement) affect cost, and vary widely between contractors/companies. The key for the home owner is to cut through these variables by defining their needs clearly and objectively. This is where having an expert consultant/third party to help evaluate and clarify your project is invaluable.

Please note: An estimate is not a bid/proposal. An estimate is an educated guess and is not a functional price. A bid is a defined value for providing specific tasks. The process of randomly calling several contractors to provide estimates on your project is not a bid event. The information/numbers received from such events is essentially worthless in guiding informed buying choices.

My preferred vehicle to easily cut through salesmanship and contractor games is the use of a professional objective Bid-Form. Done correctly, a real “apples to apples” bid event is the best way for an owner to easily and objectively evaluate several providers at once.

This saves time, cuts out the nonsense and gives owners real protection and accountability. Examples of how this process plays out can be found at Crafting a professional Bid-Form that steers a project towards requires robust construction knowledge. How the Bid-Form is presented, defined and reviewed with bidders also steers the course of the project and standards of engagement.

Without a clearly defined scope of work, project standards/details, buying choices (“Cadillac versus Chevrolet”), as well as defined contract and business standards, there is no way to objectively gauge which Contractor or material provides the best value for your unique needs and resources.

At the end of day, receiving “apples to apples” bids provides owners defined values and clear means to select the best contractor for their project. It saves time, provides true buying choices and establishes rules for engagement and contract that carry over into execution of work.  This is how construction professionals plan and execute improvement projects…it should be the standard for homeowners as well.


Dan Sanderman, President of Apples to Apples LLC and, has been designing and managing construction projects for 15-years. His goal is to promote fair competition among quality contractors to provided owners the very best value for their projects.



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