Many buyers of services and goods try to obtain three or more prices. This will give you a comparison of what you receive for what you intend to spend. Generally speaking the better the product you want the more you will have to pay for it. The same tenets apply to services such as construction work.
You may have come across tradespeople whom you have already rejected under the criteria given above. There is no benefit in requesting a quote from these people.
Find two or three tradespeople who could be suitable, give them a written statement of the work required and request a quote. The documentation can be the drawings and specifications for a new house or simply a description of a garden wall. The more thorough the documentation, the less likely that there will be variations in the scope of work covered by the quotes received.
The larger the job, the more quotes are required. On very small jobs it may be impractical to get more than one quote - the size of the task may not warrant the time required to prepare a tender for a job when the sub-contractor may not win it. The best option may be to choose a reliable contractor and have them prepare a quote before work begins.
For small jobs, say $500-$2000, a couple of quotes may suffice, particularly if the amounts are similar. If there is a wide variation, a third quote is desirable.
On large projects several quotes are required as the variations can be quite large, often in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are unsure of the extent of work, discuss your requirements with the tenderers and ensure that all tenderers are quoting on the same job description.
The quote or tender should provide:
- An accurate and dimensioned description of the work.
- Clear and concise timetabling of the work.
- Confirmation on whether the owner (you) or the sub-contractor will be responsible for cleaning up the site and removing debris.
- Information on payment arrangements and the completion of the contract.
Adequate insurance cover.
Selecting a Quote
Check that the tenderers are all quoting on the same thing. If there significant differences, determine the reasons why. It may be necessary to have one or more sub-contractors re‑tender after giving them more information to bring them in line with the other quotes.
Watch out for deliberate errors. An unscrupulous subcontractor may omit items, only to charge you extra on the job when they are needed, or substitute inferior (cheaper) products. Alternatively they may increase their price, not to pay for a better job but to include things you don't need.
Always avoid the subcontractor who promises 'the best price in town' but won't give a written quote. Verbal quotes don't count. Even for the simplest of jobs, it only takes a minute for the subcontractor to jot down the quote on a piece of paper and sign it.
Good communication between you and the sub-contractor is essential to ensure that the work is done to your requirements in a cost‑effective manner that enables the sub-contractor to earn his wages. Any specific requirements or changes requested by you or the sub-contractor should always be confirmed in writing to avoid costly disputes later. The origin of most disputes that end up in long-running Court battles can be traced back to poor written documentation before and/or during the construction period.