We standardize and automate the process so your remodel, addition or custom home experience will be amazing

Designing and building an addition, remodel or custom home is a complicated process that involves one to two years of planning and then 45+ people to do the actual construction.

At New Avenue our qualified and proven local professionals can design and build your project.  We supplement the talented pros with a project management software that we built.  Combined, proven people and the best of class project management software makes the design/build process easier and fun.

Using our experience working with hundreds of clients and spent years perfecting the design/build process.   The features on our platform now provide the most efficient way to design and build any project. We’ve proven this on projects ranging from $50,000 to $2,500,000.

The following features in our system automatically includes the industry’s best practices in every project using New Avenue.

Goals & Ideas Questionnaire

Every project has a Goals & Ideas Questionnaire. You can spend 5 minutes or 30 minutes answering 30 questions.  These questions are based on countless client meetings, thousands of proposals, bids,changes.  By asking you the right questions at the start you can make faster and better decisions. This improves the efficiency of your entire team.



You can use your free project timeline to communicate with your team. When you receive a notification, you can reply by email and your message will automatically appear in your timeline. This keeps you, your spouse, your architect and your contractor on the same page.  This squashes headaches and mistakes before they happen.  As far as we’re concerned, it’s magic.

One Click Accept a Design Proposal

You can use our free budget tool to collect Design Proposals from architects.  Our team of proven and vetted architects are able to provide a proposal.  You can also invite your own architect.  Just tell them “I am using New Avenue to keep my budget organized”

A good Design Proposal will tell you the 20-30 steps required to design and permit your project.  It will also show you the estimated hours of work needed for each step.   To accept a Design Proposal you simply click “approve” and you automatically have a Design Agreement that insures your project follows the best practices in the industry.

Timesheet - Invoice

New Avenue’s invoicing system is the first system built to help owners keep their entire project organized.  With New Avenue your proposal, budget and your invoices are all in one standardized format.  There’s no need to try to reconcile a word document proposal with a list of hours worked.  To pay you simply click approve and that authorized New Avenue’s system to request payment from your bank so you can pay by direct deposit – the same way your employer probably pays you.

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

Should I create an addition, backyard cottage, or remodel?

New Avenue starts every project with our 30 questions. You can skim these questions and answer a few of them in five minutes or you can spend an hour.  We recommend you spend about 15 minutes.

These questions are based on thousands of past client meetings. We also collect feedback during construction changes and figure out what we have to ask early on in the process so we can avoid making the same costly mistakes in the future.

A client recently contacted us with some questions about what to do with their home. They are in their 60s and want to make a long term plan for how to use their home.

Here are a few of our questions and their answers.  Their full design proposal is below too:

Q: What do you want to do?

A: We would like to add a rental unit to our existing two story & 5 bedroom & 3.5 bath home.  We really do not know if we should do an addition or add a cottage/tiny house to the backyard, so we need help.

Q: What are you using this new space for?

A: We would like to rent it out either as a sublet or airbnb for extra income.

Q: If applicable, what is the 25-50 year plan for your project? For example, you may be renting out an inlaw unit and will eventually move in later.

A: We are not really sure. We could move into the new unit eventually.   We are in our 60’s so we hope it’s a 50 year plan. (:-)).

After reviewing all of the answers and questions they submitted in their Goals & Ideas questionnaire on www.newavenuehomes.com, one of our local designers met with them and provide this Design Proposal.

We’re excited that they quickly approved the proposal and design is beginning this summer.

To get this project started the owners:

  1. Filled out the Goals & Ideas survey on Newavenuehomes.com
  2. Set up a call with a New Avenue project admin to review the design/build process
  3. Paid $250 to have a Design Session with a vetted New Avenue designer
  4. Met with the designer
  5. Received a Design Proposal and clicked approve.

You can read or download the Design Proposal here: Cost of Oakland Basement Conversion to Accessory Dwelling Desig


Cost of a basement foundation with egress window

An architect in our network is considering adding a 400 square foot basement below a new 400 square foot addition.
It’s odd that basements are such a rare thing around here.  Basements are standard for the rest of the country.
To excavate a 20’x20′ space, it will cost $25,000.  This includes the excavation and to haul off 150 yards of soil.
Exporting soil has a fee of $700 a load.  A load in a dump truck is 7-8 yards.
20’x20′ x 8′ deep is 120 yards of soil. That is 17 loads an $15,000 in fees to the transfer station/dump
4 days labor plus machinery is $1,200/day = $5,000 for labor and machinery
Shoring is additional.
The foundation footings will be about $8,000
The foundation walls will be poured concrete for another $8000
With a contractor doing this it would be $40,000.
That’s 400 square feet for $40,000.
You can finish this space for a very reasonable cost too.
This is such a good value. Around here, real estate is valued at $900+ per square foot and construction costs are usually $300-$500+ per square foot.  There is a lot of value in a basement.
It’s tempting to have fun with this idea now…
  • Add radiant floor heat.
  • You could get a bedroom or two into a 400 square foot footprint and rent it out
  • Add a basement bar
  • Add a playroom for the kids
  • An office
  • Media room
  • Music room
This is making me wonder why we don’t do basements all the time!

How to permit and permit costs of an accessory dwelling vs. an accessory structure in Albany, CA

The Albany Planning Department has a very strict interpretation of an
“accessory building” (that is not a dwelling with a kitchen) and what triggers requiring a permit. Based on a conversation in February 2017, if a storage building (accessory structure) that is less than 120 square feet in size has power or electricity, then Albany requires a permit.

Similarly, if the accessory structure is intended for any use other than storage, Albany requires a permit. A workshop accessory building would require a permit based on the proposed use. This interpretation is unique to Albany.

Re: parking
Parking requirements have been waived as of January 2017.

Re: planning and permit costs:
Because the technician was not forthcoming with what fees would apply, we made some assumptions so that we will have a reasonable amount in the budget to account for potential fees. Our project falls somewhere between an Albany defined “accessory building” and an ADU. We exist in a grey zone which their fee structure does not account for. We think once we have a master plan for development of the back yard, we should sit down with the actual planner to review the project, and the likely phasing of the

At that time we should get a clearer idea of the planning fees.

Again, the building permit fee we estimated was based on a $200,000
construction budget all submitted as a single project. That’s a number we
pulled out of thin air at the counter just to get the technician to commit
to an amount for a building permit.

As we revisit the proposal, do you have drawings of the existing house and
site that might have been prepared for your recent remodel?

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

Legalizing an existing accessory dwelling in-law unit in San Francisco

We know of just one apartment out of an estimated 30,000-40,000 illegal in laws in San Francisco that was legalized! This is the story about that apartment’s legalization process.

One of our partner architects, David Locicero recently completed the legalization of an existing in law unit in San Francisco.  The process from start to finish lasted 21 months and cost just over $50,000. This was an existing and unpermitted in-law apartment that was updated to meet current codes.

Do you wonder:

  • Can I legalize an illegal in-law apartment or accessory dwelling in my home?
  • What permits do you need to legalize an unpermitted apartment in your home?
  • What do building permits cost?
  • How long does it take to get permits?
  • How much does it cost to build or legalize an unpermitted apartment?

It’s near impossible to get the answers to these questions because very few people have done this. We answers these questions here and this is based on experience, not guesswork!

Our network of architects and contractors collectively have more experience than any other company we know of and we only know of this one project that legalized an unpermitted in-law apartment.  Of course we know plenty of unpermitted apartments.

Here are the facts about the legalization process:

When did the clients accept the design proposal and hire the architect: June 2015
When were permits submitted: September 8, 2015 (3 months of design)
When were permits approved: April 2016 (8 months waiting for permits! you should plan on the same)
Construction started: April 2016
Construction finished:  November 2016 (8 months of construction).
However we didn’t get the Certificate of Occupancy until January 2017. Between the holidays, and some confusion among the inspectors, it took us quite a while to get our “CO”. (an additional 2 months of waiting).
# Hours of design time: Approximately 45 hours including responding to plan check comments and construction administration.
We had a very good contractor and very few problems uncovered during construction. The existing conditions were very favorable for minimal design costs.
Other subconsultants needed: Title 24 (Energy Conservation Compliance). I used NRGcompliance.com
Approximate design cost: $5000
Approximate construction cost: $50,000

Total timeline: 21 Months from start to finish.

We can share much more details, copies of the plans, and review your project ideas.  It’s free to call New Avenue if you have any questions.  We offer a $250 design session in your home if you want an assessment of your property.

Here are before and after photos of the living room and bathroom:

sunset inlaw_before_1 sunset inlaw_after_1

Bathroom Before

sunset inlaw_after_3


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


Cost of a Garage Conversion to an Apartment or Accessory Dwelling 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


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

Award winning accessory dwellings, backyard cottages, and in-law units designed and built by New Avenue

Backyard Cottage / Accessory Dwelling for Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley
Backyard Cottage / Accessory Dwelling for Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley

This was our first project, a tiny backyard cottage for a Berkeley professor (the loft is way too small, but that vaulted ceiling is quite nice: https://www.pinterest.com/NewAvenue/karens-cottage-studio-with-a-sleeping-loft/

Modular backyard cottage

A cottage we did with Sunset Magazine

Backyard Cottage
Berkeley walkway

A small cottage with a proper sized loft and nice landscaping/entry:

Bruce and Nancy's Guest Room, office, storage
Bruce and Nancy’s Guest Room, office, storage

This is an office/guest room with no permitted kitchen (that we know of:)


Judy's Backyard Cottage in Albany, CA
Judy’s Backyard Cottage in Albany, CA

This is a 420 square foot cottage: https://www.pinterest.com/NewAvenue/judys-garden-cottage-downsizing-to-a-backyard-cott/

Our architects can work in any style. These are all in the mid range for costs.  We can show you some luxury projects and more basic projects too.

You can sign up here and I’ll set up a meeting for as early as next week. We can do almost everything remotely too: https://newavenuehomes.com/pricing

Permit costs and time to build a duplex, triplex or accessory dwelling

We get calls every week with people asking about adding another home to a single family home to create a duplex, or converting a garage behind a duplex to make a triplex, or just adding a small accessory dwelling.

Effectively, these are all the same from a design and building perspective.

The permit process varies quite dramatically and can take 6-12 months no matter which path you choose.

The one big cost impact is a duplex or triplex will incur new utility hook up fees of $15,000+. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of a 6 month permit process or a 12 month permit process.

This is very specific for Berkeley however most cities are very similar.

Here is a summary:

1) You own a single family home and want an accessory dwelling
– If you keep the design under the height limits and are willing to sign a deed restriction promising to owner-occupy one of the two units for eternity, then you can skip the planning permits with a “by right” planning approval. Then you get your buiding permit which is 5+ months.
– If you want a design that is over the height limit of 14′ then you can apply for an AUP planning permit which costs about $4,000 and takes 5+ months. Then you get your building permit, which is another 5+ months.

2) You own a single family home and want a duplex.
– If you are zoned for two units, then the city may allow this. The architect has to check at the planning desk.
– Planning will require a Use Permit that has neighbor review and takes about six months for the planning permits. Building permits will follow

3) You own a duplex and want to add a third unit:
– – Same as above. You might want to just make it a big addition to the duplex and keep it as two units or you might want to permit the 3rd unit. Again this requires the architect to visit the city.

In either case, the cost is about $6,000 for the Use Permit
Utility hookups come into play, so that is an additional ??? (I’d say $15,000 or more)
Building permits are the same as they are based on building costs.

Also check out the permit calculator: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/PermitFeeEstimator.aspx

Designing and Building an Accessory Dwelling in Los Angeles

A potential client recently called us to discuss their goal of adding an accessory dwelling to their home in Los Angeles.

This owner had verified that his R-1 zoned residence is allowed to add an accessory dwelling.  He had read about the new state law that went into effect on January 1, 2017.  This law gave him, and everyone else in California the right to build an accessory dwelling, backyard cottage, or in-law unit.

We went to City Planning last week and confirmed he is allowed to convert the garage.
He now needs someone to look at his property because he wants to answer the following questions.  We’ve answered what we know below.  Some questions require a site visit by an architect:
Q: What can I do with my garage?
A: Legally, you should be able to convert it to living space.
Q: Should I take out the existing garage?
A: We would have an architect and possibly a contractor review the current garage and recommend whether to keep it or replace it.
Q: How do I maximize my property?
A: We would have an architect meet on site and discuss some design ideas.
Q: The garage is right in the middle of the yard.  If I put a new unit in there then my primary house is about 730 square feet. How big can I build?
A: The city noted that up to the same size as the main home is allowed because his home is smaller. The city confirmed that a 725 square foot accessory dwelling would be ok.
Q: Can I add new meters as the new home will be rented?
A:The city confirmed that his garage can be converted to a living area and he’ll be able to apply for a new address, separate gas meter and separate utilities.  We advise that we almost always T off the main home utilities. This typically allows you to avoid the utility installation fees which can be $10,000 or more.  Then you can but a private meter (they’re on Amazon) and have an electrician or plumber install it.  With this meter you can bill your tenants for their use.
Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Redwood City is Removing Parking Requirements for Accessory Dwellings

A series of changes are coming up in the Redwood City zoning code.

This PDF lists the currents changes:

Redwood City Accessory Dwellings – PublicNoticePCFeb212017ADU

Most relevant for many homeowners is the easier parking restrictions. You won’t have to pave over a big section of your yard to make parking work.  They are removing the parking requirement entirely for most projects!

If you do need parking, smaller existing spaces are allowed.

You can build a bigger accessory dwelling too.  Increasing from 640 square feet to 700 opens up the possibility of much nicer two bedroom accessory dwellings in Redwood City!


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