Aside from location, choosing a contractor is perhaps one of the biggest factors involved in commercial construction projects. General contractors (GCs) submit bid proposals to compete for the job, a process called bidding — and it’s not always wise to choose the lowest bid price. Below we offer some insider tips and best practices to help demystify the commercial construction bidding process and make sure you find the right GC for the job.
Start With Thorough Research
Limit your search for a GC to a small handful of options to minimize overwhelm. Speak to your peers first; ask real estate agents your organization works with for references and look to your professional network for recommendations. Read online reviews and testimonials and check out their work in person. Look for portfolios that feature properties similar to your project, and skill sets that help with specialty buildings like healthcare facilities or eCommerce-optimized warehouses.
Vet the Contractors
Commercial construction contractors know that potential clients will have a long list of questions to ask, so don’t be shy. Think about their answers to help better understand their approach to the construction process:
- Do they have any specialties or particular expertise?
- How long have they been in business? Are they licensed and bonded?
- Can they provide references? How is their company structured?
- Which projects are they most proud of and can they provide examples?
Let the contractors know your vision, and listen to their response when they explain how they would make it a reality. This will narrow down your options even before you request proposals.
Polish Your Plans
After you’ve settled on a shortlist of GCs, make sure your plans are clear and concise. When you send them out to the contractors, include a scope of work and materials needed as well — the more details, the easier it is for GCs to offer accurate proposals. If your plans aren’t finished yet or the project is still in concept mode, you can ask for an estimate. However, this is simply an estimation and the end price of the project could vary greatly.
Take Time On a Template
Using a template to submit to GCs for bids makes it much easier to compare proposals and even scale the commercial construction bidding process to go along with the size of future projects. Don’t overwhelm the template with line items. You want enough for your needs and an additional section for GC overhead and profit, no more than 20 line items altogether. In the absence of software that collects bids, templates help compile quantitative data that lets you fairly compare GC bid proposals.
Break Down the Bids
Use those templates and compare them side by side. The key is to look for discrepancies between bids among different line items and try to figure out where the difference in price lies. Don’t be afraid to follow up on these differences with each GC about why the number is off. Read the fine print in the notes at the bottom of the proposal to understand the scope of work and any exceptions to avoid costly surprises at the end of the project.
Invest In an Interview
If this feels like you’re heading into a job interview, that’s because you are. The job is your project, and the candidate is the GC. Whether it’s in-person or virtually, schedule an interview in real-time to ask your chosen commercial contractor more questions. Get a better sense of the team you’re working with and who you’ll be communicating with the most. Ensure that you have clear answers to all of your questions before starting work and that everyone is on the same page.
Commercial construction projects and renovations are huge and costly projects, and working with the right general contractor from the beginning can be key to project success. When it’s time to bid on your next commercial construction project, consider us. Our experience in all aspects of construction, pre-construction management, and development directly benefits our clients. We are a team of dedicated professionals who conduct business with honesty and integrity. Through hard work and strong management, our projects result in quality construction at competitive prices.