Home Addition & Remodel Costs
December 8, 2017 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to do a 1000sqft addition on my 1500 square foot single story home in Denver, Colorado and can't believe that it's going to cost me $400k. I'm willing to pay for good quality work and understand that prices have gone up in Denver - but I'd like to hear from others about their remodels and how they went price-wise. I want to make sure we're allocating enough for contingency given the high price starting point.

Overall, we're doing a lot of work - large (100sqft) addition over crawlspace, three bathrooms (one master, one full and one powder), a full kitchen relocation/gut, tearing down walls, flooring throughout the home, doors throughout the home, new windows throughout, etc. We've got three bids and they're all around $400k. The price structures are all different - one guy is 'cost plus 10%', one guy is 'cost plus 15%', one guy is fixed bid. Timing estimates are also all over the place - one guy said 8 months, one guy said 6 and the other guy said 5 months. Not sure who to believe. They all have the same plans (professionally done with stamped engineering drawings, etc).

I feel like we could build a whole new house for this amount but maybe I'm not as current as I should be on home remodel/addition/building prices.


1) What cost model did you go with on your remodel? Cost plus? Did you feel good about it in the end?
2) Where did you go overboard on your remodel - busting your budget? Where do you wish you would have spent more?
3) Was the timing estimate you received accurate?
posted by shew to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my market (Minneapolis) I would ballpark this at like $150k, since you don't have a basement. Your market is probably a lot hotter and the contractors know this. After such a renovation, what will your house be worth? That is very key.

If it's worth it, it's worth it.

If you are asking for top end modern stuff, you get top end prices.

I travel a lot and I hatewatch HGTV in hotels where the two brothers renovate a little house that is like a jillion dollars in Toronto and in the end it's worth more.

This is that sort of thing. I know Denver is a hot market, but you're basically adding another house onto your existing house.

$400k seems way excessive to me, but the companies bidding on your job can line up contracts all day long for months and months in advance. They don't need or want your work. They have months and months of work building in the suburbs or whatever. They have existing contracts to do a million things all the time and that's why your timeframe is so long. It doesn't take 6 months to make an addition. It only does if they don't have a full crew on it. It takes like a month or two max.

You are in a perfect storm of super hot market and no contractors willing to make a full commitment. I don't have any idea what to tell you, but get other quotes.

You will likely not find much cheaper. Everyone knows the prices around where you live, everyone bases it off that.
posted by sanka at 7:57 PM on December 8, 2017

That is high bidding. I have heard it is harder to remodel than to build new. I justnread, 80-200 dollars per square foot. If you are expecting the Taj Mahal then more. You are being charged 400 per sq foot. I would call around some more, because sometimes out west, big interconnected families work construction and their bids are not competitive. Call around and ask about average per foot cost.
posted by Oyéah at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2017

Correction: Addition is 1000 (one thousand) square feet (not 100). I bought low (paid $250k for the place). It will be worth more after the remodel (even if it costs $400k).
posted by shew at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2017

It sounds like you are adding 1000sq feet plus remodeling your existing 1500 sq feet so the cost per square foot is $160, which isn't bad considering three bathrooms and a kitchen (wet work is expensive).
posted by saucysault at 8:07 PM on December 8, 2017

One way to look at it is to figure out approximately what your house would sell for now, and then look around on Redfin/Zillow for houses that recently sold for $400K more than that. If they're way nicer, then you're probably overpaying a bit, since in a hot market some of these houses are flips, which also have transaction costs to cover on top of remodeling/construction costs. It might be because the contractors are quoting high, or it could be because you've reached the point where remodeling and working around the shell of the house costs more than it saves, as compared to building from scratch. On the other hand, if those houses aren't anywhere close to as nice, I'd be a little suspicious that you're going to get a lot of extra costs cropping up during the remodel process. Ideally you want them to be similarly but slightly less nice (or for houses similar to your desired final result to be slightly more than current sale price +$400K), since that suggests that someone could flip your house, spend about what you will for construction, and still make a profit.

None of this takes into account the value to you of having a house that's exactly how you want it to be, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't place value on that (and it could be that particular things you want are driving up the price, whereas flips cater to the lowest common denominator), but that's much harder to evaluate.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:04 PM on December 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

That sounds about right. If you want more local opinions, could you ask on a nextdoor group for your neighborhood?

In my experience, construction timing estimates are wildly optimistic. They tell you how long the work would take if it were uninterrupted, but they're are always interruptions. I would expect a job this big to take at least 18 months.
posted by medusa at 1:44 AM on December 9, 2017

I would do some comparing of current home prices because one thing you're not considering is the incredible amount of stress it adds to live in a construction zone. Late deliveries, stalled construction, forced to live in a corner of your home, people in and out, having to put out fires with contractors, not being able to get a hold of contractors, etc. I lived through a kitchen renovation and it was pretty unpleasant, and that was only a week. But there was debris everywhere, people coming in and out, materials all over the place, etc. It was stressful, and that was only a week.

If you really love your home and don't want to leave and are sure this $400k (plus at least 10% overage) will add as much value as you're putting in, then I would STILL do some serious thinking about living like this for probably a year at least.

But I would also be looking at local home prices; it may be far far less difficult to just move that has the amenities you're looking for, or even a place that has less amenities but a more manageable remodel.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:49 AM on December 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Similar to YISYIWY's sentiments, we are at the tail-end of a "three month" remodel of our kitchen, laundry room, and guest bath. That tail is ever-lengthening; right now I think it's in early January, likely to go longer. We started in late August. We are doing cost plus but there's still tons of confusion on our end about what's a change order and what's covered under our predetermined allowances. It's been an absolute nightmare trying to replace a new front door that arrived warped.Our carpenter (who does lovely work) is an older guy with no helpers, and he's out of commission for the foreseeable future with a mystery illness, so we are defiantly moved into a kitchen with no drawers yet. Our builder gapes like a codfish with incredulity that after a 30 year career in building, he's somehow never had a carpenter unable to finish a job, and has no idea how to correct this situation. Can you tell that I'm about to go at my builders like a rabid hyena so they'll GTFO my house that we've poured money into but can't call home yet?

My advice is don't do this to yourself. Buy a house that already has the space you want. It may not be cheaper financially, but the stress you'll avoid by living in an active construction zone is incalculable.
posted by Drosera at 10:45 AM on December 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Sounds high to me (architect) but your market is your market, and you have 3 consistent bids, so it seems like that's what it costs. Remodels are generally more challenging than ground up due to increased unknowns, so bidders will pad the numbers more. But what I really want to tell you is even if you go ahead make sure you have at least a 10% contingency of funds over the original bid, and be prepared you'll likely spend it.

In terms of cost model, both are OK but there is more risk to you with cost plus. Fixed you can control costs better, since its, well, fixed.

For schedule, in a hot market, pay close attention. It will be HARD to get subs out on site in a timely fashion when there is so much work competing with you. Same for inspectors - you can lose a lot of time this way. Assume schedule contingency as well.

Also, have you budgeted for permits and meter connections and the like? Those can be 5-figure costs in some jurisdictions.
posted by annie o at 5:41 PM on December 10, 2017

That sounds really high to me but that might be the price in your market. If you've got 3 bids all coming in about the same, that's probably right, though I have heard the rule of thumb that projects will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you'd expect -- are you OK with an $8000K remodel that takes a more than year?

1000% agree with others who say this sounds like an absolute nightmare and I'd buy a new house that was more to my liking before I'd ever consider doing this. (Unless you are planning to live elsewhere during the entire process and have unlimited funds.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2017

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