What Is a Homebuilder’s Bid and How to Read One

Lauren Wellbank
Written by Lauren Wellbank
Updated January 17, 2022
grey suburban house with porch
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock


  • A homebuilder’s bid includes the project cost and scope.

  • “Millwork” is a catch-all phrase for different pieces of your project.

  • Allowances cover cost estimates when an exact price isn’t known.

  • F&I means the homeowner’s in charge of sourcing the material or item.

  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand your bid.

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When tackling a project, it's beneficial for homeowners to get at least three quotes from pros before signing any contracts. However, getting all those quotes won’t do you much good unless you’re able to understand what you’re reading, and let’s face it, sometimes bids might as well be written in another language. This guide can help you discern what your homebuilder's bid includes so you can pick the right pro for the job.  

What Is a Homebuilder's Bid?

A homebuilders bid is a document from a contractor that breaks down the details of the work you’re looking to have done. The bid should include information like supplies and materials needed for the job, timing, and any other contractually binding details of the project.

How to Read a Homebuilder’s Bid

General contractors may take different approaches to bid presentations, so it’s safe to assume that’ll run into a variety of formats. For example, if you’re talking to general contractors about renovating your kitchen, you may get three totally different types of bids. One contractor might send theirs over complete with sketches of your kitchen, a lengthy explanation of the scope of work, as well as a line item list of supplies. 

A second contractor may just provide a boilerplate bid with job-specific details penciled in—like a price range for cabinetry and an estimate for fixtures—leaving you with a more general picture of the scope of work. 

Regardless of the format, your homebuilder’s bid should contain the following info:

  • Contact information: Each bid should have both your information and the contact information for the company doing the work.  

  • Project details: Your bid should clearly list the entire scope of the project, including any demo work or disposal. 

  • Current conditions: A good bid should also detail what the job site currently looks like, especially if there are renovations or repairs. 

  • Cost and payment terms: One of the biggest project details is how much it's going to cost, which is why it's important for your bid to list all the costs and payment schedule. 

  • Schedule: Your bid should include something about the time frame for the project. 

  • Additional forms and documents: The company creating your bid may supply extra documents, such as a copy of their insurance and licenses. 

Know the Terminology

The way an actual bid looks may change from contractor to contractor, but the terminology should remain mostly the same. These are a few of the key items you may see listed on your homebuilder's bid (and what they mean).


carpenter working on wood cabinets in new home
Photo: Viktor Pravdica/ Adobe Stock

Millwork is a common term that refers to wood products made in a mill, including everything from cabinets to crown molding. If you’re looking at a bid that has millwork listed, make sure to ask for a breakdown of what items are being included in this price so you can compare your remodeling bids apples to apples.


If you and your contractor are still ironing out some of the specifics, you may see a section on the bid called "allowances." Allowances are also where contractors might put the estimated cost of the items when their exact price isn't known. For example, this section may pop up if, say, you’re building your dream house and still deciding whether your new kitchen will have a high-end farm-style sink or if you're going to opt for a less expensive option in favor of the recessed cabinet lighting.  


There are some things that your contractor won’t do during your project, and this is where they’ll spell those items out. For example, they may be leaving the installation of your new dishwasher to the plumber or have an electrician do the wiring for those recessed lights. The exclusions section is essential so that you know exactly what you’re paying (and not paying) your contractor to do.

Specifications and Specifics

Your contractor will use specifications and specifics when they want hard and fast information noted in the bid. This could include square footage, the scope of work, and known quantities of supplies like how many light fixtures they’ll need. 


Another phrase that covers a range of items on a homebuilder’s bid is the word “fixture.” This phrase is used for everything from lighting to plumbing and notes items that the builder is installing. Fixtures are typically anything that is secured in place.

Furnish and Install (F&I)

If you're reading a bid for a project where you provide some of the items, you may see notes on the bid about furnishing and installing (or F&I). If you're providing fixtures or finishes—like hand-picked tile that you brought back from your Italian honeymoon—the line items may reflect that with a note from the builder saying either "owner furnished" or "install-only." This means that the builder isn’t responsible for sourcing those items. 

When in Doubt, Ask the Builder 

Contractors understand that you may be seeing a bid for the first time when they present theirs to you, so it’s okay to follow up with questions. The last thing either of you wants to do is move on to the next stage—including signing a contract—when there are still questions about expectations.

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