Design Build versus Competitive Build

One challenge that I face all the time when giving a customer a price on a job is the following. Most people only pay for what is called black line plans: a sketch / plans that show a layout of their project, with all the sizes marked, showing the approximate layout, along with side elevations. This type of project is perfect for a design build arrangement.

As the contractor, I ask all of the questions necessary to come up with the specifications, including materials to be used, the quality and level of the materials to be used, types of flooring, types of tile for the bathroom, wood types for kitchen cabinets, various counter top materials and the price range. And the list goes on.

We normally start by asking all of these questions. This is, basically, an educational process for the customer. I find that many customers are overwhelmed in the process, and they often comment that they had no idea they would need to provide this level of information. In many cases, even these specific questions don’t finalize the exact materials to be used. Frequently, the customer then needs to visit various show rooms to shop and see first hand the actual materials which are available. In some cases, we give allowances for materials when developing our quotes for the overall project.

But frequently, I’ll get a call 2-3 weeks later with the prospective customer letting me know that they’ve chosen another construction company which provided a lower quote. The customer will typically say that they contacted three different contractors and obtained three different prices (though the quotes commonly don’t reflect an apples to apples comparison). My first question is whether the prospective customer included the same finished specifications that we included in our quote; in most cases, the answer is no, but the price was lower. And the conversation ends.

I have had numerous jobs that have abruptly ended with the customer opting for the lower bid, only to be called back in several months by the same customer who had to discharge the contractor and would now like us to come in and correct and finish out the project.

Please understand that I am not against getting multiple prices on any project. But realize, as a client, in order to receive three prices to consider, you have to provide all of the information that is the same to all three contractors. And this requires that you have the architect & architectural plans, and that you interview several contractors, and get references of past customers and jobs that they have completed. And then consider a design build agreement to complete your project. This is the most cost effective way to complete any project. And the most important part is having a relationship with a contractor that you can trust.

If anyone would like to discuss such an agreement with D.R. Hartman Construction Inc, please realize that this is what we do best. We educate you, and we work for you, not against you. We help in the making of your decisions throughout the entire construction process.

Referrals and pictures are available upon request.

Don Hartman

D.R. Hartman Construction Inc

If you are looking for a full service commercial or residential construction company in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., or Fairfax County, Virginia region, we'd love to have the opportunity to learn about your construction project and give you a free quote. Submit our online contact form or call Don Hartman at (301) 926-9000.

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