Issue getting bid from contractor

66 Replies

Hey BP community looking for some insight here. I've been trying to get bids for some work on a newly acquired triplex, and recently guy response back from one of the contractors that kind of took me back. Not sure if what I'm sending is maybe too detailed or in-depth, but wondering if I need to adjust what I'm sending them. Below is the message that I sent to a contractor and their response, as well as the scope of work document I sent them.

"Morning _______, I hope you had a good weekend and thanks again for replying back to me on facebook. Attached is the construction scope of the work and we discussed. I would still like to see about having you out on Thursday or Friday to look at the project and bid it out. I currently have a company scheduled at 1 pm on Thursday, as well as one @ 12 pm on Friday. Let me know what time works best for you."

Contractor response:

"Im gonna pass. I as the contractor come to the table with the paperwork and contract.

This not how I conduct my business.

Good Luck"

What are your guy's thoughts, was what I sent him to much? Or is this just the contractor's way of not wanting to bid the job.

This is some of the scope of work I sent him below. The only thing I can think of was the lines where it stated material cost and total cost for each section. Really I did this so if there are things/areas I need to remove to stick to my budget it is easier to do so.

Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg :

Hey BP community looking for some insight here. I've been trying to get bids for some work on a newly acquired triplex, and recently guy response back from one of the contractors that kind of took me back. Not sure if what I'm sending is maybe to detailed or in depth, but wondering if I need to adjust what I'm sending them. Below is the message that I sent to a contractor and their response, as well as the scope of work document I sent them.

"Morning _______, I hope you had a good weekend and thanks again for replying back to me on facebook. Attached is the construction scope of the work and we discussed. I would still like to see about having you out on Thursday or Friday to look at the project. I currently have a company scheduled at 1 pm on Thursday, as well as one @ 12 pm on Friday. Let me know what time works best for you."

Contractor response:

"Im gonna pass. I as the contractor come to the table with the paper work and contract.

This not how I conduct my business.

Good Luck"

What are your guys's thoughts, was what I sent him to much? Or is this just the contractor's way of not wanting to bid the job.

You've got a typical "entitled consumer" mindset. That's fine for things where it's a buyer's market. But skilled GC labor is a seller's market. Due to supply/demand imbalance, the people "selling" their skilled labor dictate terms, timelines, prices, et cetera. Granted I'm here in the SF Bay Area where that is more true than most places. But, in general, GCs are the price setters, consumers of those goods/services are the price takers.

Here's an exact quote from my GC father in law: "I've been raising my rates 20% per year for the last 5 years, and the market has not even blinked." You will not find him on google or anywhere else, he's 100% referral based, he's busy as hell, and the only reason he isn't retired is b/c his rates have more than doubled in 5 years. He's barely willing to do a little $75k job to begin... If you hit him with your initial email, I think the response you got is far more polite than what he'd have responded with, assuming he didn't ignore the message entirely. 

Originally posted by @Chris Mason Mason:
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:

Hey BP community looking for some insight here. I've been trying to get bids for some work on a newly acquired triplex, and recently guy response back from one of the contractors that kind of took me back. Not sure if what I'm sending is maybe to detailed or in depth, but wondering if I need to adjust what I'm sending them. Below is the message that I sent to a contractor and their response, as well as the scope of work document I sent them.

"Morning _______, I hope you had a good weekend and thanks again for replying back to me on facebook. Attached is the construction scope of the work and we discussed. I would still like to see about having you out on Thursday or Friday to look at the project. I currently have a company scheduled at 1 pm on Thursday, as well as one @ 12 pm on Friday. Let me know what time works best for you."

Contractor response:

"Im gonna pass. I as the contractor come to the table with the paper work and contract.

This not how I conduct my business.

Good Luck"

What are your guys's thoughts, was what I sent him to much? Or is this just the contractor's way of not wanting to bid the job.

You've got a typical "entitled consumer" mindset. That's fine for things where it's a buyer's market. But skilled GC labor is a seller's market. Due to supply/demand imbalance, the people "selling" their skilled labor dictate terms, timelines, prices, et cetera. Granted I'm here in the SF Bay Area where that is more true than most places. But, in general, GCs are the price setters, consumers of those goods/services are the price takers.

Here's an exact quote from my GC father in law: "I've been raising my rates 20% per year for the last 5 years, and the market has not even blinked." You will not find him on google or anywhere else, he's 100% referral based, he's busy as hell, and the only reason he isn't retired is b/c his rates have more than doubled in 5 years. He's barely willing to do a little $75k job to begin... If you hit him with your initial email, I think the response you got is far more polite than what he'd have responded with, assuming he didn't ignore the message entirely. 

@Chris Mason maybe you can shed a little more light on this then. I sent him the scope of work that I know I would like completed at the property. I didn't ask for him to price it out without seeing it, and I didn't mention anything about pricing. The scope of work was so he knew what items I needed done, and that he could bid the job out after seeing it.

So how would you have approached the contractor then?

 You're throwing out a lot of red flags for some contractors.  Mentioning competition, super detailed scope, real estate investor.  He was prob busy already and it just wasn't a good fit.  You saved yourself some time 

Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg :
Originally posted by @Chris Mason Mason:
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:

Hey BP community looking for some insight here. I've been trying to get bids for some work on a newly acquired triplex, and recently guy response back from one of the contractors that kind of took me back. Not sure if what I'm sending is maybe to detailed or in depth, but wondering if I need to adjust what I'm sending them. Below is the message that I sent to a contractor and their response, as well as the scope of work document I sent them.

"Morning _______, I hope you had a good weekend and thanks again for replying back to me on facebook. Attached is the construction scope of the work and we discussed. I would still like to see about having you out on Thursday or Friday to look at the project. I currently have a company scheduled at 1 pm on Thursday, as well as one @ 12 pm on Friday. Let me know what time works best for you."

Contractor response:

"Im gonna pass. I as the contractor come to the table with the paper work and contract.

This not how I conduct my business.

Good Luck"

What are your guys's thoughts, was what I sent him to much? Or is this just the contractor's way of not wanting to bid the job.

You've got a typical "entitled consumer" mindset. That's fine for things where it's a buyer's market. But skilled GC labor is a seller's market. Due to supply/demand imbalance, the people "selling" their skilled labor dictate terms, timelines, prices, et cetera. Granted I'm here in the SF Bay Area where that is more true than most places. But, in general, GCs are the price setters, consumers of those goods/services are the price takers.

Here's an exact quote from my GC father in law: "I've been raising my rates 20% per year for the last 5 years, and the market has not even blinked." You will not find him on google or anywhere else, he's 100% referral based, he's busy as hell, and the only reason he isn't retired is b/c his rates have more than doubled in 5 years. He's barely willing to do a little $75k job to begin... If you hit him with your initial email, I think the response you got is far more polite than what he'd have responded with, assuming he didn't ignore the message entirely. 

@Chris Mason maybe you can shed a little more light on this then. I sent him the scope of work that I know I would like completed at the property. I didn't ask for him to price it out without seeing it, and I didn't mention anything about pricing. The scope of work was so he knew what items I needed done, and that he could bid the job out after seeing it.

So how would you have approached the contractor then?

I wouldn't. I'd talk to some other folks in the area, ask for their experiences - including pricing etc - and work with the one GC that I felt was the best fit based on that. GCs don't have time for the "get three quotes!" stuff in the current market, we who want their time are a dime a dozen and they are the rare commodity. Maybe things will change when the next cyclical downturn comes, who knows. 

Simultaneously, I would - and do - tell anyone I encounter that is young and unsure of what to do, to pick up a hammer and start learning the trades. 

 

@Chris Mason Sounds like they didn't want to get into a bidding war with multiple other contractors or spend hours filling out a detailed bid form. I can relate. I wouldn't do that either. Don't take it personally, there are only so many projects a contractor can do at a time. Just keep looking for the right one. My only criticism of their response would be to perhaps handle it more diplomatically. They were straight forward and got right to the point.

Are you a laywer?  The attached doc reads like it is right have been written by a lawyer.  Many contractors have unwritten rule that they dont work for lawyers.(usually based on a bad previous experience)

It is almost like your are too detailed.     I like the concept if the list, but a simple bullet point list would come off as less intimidating and lawyerly.  

The other issue that is going on is a mixed sense of "who is the boss"  The doc definitely gives the vibe that the Owner is calling the shots - being the GC.   This particular contractor sounds like the kind of guy that likes to be the general and guide the process, rather than play the part of a sub, functioning at the beck and call of the GC.    

 Also,  contractors are tired of the get three bids game.   Their time is money.  This guy knew you were just using him for a number, and he knew he wouldn't be the lowest bidder, so there was no reason. to even look at the job..

Originally posted by @Chris Mason :
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:
Originally posted by @Chris Mason Mason:
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:

Hey BP community looking for some insight here. I've been trying to get bids for some work on a newly acquired triplex, and recently guy response back from one of the contractors that kind of took me back. Not sure if what I'm sending is maybe to detailed or in depth, but wondering if I need to adjust what I'm sending them. Below is the message that I sent to a contractor and their response, as well as the scope of work document I sent them.

"Morning _______, I hope you had a good weekend and thanks again for replying back to me on facebook. Attached is the construction scope of the work and we discussed. I would still like to see about having you out on Thursday or Friday to look at the project. I currently have a company scheduled at 1 pm on Thursday, as well as one @ 12 pm on Friday. Let me know what time works best for you."

Contractor response:

"Im gonna pass. I as the contractor come to the table with the paper work and contract.

This not how I conduct my business.

Good Luck"

What are your guys's thoughts, was what I sent him to much? Or is this just the contractor's way of not wanting to bid the job.

You've got a typical "entitled consumer" mindset. That's fine for things where it's a buyer's market. But skilled GC labor is a seller's market. Due to supply/demand imbalance, the people "selling" their skilled labor dictate terms, timelines, prices, et cetera. Granted I'm here in the SF Bay Area where that is more true than most places. But, in general, GCs are the price setters, consumers of those goods/services are the price takers.

Here's an exact quote from my GC father in law: "I've been raising my rates 20% per year for the last 5 years, and the market has not even blinked." You will not find him on google or anywhere else, he's 100% referral based, he's busy as hell, and the only reason he isn't retired is b/c his rates have more than doubled in 5 years. He's barely willing to do a little $75k job to begin... If you hit him with your initial email, I think the response you got is far more polite than what he'd have responded with, assuming he didn't ignore the message entirely. 

@Chris Mason maybe you can shed a little more light on this then. I sent him the scope of work that I know I would like completed at the property. I didn't ask for him to price it out without seeing it, and I didn't mention anything about pricing. The scope of work was so he knew what items I needed done, and that he could bid the job out after seeing it.

So how would you have approached the contractor then?

I wouldn't. I'd talk to some other folks in the area, ask for their experiences - including pricing etc - and work with the one GC that I felt was the best fit based on that. GCs don't have time for the "get three quotes!" stuff in the current market, we who want their time are a dime a dozen and they are the rare commodity. Maybe things will change when the next cyclical downturn comes, who knows. 

Simultaneously, I would - and do - tell anyone I encounter that is young and unsure of what to do, to pick up a hammer and start learning the trades. 

 

@Chris Mason if you are implying for me to pick up a hammer and do the work, that isn't easy since this is an out of state property. The thing is this contractor was mentioned here on the forums a couple of times as being good to work with. As for getting the only one quote, I feel like that is a waste of my time to travel to a city to meet with one contractor and HOPE he shows up to bid the job. Instead, why not schedule 3 or 4 hope two arrive and get a couple of quotes. Plus I felt like sending a detailed scope of work was a better way for the contractor to see if the work I am looking to have done is something they want to take on. If it isn't then they can simply say the work isn't something they want to take on. 

Mainly I was curious if what I sent in the email as well as the scope of work was appropriate. If I need to just call and say "Hey you want to come see if you want to take on a remodel project for me, my budget is $30k!" then I guess that is what I need to do.

 

Originally posted by @Steven Lowe :

@Chris Mason Sounds like they didn't want to get into a bidding war with multiple other contractors or spend hours filling out a detailed bid form. I can relate. I wouldn't do that either. Don't take it personally, there are only so many projects a contractor can do at a time. Just keep looking for the right one. My only criticism of their response would be to perhaps handle it more diplomatically. They were straight forward and got right to the point.

So Steve do I just ask for them to come look at the project and give a general quote? Is it not good to give them a detailed scope of work? So if I am in town only for a couple of days do I just schedule multiple contractors out there and not let them know I am getting other bids?

 

Originally posted by @David Burkholder :

Are you a laywer?  The attached doc reads like it is right have been written by a lawyer.  Many contractors have unwritten rule that they dont work for lawyers.(usually based on a bad previous experience)

It is almost like your are too detailed.     I like the concept if the list, but a simple bullet point list would come off as less intimidating and lawyerly.  

The other issue that is going on is a mixed sense of "who is the boss"  The doc definitely gives the vibe that the Owner is calling the shots - being the GC.   This particular contractor sounds like the kind of guy that likes to be the general and guide the process, rather than play the part of a sub, functioning at the beck and call of the GC.    

 Also,  contractors are tired of the get three bids game.   Their time is money.  This guy knew you were just using him for a number, and he knew he wouldn't be the lowest bidder, so there was no reason. to even look at the job..

 I never said I was looking for the lowest bidder, and I am willing to pay for quality work. I am definitely not a lawyer! The scope of work was outlined in detail so there wasn't any question of what exactly I was looking to have done. I guess I should have been much more vague... I need some electrical done, some painting, some flooring put in, and whatever else you think should be done.

You came across like the Somali pirate in the movie Captain Phillips when he said to Tom Hanks “I’m the Captain.”


The biggest red flags were that detailed of an SOW, the I’m meeting 2 other contractors and the time you are saying you can meet.


The better approach will be 


DO NOT mention any other contractors. 

Offer to meet him at the property at 6am. That is not a joke. He can probably meet you at 6am or when it is first getting light outside . That way he can look over the job, THEN he will go to his current job site at 7 or 7:30am..... and then get his bid to you later that night or the next night. Right now you are implying you want him to take time away from a job he currently needs to be on to meet him at noon or 1pm to bid on a job he “might get” and he needs to compete with at least 2 other contractors.

Last but not least, keep your initial request very simple with a few bullet  points of what you ultimately want done from a 40,000 foot level. I have a leaking roof, some windows that need to be replaced and the garage may need to be flattened, do you do that sort of work on a triplex? Cool. I know you probably have other projects going on so I can actually meet you at the property at 6am before we both go to work, if that fits your schedule. 


You come to him with detailed SOW type of request screams, “I’m an analytical controlling potentially difficult consumer to work with.... a lot of these GCs are used to being the Alpha.

You practically told him, here’s the schematics I have already diagramed as well as the blueprint you will need to use. I know you’re the GC, but this is my property and I expect things done a certain way (my way). I also have multiple checks and balances built in and I’m letting you know that I can and will hold up your money if things do not go EXACTLY the way I want them to go WHEN I want them to go, I hope we are clear on this buddy.

Although it is good to  know exactly what you want, you came across as way to overbearing for him. 

@Brian Garlington thanks for the information I appreciate the advice. I will definitely use it going forward and will try to be vaguer about what I am looking to have done. So at what point do I provide a detailed scope of work so both the GC and I are on the same page as what needs to be completed.

Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg :
Originally posted by @Steven Lowe:

@Chris Mason Sounds like they didn't want to get into a bidding war with multiple other contractors or spend hours filling out a detailed bid form. I can relate. I wouldn't do that either. Don't take it personally, there are only so many projects a contractor can do at a time. Just keep looking for the right one. My only criticism of their response would be to perhaps handle it more diplomatically. They were straight forward and got right to the point.

So Steve do I just ask for them to come look at the project and give a general quote? Is it not good to give them a detailed scope of work? So if I am in town only for a couple of days do I just schedule multiple contractors out there and not let them know I am getting other bids?

Can you give me some details on the project?  Is it a gut rehab?  What type of property?  Is it a flip or a buy and hold?  Are there approved architectural drawings with a schedule of fixtures and finishes?  

Don't lie to them about getting multiple bids but don't go out of your way to mention it either.  It's a given you are getting more than one bid.  

 

@Steven Lowe are you legitimately asking or are you referring to the questions a contractor could ask to get more details? So Steve at what point do we actually create a detailed scope of work so that the contractor and I are on the same page?

Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg :

@Steven Lowe are you legitimately asking or are you referring to the questions a contractor could ask to get more details? So Steve at what point do we actually create a detailed scope of work so that the contractor and I are on the same page?

I'm asking so I can advise you on how to approach contractors and your answers will help me comment on how to craft a specific approach.  I'm a GC myself.  

Is it a gut rehab? What type of property? Is it a flip or a buy and hold? Are there approved architectural drawings with a schedule of fixtures and finishes?

@Steven Lowe it is a triplex with up down units. Looking to have items fixed from the Home Inspection, as well as make some upgrades to the interior of the house to bring up to more modern day standards. It will include both except and interior work.

Exterior work includes fixing siding/soffit and fascia issues. Repairing gutters. Installing windows and window wells to basement windows.

Interior work includes replacing current federal Pacific electrical sub panels for each unit. Re-tiling two of the bathroom units, and installing new fixtures. Installing new LVP flooring throughout. Prep/paint interior. Installing new light fixtures. Painting cabinets, etc...

I have a pretty good idea on the selection of materials and finishes to be used for the job but I am open to recommendations from the GC.

Hopefully this helps.

@Tristan Colborg . You mentioned 2 other companies bidding the same project. You provided your own scope of work. Most contractors won’t like either of those things. You can get multiple bids but I wouldn’t be so

Obvious about it.

The contractor realizes he has 1/3 chance to get the job if not worse odds. Then from the way you interacted they probably assume you’re going to be very picky about lots of stuff. If I was the contractor and I was already busy, I would have probably passed or charged 200 bucks for my bid.

@Tristan Colborg

Your email comes off as very particular which is not going to be indicative of the easiest customer for a contractor when the construction industry is booming. You are looking for an important part of your team, and it seems like this guy is not a good match. Just keep looking and you'll find one that understands what you are trying to do. I would not have gone out of my way to talk about the other bids nor provided a form. Just give them your scope during the walkthrough and ask for a line item bid as a starting point. They probably have their own way of estimating that may or may not line up with your forms and contractors as a general rule are not great at paperwork and the added time and stress is not worth adding to their already filled schedule.

If you try not to come on as strong, you'll get a little more interest and you can always ask for further clarifications if you need to after you get the initial quote. Once you work with someone and it all goes well, they'll keep bidding your work.

Tristan, what I would do differently is I would ask the contractors for bids in their formats instead of forcing them to use yours.  I would also not advertise that you're seeking multiple bids, that should be a given.  I realize it is hard to decipher multiple formats but trust me, contractors won't like having to figure out how to tailor their bids to fit into your format.  It also is not appealing to put in hours of work on a bid knowing it's going to just get shopped and you will have to be the lowest bidder to get the work.  That just screams "control freak" and "pain in the @$$".  Right now there is a lot of work out there and contractors will seek out the low hanging fruit first...that is, projects that pay well and clients that are easy to work with. 

Plus, contractors will assess a "Pain In The @$$ Tax".  Meaning they will charge more for working with someone they perceive as being difficult.

If you're doing a rehab project with approved drawings then it becomes easier.  Just send them a bid set. Your drawings will be the foundation of the scope of work and your agreement with the contractor.  Just make sure your agreement says "as per approved drawings dated XYZ".   

Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg :
Originally posted by @Chris Mason:
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:
Originally posted by @Chris Mason Mason:
Originally posted by @Tristan Colborg:


 

@Chris Mason if you are implying for me to pick up a hammer and do the work, that isn't easy since this is an out of state property. .

 

 No, not implying you should pick up a hammer at all. Supply/demand for skilled labor is out of whack, in favor of the general contractors. More general contractors will change the dynamic a bit, so that hopefully in 3 or 5 or 10 years they can't just blow you off for getting a 2nd opinion. That was my point in encouraging young folks to pick up a hammer. Bring balance to the force, etc.

@Tristan Colborg

@Chris Mason

Chris, I disagree substantially with your tone and advice except for one item.

First, Tristan is 100% doing the right thing by getting prepared to negotiate.  That's the nature of negotiation and he will without question have better results by doing this.  Second, most construction engineering programs (ie: college undergraduate programs) are training folks (future GCs, and other leaders in the building industry) to do something akin to what Tristan did (or at least, tried to do), which is to put together a scope of work and facilitate a competitive bidding process.  These programs are best able to train folks who will be far ahead of their competition, and providing value to the market, by being prepared with a scope of work and getting competitive bidding going.  Third, the A/E field, and many online marketplaces exist to post design docs, and do exactly what Tristan's setting out to do.  ISqFt is one platform of a few that do this, and it's common.  

It's as though you are advocating that Tristan doesn't do exactly what your dad should be doing, as a GC, to ensure a competitive bidding environment.

That said, I think the advice for Tristan to get 'hands on' is apt, and very good.  Tristan, when you're starting, that hands on experience gives you credibility in dealing with building folks, but it also let's you split up a project into its sub parts better.  That way, you don't need the GC, who you pay to know when to bring in the plumber.  You know when you need a plumber, and you bring them in.

@Steven Lowe

Tristan, I believe some of Steven's feedback is spot on in terms of some very slight course correction.  For instance, some contractors can add value by generating their own scope of work independent of what you've already done.  Don't be so rigid as to not allow for that and invite it.  Next, sure, letting someone know they need to be competitive is apt, however I usually like to do that in person, as dropping a hint.  Make them feel special, and advertising that you're bidding the job to 10 people really just screams that there's a good chance they won't get the project and their time may be wasted.  It's a subtle difference, but by signaling that they need to be competitive, vs. outright saying it, I think you'll find better results.

@Chris Mason interesting perspective and makes some sense. My market is similar, huge shortage on labor. I think I would struggle finding someone with that as an initial e-mail as well. Even though, I think that having that level of detail is actually very beneficial for OP. This is a prime example of where knowing your business and knowing what to present to GC and what to hold back for personal use is essential.

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here