Cost of a Garage Conversion to an Apartment or Accessory Dwelling in Near San Francisco

This garage conversion is just over 25% completed at the time of this article.
The owner of this home is a young recent Berkeley graduate who bought a home near a local BART station.  He can commute to downtown San Francisco in about 30 minutes (when there aren’t BART delays… a big “if”)

Michael plans to rent the home out.  Other clients with projects like this have collected $2,000+ per month and paid off the entire project in 5 years.

This is a tricky project as it is built on the property line. This is allowed when converting an existing space.  The structure that is there will technically remain in order to meet permit requirement however the wood is all rotten and useless so it is just an added challenge that complicates construction and makes building a big more expensive.

The full budget is saved as a pdf file that you can view or download here: Garage Conversion Budget

Photos of the plans follow:

Site Plan - Garage Conversion Elevations - Garage Conversion Floorplan - Garage Conversion

Rent a New Avenue Home on Airbnb

A few of our clients rent their homes on AirBnB.

Want to give mountain living in Wyoming a try?

Curious if you like modern open living, mountain biking, skiing, concrete floors, or hockey?

Book this home new Jackson Hole, Wyoming:

Modern Mountain Home in Wyoming

Alta Exterior

Curious about a garage conversion, backyard cottage, loft heights or small backyards?

Check out this two story cottage that was once a little one car garage.

The Elmwood Cottage

Berkeley walkway
Berkeley walkway

Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Top 3 Challenges in Remodeling or Building New: Clarity, Knowledge and People

Clarity, Knowledge, People!
That’s all you need.
New Avenue helps you get all three.
There are three key problems facing every owner who is remodeling or building new:
1) Clarity: It is really hard and time consuming to figure out how to interview, hire, manage and pay an architect or contractor.  You’re basically trying to assess what someone else is thinking, and measure the quality of a design (which is subjective) and that design hasn’t been created yet (i.e., designed)?  Oh my.  Good luck!
2) Knowledge:  The design and construction industry does not share accurate or comprehensive pricing.  It’s partly cultural.  It’s partly because of point #1.  How can you tell someone what something that isn’t even designed yet will cost? You’re best bet has always been to prepare yourself for your project to “Take twice as long and cost twice as much”
3) People: It’s hard to find good people and it’s even harder to trust a good person when you find them.
New Avenue has spent eight years solving these problems, and our system is free to use.
Problem #1: Don’t have years of experience managing architects and contractors?  That’s ok. Nobody does.  Don’t have the time to find, interview, hire, manage and pay them. If you had that kind of time, you might as well DIY.
Solution #1: Our Owner Toolbox makes it easy for you to find, interview, hire, manage and pay your architect and contractor. This system is free to use. It brings clarity to your project, from start to finish.   Clarity reduces confusion, stress and mistakes – and saves our owners 10% or more.  Get a competing bid, and we’ll prove it!
Problem #2: No one knows what things really cost.  Architects and contractors only know their part of a project. Plus creating a new home is really really hard.  It is a bit like raising a child, if you’re honest with yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll have one, maybe two, and then you’ll stop.
Solution #2: New Avenue save the data from completed projects and shares this with you so you know what to expect and you know when you’re getting a fair price.  You can’t get this anywhere else.
Problem #3: It’s hard to find a good architect or contractor. Then you have to figure out how to interview them and figure out if they are right for you.  This takes so much time, and it’s not even effective.
Solution #3:  New Avenue interviewed thousands of architects and contractors, recruited the best and worked with them for years to build up an actual database that proves they do quality work, stay on budget and have happy clients.
Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

5 things you might find in a new $1,000,000 home

We recently bid a 3,000 square foot custom home in the heart of Silicon Valley.  I grew up in a 1910 Sears Catalog home that would sell for $180,000 today.  $1,000,000 is an insane amount of money. Except it’s quite common today.
At $333 per square foot I have to admit, I was surprised this wasn’t more expensive…
Because this home is in the most expensive real estate market in the country. People can spend $1,000+ per square foot in this town.
Because it is designed with magazine quality, fantasy finishes.
So, let’s see what kind of goodies techies drop their money on:)
These are the five big purchases that I find most interesting:
– Fancy staircase
– Special cut hardwood flooring
– 4 exquisite bathrooms (in a three bedroom home)
– Custom kitchen cabinets
– A 10 piece wall of windows and sliding doors.
Here are some details about these finishes:
–  A special order $38,000 staircase.  This is the kind you’ll see in Dwell Magazine.  The staircase has floating wooden steps, a structural steel stringer, steel supports, and a metal wire railing.
Inline image 2
– 35,000 hardwood flooring that is “rift sawn”.  Rift sawn is the most expensive way to harvest wood from a tree trunk, it’s also the hardest and most durable.
Inline image 3
Rift Sawn
– $5,600 in glass shower doors, tile everywhere, waterproof floors throughout.
– $36,000 in custom kitchen cabinets

– 10 part glass doors running the full length of the kitchen and living area.  A truly open living area like this, in earthquake country, with another story above requires that you build the walls like building a steel skyscraper vs. a traditional wood framed house.
Inline image 4
To see some of the design of this home, and the full budget, you can read another post here.
Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Cost of a custom home in Silicon Valley

We recently completed a bid for a 2,886 square foot custom home in Los Altos, CA.  This is the heart of Silicon Valley.

This is a just under $1,000,000 for just under 3,000 square feet.  That budget does not include the architecture, engineering and permitting which can be another $250,000.

You can review the full bid 2886 Los Altos Bid

The home was a small ranch home that is being torn down and rebuilt as a 3-bed, 4-bath plus an office.

An elevation, or the exterior view of the home:

Los Altos Elevation

An elevation of the front of the home: Los Altos Elevation 2

The first floor plan:

Los Altos Ground Floor Jpeg

The second floor master bedroom, master bath and office:

Second Floor Master Suite

A quick rendering to get a sense of the size and look – details are intentionally left out of this:

2,886 Square Foot Los Altos Home

Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

 

3 Easy Steps to Get A Construction Estimate or A Fixed Price Construction Bid

If you are an owner or architect you can get a contractor bid in three easy steps.

Keep in mind, a good bid for a remodel or new build can easily take 30-40 hours of work – so while it’s easy for you to ask for one, you are asking for a lot from the contractor.

Here are the steps:

1) Load you plans, pictures and notes.
2) Email kevin@newavenuehomes.com to get a bid from a proven New Avenue contractor, or add your own contractor’s email to the Bid tab on your project page.
3) Bids will entered in our bid format and emailed to you.
Easy.
First load the plans and/or pictures you want estimated to the timeline and click “make visible to bidders”.
Inline image 2

2) Email kevin@newavenuehomes.com to find a proven New Avenue Contractor.  We have contractors in almost every major city. If we don’t have a proven partner already, we are really good at finding a new one and we will invest 10-20 hours of our own time to find one… all at no charge to you!

To add your own contractor sign into your New Avneue project page, click on the Proposals & Bids tab, and then select the blue button for + “Invite my own pros” then enter your contractor’s email.  They will get an invitation to see the information you loaded. They don’t see anything else.
Inline image 1

3) Review your bids.   The estimate or bid will be posted in New Avenue’s standard format. The team who is on the project page gets an email. This is usually an architect, and the owners.  All of you can sign in and can see the bids or download them.
Inline image 3
This is the bid format.
Don’t be intimidated by all those rows.  Even a $2,000,000 home only uses about 1/3 of them.  For example, you can view or download this expensive custom home Bid Example.  You will most likely have about 40 line items in your bid.
The rest will be left blank.  We show you all of these lines because it’s really  useful to see what you are not getting!  You don’t want to be surprised that landscaping, a driveway or a deck isn’t included!

Cost to build a large custom home (5,000 square foot 5 bed six bath)

This article is part of a series of posts on real project costs.  New Avenue is the leading national design/build system.  Homeowners and contractors enter bids  in our system and send and receive payments for completed work.  Any changes are submitted by the contractor and approved by the owner before the budget changes.  This keeps your project budget transparent, fair and under control.   It’s like PayPal for remodeling and building.  We get a unique ability to collect the complete project costs.  We share these costs to help inform owners, architects and contractors. 

If an owner does not have a team in place, we have a network of proven architects and contractors who are committed to creating homes that make owners healthier, wealthier and happier. 

A custom home is often a once in a lifetime project.  A dream home that is custom designed, permitting and built within two hours of a major city is an entirely different project from a tract home or existing home.

This following budget is for a 5,000 square foot custom home.   This was architect designed and custom built.  The construction costs include every detail needed for the contractor to complete the home. Your project will certainly be different however costs for a home of this quality are comparable outside of any major metro area.

 

Here is a list of the almost 100 line items used to track the progress and pay for work as it is completed.

General Conditions Allowance

Mobilization $ 1,500.00

Sanitary Facilities $ 1,500.00

Dumpsters $ 6,500.00

Progress Cleaning $ 1,000.00

Final Cleaning $ 1,500.00

Project Supervison $ 25,000.00

Shop Drawings & Samples & Mock-Ups $ 4,000.00

Silt Fencing & Erosion Control $ 1,800.00

Sub- total $ 42,800.00

Site Work

Demolition $ 19,500.00

Excavation $ 18,000.00

Backfill & Drainage $ 17,000.00

Rough Grading $ 14,000.00

Rain Gardens $ 9,500.00

Utility Trenching $ 12,000.00 *

Road Cleaning $ 2,500.00

Driveway $ 18,680.00

Tree Clearing $ 1,000.00

Excavate for Retaining Walls and Propane Tank $ 5,000.00

sub-total $ 117,180.00

Concrete and Masonry

Concrete Foundation and Slab $ 55,200.00

Foundation Waterproofing $ 2,100.00

Boulder Wall and trench drain $ 25,000.00

Stone Veneer on Foundation $ 30,800.00

Chimney veneer $ 5,500.00

Front Entry Step $ 2,800.00

Polished Concrete Floor $ 5,000.00

Division 3- sub-total $ 126,400.00

Division 4- Metals

Structural Steel $ 2,500.00

Gutters $ 2,000.00

sub-total $ 4,500.00

Wood and Plastics

Framing Materials $ 55,000.00

Exterior Materials $ 30,000.00

Interior Materials $ 16,500.00

Framing Labor $ 80,000.00

Exterior Labor $ 45,000.00

Interior Labor $ 82,000.00

General Labor $ 8,000.00

Porch /Deck/Railings(allowance) $ 31,500.00

Outdoor Shower $ 3,500.00

sub-total $ 351,500.00

Windows/Doors

Anderson Windows and Exterior Doors $ 43,000.00

Garage Door- (allowance) $ 3,000.00 A

Interior Doors $ 6,500.00

sub-total $ 52,500.00

Thermal and Moisture

Insulation $ 28,000.00

Roof $ 23,600.00

Roof top Snow Melt $ 2,500.00

sub-total $ 54,100.00

Division 8- Finishes

Drywall $ 21,200.00

Exterior Painting $ 20,500.00

Interior Painting $ 28,000.00

Kitchen Counter(allowance) $ 8,500.00

Flooring- Wood $ 29,900.00 A $6.50 per sf for material

Tile Material (allowance) $ 11,000.00

Tile – Install, waterproof, setting(allowance) $ 18,500.00

sub -total $ 137,600.00

Millwork

Kitchen Cabinet (allowance) $ 35,000.00

Bath Cabinets and Counters (allowance) $ 15,000.00

Master Walk-in Closet (allowance) $ 3,000.00

Closets and Shelving (allowance) $ 5,000.00

Bunk Beds and other Cabinets (allowance) $ 7,500.00

Fireplace Surrounds and Related (allowance) $ 3,500.00

Medicine Cabinets (allowance) $ 1,200.00

Stairs $ 19,500.00

Workbench $ 1,500.00

Balcony Rail $ 2,300.00

sub total $ 93,500.00

Specialties

Door, Bath and Cabinet Hardware (allowance) $ 16,750.00

Plumbing Fixtures, Shower Glass and Mirrors(allowance)$ 25,000.00

sub-total $ 41,750.00

Equipment

Appliances(allowance) $ 35,000.00

Generator – 22kw $ 8,500.00

Zero Clearance Fireplace Unit (allowance) $ 8,000.00

Appliance Install $ 3,500.00

sub-total $ 55,000.00

Mechanical

HVAC $ 55,000.00

Plumbing $ 29,000.00

Propane Tank $ 4,300.00

Gas Piping $ 1,200.00

HRV/ERV $ 4,000.00

sub-total $ 93,500.00

Electrical

Electrical Service $ 5,900.00

Electrical Rough in $ 52,800.00

Electrical Fixtures (allowance) $ 20,000.00

Alarm Install (allowance) $ 2,000.00

TV, Data (allowance) $ 25,000.00

sub-total $ 105,700.00

Landscaping

Stone Paths $ 2,530.00

Soil/Seed (allowance) $ 12,000.00

Irrigation(allowance) $ 5,000.00

Stone Dock(allowance) $ 15,000.00

Shore Protection (allowance) $ 35,000.00

Stone Patio $ 5,750.00

Landscape Misc(allowance) $ 10,000.00

sub-total $ 85,280.00

Sub-total $ 1,361,310.00

GC Fee- $ 204,196.50

Total $ 1,565,506.50

No matter what you are considering, the New Avenue platform is the easiest way to get organized, get bids, hire a team and manage your project.

You can download the full budget in the New Avenue system format here: Country House Budget

Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Architects and Contractors… Who’s the Project Manager?

At New Avenue we are often asked what we charge for the Project Manager.
The short answer, is our network of proven architects and contractors manage the design and construction so well that a project manager would be a waste of time and money.
Architects manage the design and permitting. Contractors manage all of the sub-contractors and on-site construction.  With this done right, there is no need for an extra project manager.
 An hourly project manager fee would be redundant to the services the architect and contractor should provide.  That fee would be $100/hour or more and that adds up to $30,000 or more during the course of a project.  It is a waste of your money.  Even worse, you can get a project manager who ends up playing the telephone game and relaying messages back and forth between the owner, architects and builder. Our platform does that for free, and it has a better memory than any person can ever have! 🙂
Part of the role of the contractor is to be your on-site project manager.   If your project is big enough (near or over $1,000,000) then your contractor will most likely have a site foreman who acts as a project manager. This person is part of the contractor’s crew.  Part of the role of your architect is to provide an addition pair of eyes and the professional opinion as a design professional.  All of these services are quoted and billed hourly.
At New Avenue we built the management platform and recruited a network of over 1500+ people who can deliver an exceptional experience and quality anywhere in the country.
Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started
Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call from our founder, Kevin Casey, just click here and tell us when to call you.

How to pay your architect or contractor without the usual risk or headaches

At New Avenue we try to make it as risk free and as easy as possible to pay for architecture and construction services.  We provide bid management, invoicing and payment service to owners for free.  You can hire a New Avenue architect or contractor, or you can hire your own architect or contractor, or both!

First you have to get a Design Proposal or a Construction Bid that you want to accept.  Of course, we are always eager to provide either. This article assumes you’ve already met with an architect or contractor and you want to accept their proposal or bid.

Architects give proposals while contractors give bids.  We always bill hourly for architecture but do fixed price bids for contractors.  It’s just best to do it this way because design and permits are so open ended.  While construction is much more concrete.

Once you accept a proposal or bid, we send out a form for you to set up an EFT, or electronic funds transfer.  This is the same way almost all employers pay their employees and how online services like PayPal work.  This is easier and safer than checks so almost all of our clients set that up.

When you get an invoice from either your architect or later your contractor, you can review the invoice and if it looks good you can click approve.  By clicking approve that authorizes your bank to send the funds through our system and pay the person who invoiced you.

The limit for any payment is the amount you approve when you click that approve button on the site.  Payments range from a few hundred for small design tasks up to $100,000+ during construction.
Ideally your architect or contractor will bill you every single month.  It’s actually in your best interest as an owner to ask for an invoice if you haven’t received one.  The invoicing is the best way to measure progress.

How tall can my guest house or accessory dwelling? 14 feet is bad, 18 is good!

The City of Berkeley is currently updating their accessory dwelling codes and height is an issue that is being reviewed.  Many cities struggle with this.  This is a summary of what you get for 14′ vs. 18′

To calculate the maximum height you measure the height of a building from the soil to the peak of the roof.

An 18′ tall design the foundation is 1 foot, the first floor is 8 feet, a second floor is 7 feet, the floor between the two is 1 foot and the roof is 1 foot.  That adds up to 18′ total.   You get a decent second floor with a 7 foot height at the peak in this design.

In the 17′ tall design below you can see that the peak of the upper floor is 5’11”.  This design is for a guy who is 6’8, so we have a major design flaw forced on us by the height limitation.
Guest House 17' Height
In the seconds design below, we were constrained to a 15′ height.
The owner here insisted on an above ground crawl space. Owners that don’t listen to our advice is just one of the countless challenges architects and contractors have, that’s another story though:)
In this design, the foundation is 1.5 feet.  The ground floor height is 7 feet 6 inches. The floor thickness between the two floors is almost 1 foot, the upper floor is 5 feet 1 inch and the roof is one foot thicks.  1.5+7.5+1+5+1 = 15 feet total height.
This owner was not happy to have a 5 foot 1 inch tall upstairs.  No one was happy with a 7 foot 6 inch main floor.  Excavating and creating a dug out lower floor can solve this but then you have four retaining walls and a concrete floor and moisture issues that get expensive and frankly, it’s not that nice to walk down three of four steps to your main floor.
Guest House 15' Height
Adding a second floor can cut the per square foot construction cost in half – from $500 per square foot to $250 per square foot. That per square foot cost is how construction is measured and it is one of the best ways to create valuable usable space affordably.