Bid Management

Preparing Bid Documentation and Bid Forms for CRE Projects [CHECKLIST]

As with most multi-phase processes, commercial real estate capital and construction projects benefit enormously from diligent planning. As a matter of fact, considering the long timelines and large cost of CRE projects, real estate owners owe it to their stakeholders to dedicate meaningful time and resources toward careful preparation.

In order to be thorough, you will need to pull together a cross-section of information for your bid package and your bid forms. Below is an overview of some of the commonly included items. You can also download a printable checklist to easily track which items you have and which items are outstanding.


The key first step for getting ready for bidding is to prepare the correct documentation. Consider including the following for a typical job:

✓  RFP document

The RFP document lays out the rules and procedures you expect your vendors to follow during this bid process. This can include a roster of your team, key dates and the terms and conditions related to the bid process.

✓  Plans and Specifications

The bid documents are often the most important pieces of information to be shared with bidders. These will be prepared by your team in conjunction with the architect or consultant and will lay out in detail what the job entails.

✓  Standard form contract

You can also include their standard form contract as part of the bid package. This will allow would-be bidders to see the form contract prior to bidding to ensure they’re ultimately willing to sign the contract should they be awarded the work.

✓  Building rules and regulations

If you have a standard set of building rules and regulations with which the bidders need to comply, they should be shared at the very beginning of the process.

✓  Insurance requirements

Similar to “rules and regs,” it’s important to share your insurance requirements early on so bidders can ensure they have the appropriate policies to be in compliance.

✓  List of approved subcontractors

Some property teams maintain a list of approved subcontractors that regulate who can work in the building. If you have a standard list, it’s a best practice to include it in the bid package so contractors can include this information as part of their estimating process.

✓  Photos and scope narrative

For certain very small jobs, photos of the site and a simple scope narrative may be all there is to share with the bidders. This could be a list of the various items to be done or even a sketch by the Project Manager of what work needs to be done.


The bid form specifies the way bidders should breakdown prices in their bids, including all base line items and various alternates.

Ideally, you would refer to bid forms from past comparable projects to serve as a starting point for your bid form. If that isn’t an option, consult with colleagues to see if they’ve created a bid form for a similar job in the past, or check with your consultant team. The consultants will be especially helpful on extremely complex or technical jobs, like a facade restoration or a building infrastructure project.

If your capital or construction project scope is too unique for a bid form to be created in advance, it’s not the end of the world. Ask each contractor to submit their bid in whatever form they think makes sense. You will just have to spend more time leveling in order to make the bids comparable.

✓  Establish the appropriate level of detail

Include as much detail as possible in the bid form. This will make it easier to level the bids and discover if bidders are missing information that is material to the proper completion of the job. However, the desire for detail has to be balanced with the bidder’s capacity and willingness to fill out the bid form as specified.

You may also want to split up various scopes of work. For example, if you have a bathroom renovation and an office buildout going out to bid, it might be best to create separate bid forms so each one can be more precisely analyzed.

✓  Select your line items

Not every cost category needs to be used, but following the overall structure will reduce misunderstanding between you and the bidders. Architects also typically use CSI codes, an index created by the Construction Specifications Institute, in their plans to avoid confusion about the scope of each trade.

Given the prevalence of use of these line items, it’s typically fine to drop the actual CSI code itself and just use the description.

✓  Ask about markups

For most jobs, markups include General Conditions, Insurance, and Overhead & Profit. On certain jobs, you can also consider Permits or Tax, depending on how the local jurisdiction accounts for the sales taxes associated with construction projects.

✓  Solicit alternates

Oftentimes, you will want to explore the pricing impact of different options, like using alternative materials or adding another component to the work. This will let you delay making final decisions about certain items until you have more clarity around pricing. Whether the selected alternates are included in the final awarded contract or added back later as change orders, the price will be set during the bid process.

✓  Request unit prices

You may also want to consider adding unit prices to the bid form. This is particularly helpful if the job’s scope may change because it allows you to create a pricing basis for future change orders. For example, if pricing is requested per installed light fixture, and the layout layer changes, the owner will know what pricing to expect from the contractor without worrying about getting jammed with a high price later on.

Download the Bidding Documents Checklist 

Pauline Nee

Written by Pauline Nee

Pauline is the head of content for Honest Buildings. For over twelve years in the commercial real estate industry, she has held diverse roles focused on product development, digital marketing, user research, web design and arts programming.