Are your bids missing the mark? PM’s offer a few reasons why.

by Brian Sodoma

Crafting a winning bid involves a lot more than plugging numbers into software. Most property managers will tell you that, even with detailed RFPs, bid prices for any given job can vary dramatically. Here are some expert insights on why prices can vary so much, and a few tips for how pros can keep themselves in the running for a job.

Relationships matter

Having done previous work with a property manager doesn’t make you a shoo-in for the job, but it does help. So, if you’ve worked with a manager in the past, it’s a good idea to stay on his or her radar and to take note of budget and quality expectations.

Sara Hogue, a community manager for City Property Management Company in Phoenix, AZ, recently put together an RFP that included about 31,000 sf of masonry wall coverage, wrought iron fencing, as well as pedestrian gates and street signs to be painted. The lowest bid was $14,000, the highest $22,000—a greater than 50% difference. She finds those who have worked with her in the past seem to have more competitive bids.

“They seem to give us a better rate, and it makes a huge difference because they know what we expect, too,” she said.

Additionally, in a hot market like Phoenix, where many subcontractors are overbooked, some bidders neglect to list insurance and licensing information. Those small details can have a big impact on how a bid is viewed or if it’s even considered at all, she added.

A look at job complexity

Demetrius Rodriguez, a service supervisor with Simpson Property Group, oversees 500 apartment units at The Links Rea Farms mixed-use development in North Carolina. Rodriguez fields painting bids on new construction jobs and apartment move-out repaints. For both scenarios, it’s not uncommon for him to see a 40% price swing on bids.

He finds greater price discrepancies with luxury rental units where jobs may involve colored ceilings, accent walls and different sheens in rooms. He rarely goes with the lowest bidder, and likes detailed bids that identify where different paint types are specified and why certain areas require more labor.

“I say be open to talking about the bid and be able to explain why a price comes in higher. I don’t mind sitting down with painters and asking ‘why,’” he added.

Systems matter

With less-complicated jobs that may only use one type of paint, a more production-oriented crew can quickly tape off and spray, Rodriguez says. In these situations, a painter who prefers rolling may not be able to turn the job over as fast as the manager wants, and the price will likely be higher, too, because rolling is more time-intensive. Know what type of jobs your system works best for, Rodriguez asserts, and don’t bid on the ones not suited for the way your crews work.

“It’s a case where one painter doesn’t have the system another painter has for that particular situation. Knowing a painter’s system helps us, too, as it lets us know if they can feel comfortable taking on the job,” he added.

For more articles on topics related to running your painting business, visit

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