There is a distinct difference between a bid and an estimate and, while everyone would like to know exactly what their project is going to cost prior to breaking ground, it is impossible to create an accurate hard bid without a comprehensive and thoroughly detailed plan set. Every week I receive several requests for bid. Occasionally, these requests are accompanied by a substantial set of plans and reports, with the majority of details included and finish materials specified. Very occasionally. Honestly, if the definition of "occasionally" was "almost never," that would be quite accurate. More often than not, I am asked to estimate a project with a set of preliminary design drawings or concept drawings, my experience, and my very active imagination.
Because I am both a builder and a designer, I understand everything that goes into the final product, allowing me to evaluate project costs in both scenarios with extreme accuracy. Typically, final project costs on original scope of work are within 2%-5% of initial projections. This is achieved by breaking down a project into very detailed spreadsheets, with every aspect of the build itemized by line and associated cost. On a smaller project, my spreadsheets have roughly 100 line items; on a larger project, upward of 500 line items.
It's time consuming - taking two to four weeks to prepare, over hundreds of math-filled hours - but it's oh-so necessary to take the time. While there are many different factors that go into a successful build, I believe that a detailed, no-stone-unturned approach to budget is the key element of achieving that success. It is the first aspect of something I have come to call the "BRA," which I will write about at length in subsequent blog entries.
For now, I'm going to wander back to my office to finish up some estimates on future dream homes.