Home improvement plans.
May 29, 2015 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Is there an easier way to obtain quotes, even super rough ones, for home improvement projects?

Furnace.wife, and myself are new homeowners (woah rad!) and while our house is fully habitable and functional, as in any domicile we've got a list of things we'd like to change and improvements we'd like to execute over the coming years. We're having trouble prioritizing, and evaluating what will give us the most value for our money. We've got one project that we're pretty sure about happening first for a variety of reasons, but the rest of the list is kind of nebulous and don't really have set obvious priorities for us; whole-house-fan, or covered patio? Solar panels or tankless hot water system? Our list of medium to large projects on the home is probably 2 dozen projects deep…but some of them are contingent on price, savings and their end-value.

I want to start building a roadmap for our home improvements, but really don't know where to start. I have the master list of things we'd like to accomplish, but thats about it. I've tried getting super rough quotes over the phone with some places, that seem (understandably so) hesitant to give a quote sight unseen. I don't have the time right now to have a couple dozen different companies out to give me quotes for various projects since our list is pretty spread out through different disciplines; electrical, structural, plumbing, carpentry, etc. I just need super, super rough numbers, even if the number can vary over a couple thousand dollars, I just need to know what to shoot for.

We have had a couple contractors out to give us quotes on our first project (which is just finishing part of our garage, and making it all up to code and everything). The rough numbers we were able to piece together off the internet were actually notably higher than the quotes we got from every single contractor we talked to. This is a nice surprise.

-We're willing to DIY when possible, but I'm particularly hesitant to do work on the house that requires a permit without a contractor. I don't trust myself not to make stupid, stupid mistakes keeping things up to code on a larger project, thus costing us more money…so DIY resources are welcome, but that still doesn't always answer some of our cost questions
-We're in Portland, Oregon so localish resources are best (sometimes I find numbers and costs for California based projects, and the cost is just insane compared to what it might be here…).

TL;DR- What resources are out there for getting super rough estimates for how much a home improvement project can cost? Does this even exist?
posted by furnace.heart to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When we bought a new house, both our real estate agent and the home inspector were willing to give us ballpark estimates for how much certain types of repairs or improvements would be (e.g., radon system for this type of crawlspace is around $1,000; getting a new roof for this size house should run about $3k-4k; new gutters about $1,500; egress window about $2k; etc).

Our real estate agent is still doing favors for us a few years later (for example, she just pulled a bunch of comps for us to use in appealing our property assessment value by the county), and she's pretty up-front about the fact that she does that sort of thing in hope we're passing her name onto friends and coworkers and that we'll consider her services the next time we move. So I don't think it would be totally weird to contact the agent you used to buy your house and ask if he / she might have some resources or be able to help you think through what types of renovations or improvements are likely to pay off in terms of selling the house for more money down the line.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:11 PM on May 29, 2015

Best answer: Oh totally homewyse I've used them a bunch for everything from small roof repairs to replacement windows to HVAC servicing etc. They are always very close to the point where I now use it as a good budget guide and reality check....
posted by chasles at 3:14 PM on May 29, 2015

Hmmmm. Link didn't work.... Homewyse

Oh weird it doesn't capture your highlighted text anymore... Anyway. Homewyse yay.
posted by chasles at 3:16 PM on May 29, 2015

Best answer: I've also used Homewyse. For my area, when I was doing my latest projects, I needed to consistently add about 20% to all their estimates. So I would get some quotes, and compare them to Homewyse, and see what you need to correct it by.
posted by ethidda at 3:47 PM on May 29, 2015

Congratulations furnace.heart on being new homeowners!
Homewyse does look like a good way to price out some of those projects you may be considering.
It goes without saying every project has complications that an online resource cant predict.
Your personal network with friends, your real estate agent or even folks you run into at work that may be in the trades could be the best resource for information.
Besides self-interest lots of professional tradespeople people might be able to advise you on what items may cost, where your money is best spent or ideas you may not have considered.
Another idea may be to pay for a contractor or tradesperson to visit your place and price your projects. Being up-front about your intentions but willing to pay for this persons valuable time may give you insight you hadn't expected.
Good luck and enjoy your new place.
posted by ashtray elvis at 4:07 AM on May 30, 2015

My real estate agent was totally willing to ballpark any project we needed numbers for. I haven't taken my home inspector up on it, but she was also willing to give rough estimates.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:18 PM on May 30, 2015

I've been using Homewyse also, but it's sometimes WAY off (quoted me $400 on something that was later quoted in person as $5000), so don't get too attached to those numbers.
posted by judith at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2015

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