Does The "Get 3 Bids" Rule Work?

Thinking through the 3-bid rule in selecting a remodeler

There are lots of rules in life. Some are good, like the golden rule. Some are stupid, like the 5-second rule—as if germs can count. So, what about the rule of three as in “Get Three Bids,” before choosing a remodeler?

There are “rules of three” for nearly every walk of life actually, most notably in aviation, mathematics, the written word and photography. There’s also the unofficial college dating rule—never go out with 3 different girls in the same night. This goes double, or even triple as it were, if they’re from the same dorm! But does the rule of three make sense for choosing a remodeler? And who floated this idea in the first place?

If you Wiki search “Get three bids” to see who invented this idea, you don’t get much. We suspect the insurance companies are most likely to blame. Aren't they the ones that tell you to get three bids for your car repair? You feel obligated to agree of course, but feel a little abused by the assignment, right? Why is that suddenly my job?

They of course already know what it should cost, but they’re hoping you’ll spend your precious limited time getting the lowest bid for them, which probably won’t be adequate to get the job done right, but the goal is to make you feel warm and frugal fuzzy all over. Swell.

So it’s not surprising to think the rule of three applies to most everything else in life too, except well, for maybe spouses and apples. But everything else so easily becomes a price comparison game. And you can only win that simple game when you've compared all possible prices. That works for some things, like TV’s and blue tooth devices, but not for something as complex as remodeling.

Hey hon, I had no idea we could get a new bathroom for so little!

Identity confusion isn’t a crime, but maybe it should be considering what goes on at your “find a contractor” online service providers, where you are “advised” to think of "contractors" and "Pros" are the same as remodelers. They are not.

In most cases, especially in the “find a pro” world, a contractor is a guy in a truck. He might do one or two things well, but he is not capable of design/build. Heck, not all remodelers are fully capable either or comparable in skill, business acumen, or longevity.

So don’t get suckered into thinking a price from a pro in your neighborhood is going to get you more than additional spam emails and an unrealistic view of what actual remodeling really costs. We can all appreciate passing a background check, but that's a pretty low bar for choosing someone. If he's just going to clean your gutters that's probably enough. If he's going to gut and re-invent your kitchen, well, you might want to take a step back and run.

Love the backsplash and all the new countertop space Lizzy!

So no, you can’t remodel an entire kitchen for $8,000 unless it’s the one your 5-year-old plays with in her room each day.

Murphy Bros. CotY (Contractor of the Year) regional award winning kitchens over $150,000.

In the remodeling industry we contend with this price-oriented, rule of three on a daily basis. And, it drives us a little batty because it misses the strike zone by a whole ballpark. And here’s why. When you buy a car you are getting a finished product you can test drive. It comes assembled. All the suppliers, vendors and union assemblers are done with it. It can be priced, discounted and easily compared. That makes sense.

This is a Škoda—a Czech made automobile. Lots of moving parts you don't think about—just like in a remodeling project. In August 2011 a special Škoda Octavia vRS set the world record at the Bonneville Speedway when it hit 227 mph!

However, when you hire a design/build remodeler (not a contractor) to remodel your home, you are buying just the opposite.

It is analogous to hiring a car company to help you design and build a concept car of your very own. It will have four wheels and an engine, but the rest is up to you. You are literally buying ideas, concepts, design and construction experience, relationships, schedules, capabilities, skills, materials, and methods—all floating on a sea of fluctuating prices.

So, unlike a car, remodeling begins as an unassembled idea. You can’t test drive it. You can’t actually know the exact cost until all those items are selected, negotiated with suppliers and vendors to create the budget to build what you want. It is an act of co-creation that takes dozens of hours to figure out and therefore can't be free. This is why a "free estimate" won't help you. At best they are nothing more than a steaming pile of foot-in-the-door guesses. At worst, they quickly become a blank check with no end in sight.

In other words, you can’t really choose a design/build company by comparing 3 prices, or even 10. That is in fact, completely backwards. If you want to get an objective idea of what things cost in general, look at the Cost Vs. Value report.

But if you want to find the best remodeler for your project, you’ve got to look at it very differently and for different things.

We encourage you to think of your own caption here as anything we could think of would probably get us in trouble.

So, if you shouldn’t be looking for a “low-low price” provider, what then? We’d like to suggest that you should be looking first and foremost, for a great collaborative relationship—a seasoned guide, a highly capable and competent “got your back” tell the truth trustworthy partner. You are interviewing, not shopping. You are looking for the best overall match.

95% of people narrow things down online from dozens to a few to meet. But, if you can’t find someone you can trust that makes a good fit for your project, after three interviews or less, you’re probably not asking the right questions.

Just make sure you are comparing equals, design/build to design/build, with similar years in business, capabilities and size to fit your project. To be perfectly honest, there just aren’t that many around.

Babylonian and/or ancient Chinese mathematics did come up with a inverse proportional rule of three where more requires less, and less requires more...RULE: Multiply the first and second terms together, and divide the product by the third; the quotient will bear such proportion to the second as the first does to the third. So, if 10 men can dig a trench in 4 days, how long will 7 men take to dig a similar trench? x = 10*4/7 = 5.7 days.

We confess this has nothing to do with remodeling, but if you’re the 7th guy on a Monday dig and you’ve got a noon tee time on Saturday, this might be of interest. We try to think of everything.

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