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Performance Bonds: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

What Are Performance Bonds?

Understanding Performance Bonds: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to securing the successful completion of contractual obligations, performance bonds play a crucial role. In this comprehensive guide, we, Shorewest Surety Services, will delve into the intricacies of performance bonds, shedding light on what they are, how they work, their advantages and disadvantages, how to obtain one, real-life examples, industries that rely on them, and their associated costs.

What Is a Performance Bond?

"In the construction industry, a performance bond acts as a security measure, ensuring that a project gets completed as promised," explained Paul Salb, an expert in surety bonds and agent at Shorewest Surety Services. "It's like a safety net, guaranteeing that if the contractor faces any unexpected challenges or can't finish the job, another trusted party steps in to make sure everything is done properly.”

A performance bond, often referred to as a contract bond, serves as a financial guarantee in contractual agreements. It is issued to one party involved in the contract as a safeguard against the other party's failure to meet their obligations. Typically, a performance bond is provided by a bank or an insurance company, ensuring that a contractor fulfills the designated project.

Performance bonds are not limited to construction and real estate development; they are also used in commodity trades as a guarantee of delivery. In this context, if a seller fails to deliver a commodity, the bond assures the buyer of compensation for the incurred losses.

Understanding Performance Bonds

To better grasp the concept, let's break down the key elements:

Parties to a Performance Bond

In the world of performance bonds, several key players come into play. Understanding these parties is crucial in grasping the dynamics of how these bonds work. Let's dive into the three primary entities involved:

1. The Principal

The principal is often the contractor, the individual or company responsible for delivering a specific service or project. They are the ones undertaking the contractual obligations, and ultimately, the party the performance bond is designed to protect.

2. The Obligee

The obligee represents the party that is set to benefit from the work being done by the principal. In other words, they are the party paying the principal for the services rendered. The obligee is typically the project owner or the party that initiated the contract.

3. The Surety

The surety is a critical third party in the performance bond agreement. This entity provides the actual performance bond, and their role is to act as a financial guarantee for the principal's work. If the principal encounters unexpected challenges or, for some reason, fails to fulfill their obligations, the surety steps in. The surety is then responsible for ensuring that the work is completed as stipulated in the contract, making sure that all the promised elements are delivered.

The parties to Surety Bonds

Protecting Parties

Performance bonds serve as a protective measure against contractor insolvency or failure to fulfill contractual obligations. This safety net is particularly important in industries like construction, where the value of work must be preserved in the face of unforeseen negative events.

Performance Bonds and Payment Bonds

While performance bonds ensure the completion of a project, payment bonds ensure that all entities involved, such as subcontractors, suppliers, and laborers, are compensated upon project completion. The combination of these two bonds incentivizes quality work, benefiting both clients and laborers.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Performance bonds offer several advantages and, with the right partner, can also transform perceived disadvantages into strengths. Let's explore how Shorewest Surety Services excels in managing potential payment disputes and addressing cost estimation while ensuring you get the best value from your performance bond.

Protecting Obligees: Your Peace of Mind

In the event of non-completion of work, obligees are shielded from additional costs. Shorewest Surety Services is your dedicated partner in ensuring that any unexpected challenges are effectively handled. We stand by our commitment to guarantee that your project reaches successful completion as promised.

Risk Reduction: Shorewest's Expertise at Your Service

Developers and companies engaging in large-scale projects can mitigate financial risks by partnering with Shorewest Surety Services. With our wealth of experience and expert knowledge, we've been exclusively focused on helping construction contractors get the best rates, expertise, and service possible. Our industry expertise positions us as a trusted choice


Potential Payment Disputes: The surety might dispute payment by alleging that the obligee did not comply with all bond requirements.

Cost Estimation: Obligees are responsible for estimating the financial consequences of non-performance accurately. Underestimation may result in additional costs.

Performance bonds can also add to the contractor's costs, which may be passed on to the obligee.

How to Obtain a Performance Bond

Obtaining a performance bond involves applying to a surety for a letter of bondability. This letter outlines the monetary limits the surety is willing to provide based on factors such as the contractor's experience, creditworthiness, and project size. It also confirms the surety's registration and licensing in the state where the work will occur.

To become fully bonded, contractors must provide financial information for underwriting, which varies based on the project's size. Smaller projects may only require good credit and a clean license history, while larger projects might demand financial statements, balance sheets, and tax returns. The contractor will also pay a small percentage of the bond amount to the bonding company.

Example of a Performance Bond

Let's illustrate the concept with a hypothetical scenario:

Suppose a developer is planning to construct a new apartment building and requires the contractor to be bonded due to the project's size. The contractor engages a surety to provide a performance bond, agreeing to pay a small percentage of the total bond amount.

In return, the surety promises to compensate for losses if the contractor fails to meet their obligations.

If the contractor does fail, the developer can file a claim with the surety, which then investigates the losses to determine compensation.

Performance Bond in construction

Industries That Use Performance Bonds

Performance bonds are primarily associated with the real estate industry, especially in property construction and development. They protect owners and investors from subpar work caused by unforeseen events such as contractor insolvency.

These bonds also find utility in other industries. For example, buyers in commodity transactions may request a seller to provide a performance bond, ensuring compensation if the commodity is not delivered as agreed.

How Much Does a Performance Bond Cost?

The cost of a performance bond varies depending on factors like project size, contractor's creditworthiness, and bonding party's financial strength. According to industry expert Paul Salb with Shorewest Surety Services, “On average, performance bond rates range from 0.5% to 3.5% of the total bond value.” But there are a few more factors that can influence the cost of performance bonds.

Scope Creep: A Hidden Cost Driver

One of the fundamental factors that can substantially affect the cost of a performance bond is scope creep. This often underestimated aspect of project management can lead to unforeseen additional work and result in significant cost overruns. These cost overruns can be substantial, possibly reaching up to 20% or more of the project's initial budget. Therefore, it's imperative to have a robust project management strategy in place to mitigate the risks associated with scope creep.

The Project's Size and Complexity

Another pivotal factor that directly influences the cost of performance bonds is the size and complexity of the project at hand. Larger projects with higher budgets typically require more extensive bonding limits. These higher bonding limits translate to higher premiums that the contractor must pay for the performance bond. This factor is directly tied to the financial scale of the project.

The complexity of the project also comes into play. A project's complexity includes various aspects such as the number of sub-contractors involved, the types of work to be performed, and the overall duration of the project. More complex projects with multiple sub-contractors and a wide range of work types generally incur higher bond costs. This is because the risk profile of such projects is elevated, requiring additional financial security to protect all parties involved.

performance bonds in the construction industry

Scopes of Work for Self-Performance

Understanding which scopes of work the Principal anticipates to self-perform is vital when estimating the cost of a performance bond. These scopes of work are often the most challenging to analyze in terms of risk and cost. Contractors need to evaluate the associated risks and costs carefully, as these directly impact the bond amount required. Failure to accurately assess these self-performed scopes of work can lead to cost overruns and complications during the project's execution.

It's important to consider that while self-performance of certain scopes of work can be cost-effective, it also carries inherent risks. Inaccurate cost estimations and inadequate risk assessment can lead to financial challenges during the project.

The cost of performance bonds is influenced by multiple factors, each of which can have a substantial impact on the financial aspects of a project. Scope creep, project size, and complexity, as well as self-performed scopes of work, are critical factors to consider. Contractors and project owners must meticulously evaluate these factors to ensure that they have the right level of financial security in place while managing costs effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a performance bond?

A performance bond acts as a security measure, ensuring that a project gets completed as promised. It's like a safety net, guaranteeing that if the contractor faces any unexpected challenges or can't finish the job, another trusted party steps in to make sure everything is done properly.

What is the cost of a performance bond?

Are performance bonds only for construction projects?

How do performance bonds benefit project owners?

What happens if a contractor fails to meet their obligations under a performance bond?

Are there alternatives to performance bonds?

How do performance bonds relate to payment bonds?

How does the scope of work affect the cost of a performance bond?


Performance bonds serve as a vital component of various industries, offering protection and assurance for parties involved in contractual agreements. Understanding their purpose, advantages, and costs is essential for any business or individual engaging in projects where contractual obligations must be met. Shorewest Surety Services is here to provide expert guidance on performance bonds and assist you in securing the peace of mind you need for your projects.


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