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The lowest bid may be misleading: get apples to apples

This is a renovation principle to live by:

Whenever possible, get three bids for home improvement work. But don't assume that the bids will come back apples to apples.

Resist the temptation to just go with the lowest bid

Just because you sent the same request to three architects or contractors does not mean the cost estimates are comparable or complete. Each bid should include details in categories that you can compare.

Depending on their expertise and assumptions, bids will come back with different approaches and categories.

What do instead:

  1. Compare assumptions: Put them side by side in a spreadsheet

  2. Look for gaps:

  3. Ask additional additional questions

(Let's assume each delivers the same quality of work, which isn't necessarily true.)

Let's say you're renovating and expanding your primary bathroom. You've narrowed it down to your top two. If it's no outlined in the bid, don't assume it's included. Bid #2 looks the lowest, but excludes a couple key categories.

Just because demolition and permits aren't included in that bid doesn't mean they aren't required.


Bid 2

Bid 2



Not mentioned



Not estimated




Before you default to the lowest bid, make sure your estimates are apples to apples.

About the author

Hey there neighbor, I'm Julie Bennett.

This is Julie Bennett, founder of the Renovator's Toolkit. She is on a mission to make renovation easier for homeowners.  When you renovate for the first time,  you don't know what you  don't know.  Julie is here to help you know what decisions to make and when so you can create your dream home.

I'm a homeowner turned renovator and a Seattle real estate agent. I'm a woman on a mission to make renovation easier. I had some "if I had only known" moments when renovating my homes. I started Renovator's Toolkit to help homeowners like you "know what you don't know."


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