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The Remodel Estimate Shot Up
Old 10-05-2018, 06:24 AM   #1
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The Remodel Estimate Shot Up

I know this comes down to a personal decision, but I just do not know what the right answer is. We have been working through a plan to remodel our family room and adjacent laundry room for nearly a year. Fairly big deal - vault the ceiling, redo fireplace, rearrange walls a bit, plumbing, electrical. Getting design work done and finding a contractor has been unexpectedly slow. We finally picked a builder (had to put $1900 down and paid $1500 for design earlier) and had an estimate of $52K for the job. There were allowances for various elements. Then we get into details - pick exact finishes, flooring, cabinetry, etc. We decide that we really like certain custom cabinetry that will add $7K. An electrician comes through to get details. He sees that we need an upgrade to our main grounding per code.

The builder has to take all this and revise the estimate. We are expecting something close to $60K. It comes back at $80K. We are pretty stunned. Even areas that we did not make any changes to have gone up. I feel like the builder misled us with his "allowances". The issue is not if we can afford it, we can. The issue is if the project is just not worth the cost any more. We can make changes to reduce the cost, but then we are getting less, so the value issue does not really change. We have not figured out what we want to do. We can bite the bullet and get everything we want, pare back in various ways, or totally bail and forfeit the initial $. Any guidance for us?
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Old 10-05-2018, 06:58 AM   #2
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We just wrapped up a one year plus backyard reno with a new pool. We really wanted to do it and I'm very happy with the results. But....everything cost more than we thought at first. So glad we are done! Good luck with your family room!
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Old 10-05-2018, 07:37 AM   #3
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Last spring we finished a major remodel of our Florida condo, bringing it from the 1970s back into modern day. It ended up beautiful and we love it, even though the price ended up just over six figures. Our initial estimate was around $45K, but we added a great deal of changes ourselves. There were only a few minor surprises from the contractor, and he kept us informed immediately if there was a change. We are very happy with the quality of work and will highly recommend our contractor. But I guess we went into the project knowing it would cost more than the original estimates. Whenever you open walls there are surprises. When you shop for materials there is always a risk of purchasing higher quality items.
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Old 10-05-2018, 07:52 AM   #4
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Instead of "anchoring" on that original price, forget about it and review the new price against your current options.

What are your options? Do nothing or do a partial (you said that reduces the value, along with price). Or move? Moving has a cost to it, and you may or may not find something as good as your post-reno home.

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Old 10-05-2018, 08:04 AM   #5
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If I read correctly, you're re-doing a laundry room and the cabinets you like are $7000 MORE than the alternative? I know people who have spent less than $7000 on nice cabinets for an entire kitchen.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:17 AM   #6
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If I read correctly, you're re-doing a laundry room and the cabinets you like are $7000 MORE than the alternative? I know people who have spent less than $7000 on nice cabinets for an entire kitchen.


The laundry room cabinets are $2500-3500. The larger cabinetry is for the family room on either side of the fireplace.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:19 AM   #7
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If I read correctly, you're re-doing a laundry room and the cabinets you like are $7000 MORE than the alternative? I know people who have spent less than $7000 on nice cabinets for an entire kitchen.
Would agree, might want to try and tackle that as a DIY job. I installed new cabinets in my laundy room a couple years ago for <$500. Maybe not the top of the line cabinets but it is a laundry room.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:23 AM   #8
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I think that the only thing that you can do at this point is a side-by-side, line-by-line analysis of the $52k vs the $80k... see what items have changed and why and whether it is justifiable. If it isn't then start making noises that you might pull the plug on the project and you may find that the contractor suddenly "finds" some savings... or maybe not.

We have been lucky... our house build was about 112% of budget but half of that was due to certain upgrades that we decided... and our recent condo kitchen remodel was actually a little under budget because we decided to keep our existing refridgerator rather than replace it.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:27 AM   #9
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You won't like my answer but it's on you, not the builder. It was on you to figure out if the allowances fit your taste. Builders do lots of estimates and they don't have time to personalize the allowances for everyone.


According to your number the bid was 52 you added 7k for custom cabinets picked all your preferred finishes and expected the bid to only go up 8K.now is the cost for the electrician folder into this bid...I don't know why you are stunned, disappointed at the cost okay, but stunned?

Unless the housing market crashes and people quit remodeling this probably as cheap as it will ever be to do your project. Now if you really want to do the project and are just surprised at what it cost, go for it. OTOH if it started as a wouldn't it nice to remodel and your heart isn't in it,dump the deposits and move on.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:29 AM   #10
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If I read correctly, you're re-doing a laundry room and the cabinets you like are $7000 MORE than the alternative? I know people who have spent less than $7000 on nice cabinets for an entire kitchen.
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The laundry room cabinets are $2500-3500. The larger cabinetry is for the family room on either side of the fireplace.
In our recent condo kitchen remodel we had ~20' of wall cabinets and 25' of floor cabinets done for ~$7k... installed... now admittedly we didn't go with anything high end as a conscious decision but they are pretty nice and we are quite happy with them.

Our contractor works with a local installer who in turn works with a local plant that makes the cabinets... but their price installed was just a little more than half of that the same layout would have been from Home Depot or Lowes.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:37 AM   #11
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As others have mentioned, it depends on if the cost/benefit is worth it to you.
Several years ago, we remodeled our kitchen. Our final cost was almost double the estimate. Mostly because I chose higher grade products than the contractor, but also because each inspection came back from the city with "safety upgrades" beyond the kitchen that needed to be done on the older home, ie electrical, plumbing, etc.
Glad we did it, but the final cost was higher. We paid 1/3 each at beginning, mid, and end of rebuild. Happy with the end result and know that I would have kicked myself for years if I had not gotten the upgrades I wanted and gone with the contractor picks.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:40 AM   #12
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Not much consolation, but that’s the way it goes. I’ve never had a project that didn’t go way over the contractors estimate once I started looking at actual materials and then again, once the surprises came out. Contractors bid jobs with crap materials unless you are specific at the beginning. And there will always be things that need done once you get into the job. Therefore I’ve always been faced with whether or not I want the higher quality materials, because, you only live once and there’s no better time than now to do those extra things. I mean, the walls are already open. . .

Me and DW have always spent more on our houses than we can get out of them, but we’re more comfortable with doing it the way we want. In my current home, I’m at about $300K for a house I’d probably only get $250 for. The way I look at it is that you don’t live for free. So if I live here 5 years, it cost me $10K per year, or, less than $1K a month to live how I want to live.

Not to be cynical, but I’d expect that $80K to go to $100K before you’re done. If it still makes sense for you at that price, then go for it. The one thing for sure is that a remodel is going to cost money. Get a big number in your head so as to at least eliminate that stress as you go along. The rest of the project will be stressful enough.
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:41 AM   #13
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We have worked with contractors doing renovations before and discovered that allowances in the estimate are for very basic stuff....i.e. trash. Everything above "trash" is an upgrade, including even a change from white grout to off-white grout. We learned to add 30-50% into the cost of any estimate. Sometimes it wasn't worth it.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:00 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
I think that the only thing that you can do at this point is a side-by-side, line-by-line analysis of the $52k vs the $80k... see what items have changed and why and whether it is justifiable. If it isn't then start making noises that you might pull the plug on the project and you may find that the contractor suddenly "finds" some savings... or maybe not.
This is the plan.

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Originally Posted by ivinsfan View Post
You won't like my answer but it's on you, not the builder. It was on you to figure out if the allowances fit your taste. Builders do lots of estimates and they don't have time to personalize the allowances for everyone.


According to your number the bid was 52 you added 7k for custom cabinets picked all your preferred finishes and expected the bid to only go up 8K.now is the cost for the electrician folder into this bid...I don't know why you are stunned, disappointed at the cost okay, but stunned?
We know that some of it was on us, and that some was due to code, etc. It is not that the new estimate was high, but how much over it was.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:06 AM   #15
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This is the plan.



We know that some of it was on us, and that some was due to code, etc. It is not that the new estimate was high, but how much over it was.
I hear ya, try walking thru a model home and asking about the base price compared to the model, it will make your eyes water...I've walked thru brand new 300K plus houses where the package price included laminate counters in the kitchen...but if you ever sell that house having the wiring up to current code will be to your advantage.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:19 AM   #16
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We did a major renovation after we FIRE’d. The original thought was to spend ~$120k, ended up costing $200k. The estimates are always the bare minimum to get things done. If you want slightly nicer materials, fancier looks, or some additional convenience, you have to pay more. Also, there is always new thoughts and ideas as the construction goes on. For example, we ended up adding a basement (and finishing it). But hey, we are enjoying the additional space, so no complaint from us.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:24 AM   #17
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I know this comes down to a personal decision, but I just do not know what the right answer is. We have been working through a plan to remodel our family room and adjacent laundry room for nearly a year. Fairly big deal - vault the ceiling, redo fireplace, rearrange walls a bit, plumbing, electrical. Getting design work done and finding a contractor has been unexpectedly slow. We finally picked a builder (had to put $1900 down and paid $1500 for design earlier) and had an estimate of $52K for the job. There were allowances for various elements. Then we get into details - pick exact finishes, flooring, cabinetry, etc. We decide that we really like certain custom cabinetry that will add $7K. An electrician comes through to get details. He sees that we need an upgrade to our main grounding per code.

The builder has to take all this and revise the estimate. We are expecting something close to $60K. It comes back at $80K. We are pretty stunned.
I'm with Zinger, is there any of this you can do yourself?

We've always done everything ourselves, so it's real sticker shock for me to see what other people pay for things. Heck, we built our entire house for $60K, I can't imagine paying that just to remodel a room or two. We probably only spent a few hundred dollars building all of our kitchen cabinets.

I know this doesn't help much, but remember labor is usually half the cost of a project. If you can do some work yourself you can save a lot of money.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:26 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by pb4uski View Post
I think that the only thing that you can do at this point is a side-by-side, line-by-line analysis of the $52k vs the $80k... see what items have changed and why and whether it is justifiable. If it isn't then start making noises that you might pull the plug on the project and you may find that the contractor suddenly "finds" some savings... or maybe not.

We have been lucky... our house build was about 112% of budget but half of that was due to certain upgrades that we decided... and our recent condo kitchen remodel was actually a little under budget because we decided to keep our existing refridgerator rather than replace it.
We’ve redone our kitchen and all bathrooms, so I’d like to reply. But without seeing the exact quote detail, I don’t know how I could say anything meaningful, so the advice above is probably best. In the end you have to decide what it’s worth to you.

An idea that might help before or during? Our last reno was our kitchen at $28K, including $4K for family room solid maple flooring. It came in exactly as quoted because though there were a few adds, the contractor agreed to let me take on some jobs. DW and I moved the old (working) appliances out and donated them. DW and I tore out all the old kitchen cabinets and broke them down, he disposed of them. DW and I tore out the (adjacent) family room carpet and pad and I removed a billion staples (took 10-12 hours). Our sweat equity offset the changes that popped up during the reno, so we didn’t spend a dime for extras.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:30 AM   #19
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I always heard construction = 1.5x In your case, 1.5(60k) = 90k. You are getting a deal. IN all seriousness, line by line with the General Contractor, have him make commitments as to which line items specifically he will work to reduce costs.



Then, for the expensive line items, or things that shot up higher than expected, bring in your own sub for that work. His loss.



Also, make them commit to a more favorable completion date. I've found that it always costs more, and takes longer than when the dream first arose.



Don't tell him you are a Dr. as well. For some reason contractors think if you got money, you are willing to blow it on them without understanding how you acquired the wealth in the first place...by LBYM. I've heard comments like "man why are rich customers so cheap". I've also heard things from the contractor "Oh that guy has money, let's charge a little more". When the client relationship starts out with this perception, it's hard to battle. Tell him you can't afford it if there are no compromises. Make him feel like he priced himself out of the job. If he's prideful, that might change his bid.



Fair is fair.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:50 AM   #20
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I always heard construction = 1.5x In your case, 1.5(60k) = 90k. You are getting a deal. IN all seriousness, line by line with the General Contractor, have him make commitments as to which line items specifically he will work to reduce costs.

Then, for the expensive line items, or things that shot up higher than expected, bring in your own sub for that work. His loss.


Don't tell him you are a Dr. as well. For some reason contractors think if you got money, you are willing to blow it on them without understanding how you acquired the wealth in the first place...by LBYM. I've heard comments like "man why are rich customers so cheap". I've also heard things from the contractor "Oh that guy has money, let's charge a little more". When the client relationship starts out with this perception, it's hard to battle. Tell him you can't afford it if there are no compromises. Make him feel like he priced himself out of the job. If he's prideful, that might change his bid.

Fair is fair.
Well, 1.5x the 52k is 78k, so that's close.
On the fireplace portion, we do have a sub that quoted 5k less (this is part of the surprise) so we will use that.
I am not a Dr. Those are my initials . Lot's of people have thought I was a Dr tho.
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