How to get an accurate proposal for your project.

As a design professional I meet clients at varying stages of their journey. Some have already acquired their current project and need help revitalizing it while others are looking for just the right space. Regardless of where you are in the process there are many common, predictable things that happen throughout construction projects. In an effort to help educate anyone who may be working through the design and construction process, we offer this ongoing series of tips.

Whether you are looking for an architect an engineer or a contractor you need to get a good accurate price for what your project will require. An inaccurate fee or bid will leave you paying more than you likely would have later in the project when the inaccuracy is discovered. How do you avoid this?

First, Talk to the Building Department

First, educate yourself about what your project will require. Contact the local building department and ask to speak with a building official. You will often need to leave them a message, be prepared. Leave a brief but informational message with clearly iterated contact information. Always provide the potential project address if you can. When the official calls back be ready to describe what you would like to do and then ask them what will be required and who should provide it. You will need to take notes.

Next, reach out to the design professionals or contractors.

They will all need to know the same information that you provided to the building official. Email is the best way to provide the information after the initial call. If interested in your project, they will contact you after reviewing your email to setup an initial meeting. You should contact as many as necessary to get at minimum 3 proposals. The initial meeting is an important first step to getting accurate prices. Listen very carefully to what the professionals say and take notes. They will tell you how they feel the project should be conducted, an estimated timeline and how the proposal they will provide will reflect this. It is important at this point to communicate the scope of the services that you would like if they are different than what is suggested. Do this with each design professional or contractor, being certain to provide the same information to each.

Lastly, Choose the Right Design Professional or Contractor

When you receive the proposals, often presented in person, compare them and verify each is providing what was requested. Contact any who have deviations and determine why and how that impacted the price and timeline. You should evaluate the proposals based upon cost as well as experience, the detailed understanding demonstrated any references provided and personality. Now make a decision on who you feel will best make your project a success. If you’ve done all the legwork you should have an accurate cost range for the services requested.

I hope this helps anyone in need to make a sound decision and I welcome any questions or comments.