Getting Bids When You Build A New House

By Todd Fratzel on Home Improvement Cost Savings

picture of adding machineAs I continue this series, Total House Construction Series – Foundation to Finish, I want to focus on getting bids and estimates for the work that needs to be performed. You’ve finally got your blue prints so now you’re ready to get bids and estimates from contractors.

Now getting bids and estimates can an overwhelming task for the average home owner especially if you plan on being your own general contractor. However, if you have a good set of detailed blue prints the process of getting firm bids will be much easier. You may want to buy a book such as Estimating Home Construction Costs which you can get on Amazon. The key to the whole process is to get multiple bids and qualifications from competent contractors.

If you’re going to hire a general contractor then you’ll want to get several complete bids from several different GC’s. Make sure you give each GC the same plans and specifications so they all bid on the same scope of work. It will be very difficult to compare bids if you ask each of them to make too many assumptions. In addition to the bids try and get a list of past customers that you can contact as a reference. The final decision may be based more on the reference than the price.

If you’re going to be your own GC, then your task of getting bids will be a bit more complicated and time consuming. First of all you’re going to have to find sub-contractors for each of the trades, everything from concrete foundations to finish carpenters and painters. Again, you’ll want to get multiple bids from each trade along with references. I hope this is where you start to understand why it’s difficult and time consuming being your own GC.

Make sure that each bid you recieve comes with a written description of the scope of work associated with the estimate. Make sure that the estimate is signed and dated and clearly spells out the terms of the proposed contract. Make sure you understand how and when payments are to be made. And lastly make sure you ask the contractor how long they warranty their work.

Give yourself several weeks to put together all the estimates. Most local building supply companies provide free estimating services for the material package. They can estimate everything from the wood framing to siding, windows, doors, insulation, flooring, cabinetry and painting. That way most of the materials are estimated by the same place you’ll buy them and you can focus your attention on the labor.

I hope this post gives you come ideas and guidelines for getting bids when you build a new house.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Nowell Upham says:

    Great site. I’m about 4 years out from building my dream home, my final abode. It’ll be in Duxbury, Ma, where I grew up. I’m currently working/residng in Texas, working to save the money I’ll need for the build. I plan to move in summer of 2023. (Yes, I’m a planner.)

    I already bought the land, where there’s an old house 1.5 story in the side of a hill, overlooking a marsh. It’s a 2500 square foot house, with a basement under half of it.

    I’ve had an architecht help me with remodel plans. Here’s the twist, I’ve changed roof lines, all the windows, turned crawl space to new basement area, etc… Plus I’d like to add radiant throughout and have the basement be mostly finished space.

    And I’m adding a whole new detached garage and loft and countersinking a sport court into the hill side, so there’s going to be a lot of excavation and concrete pouring already. Eak.

    Let the questions begin:

    1. How do I determined if I should level house and rebuild, will GC’s give me an honest (cost savings) answer, or will they be incented to suggest the scap it and build option, b/c it’s easier for them vs. working off the few remaining old bones?

    2. How many months out should I plan on breaking ground for the most cost-efficent build? The old house there is currently generating $25K/yr in rent.

    3. I’m considering using timber-framing build for the center of the house think ski-lodge with carport roof that extends through lobby/great room area, any advice on if they will provide free estimates for that? (If I go that route, now I know the middle 1/3 of the house will be all new construction.)

    4. I’m wondering if I should consider prefab/SIP construction, where after I have the foundation work done, Most of the house is delivered on truck and assembled on site. How does someone decide of prefab SIP construction is right for their project?

    • Todd Fratzel says:


      Sorry for the late response.

      1. This is always a really hard question. I’ve done a massive remodel for a customer and when we finished I think everyone that worked on it decided new would have been better…but that’s only after tearing in and finding the conditions that we couldn’t see. From the little you wrote, I’m thinking new may be better, just my gut reaction.
      2. The key here is working around weather. Here in NH I generally like to start a project late May / early April to avoid winter costs.
      3. Find a GC that has experience with timber frames, they can get pricing from the timber frame companies easily. I will say, many GC’s I know in MA are now charging for estimates (we still do free…but considering charging a fee as it’s so costly, and for every 10 houses we price, we build 1).
      4. 95% of our work is pre-fab. Whether it’s traditional framing or timber frame. In my opinion, it’s the only way to go. Better quality (done inside a factory), and less weather delays. Don’t mistake pre-fab for modular..not the same thing. Pre-fab is really built the same way we would on site…just in a factory..then we stand the walls with a crane.

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