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 your plans, pictures and notes.
2) Click the button “ask a New Avenue admin for help”
3) We will follow up with you to set up an initial call.  A proven New Avenue contractor will meet with you and then enter their fixed price bid on your project page.
It’s simple and transparent.  We won’t send your information to anyone other than our local vetted partner.
First load the plans and/or pictures you want estimated to the timeline and click “make visible to bidders”.

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2) Contact us.  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.

To add your own contractor sign into your New Avenue 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.

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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.
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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 of a remodel and restoration of a 100+ year old historic home in The San Francisco Bay Area

This article is part of a series of posts on real project costs.  New Avenue is the leading national design/build network.  Our architect and contractor partners use our online platform to provided their bids and process their invoices.  As such we get a unique collection of project costs.  We share these costs to help inform owners, architects and contractors. 

You can review the actual construction budget for the restoration of a 110 year old 4,800 square foot home. This restoration included an almost gut remodel and seismic steel frame throughout. This home is located in the gold coast neighborhood of Alameda.

4800 square feet of remodeling

Construction Budget 4,800 square foot restoration 1908_70 Lines

Sign up to see 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

 

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 to Work With New Avenue

You can hire us for as much or as little as you’d like.  We start with a $250 flat fee for a Design Session with an architect in your home. They will:

  1. Review your Goals and Ideas questionnaire before they meet with you. Then they’ll discuss it with you
  2. Discuss their design ideas for your project. These are preliminary. You won’t get a finished design, but you will get some great ideas.
  3. Discuss the permits you will need.
  4. After the meeting they will go back to their desk and write up a detailed Design Proposal.

If you accept the design proposal we bill hourly for architecture and do fixed price construction bids based on the materials and labor rates at the time of bidding.  Costs can range from $200 per square foot to over $1,000 per square foot. We can tailor our service to either end.  Design, soils engineering (if needed), structural engineering, a survey, permits, site work, tree removal, drainage and utility upgrades are the typical hidden costs that surprise you during your process.  When you diligently plan on these expenses the cost will easily be over $300 per square foot.  I’d recommend you budget at least that.  Just keep in mind that every $100,000 in project costs is about $500 per month in mortgage payments.

We always offer to design and then you can get bids from other contractors to compare our prices to theirs too. If you do hire someone else to build it, we can still manage the budget and payments to make sure the project stays on budget.
We’ve done modular, panels and other forms of pre-fab construction. It ends up being more expensive than onsite custom construction. Well managed custom construction is better quality and a better price than pre-fab.  So we focus on the best management we can provide.

How to start a new architecture or construction project

At New Avenue we have three simple steps to start every project:

1 – Get started online for free: There is a Goals & Ideas questionnaire that is as much for you to define your goals as it is for our architect to start preparing for a meeting with you. A Roadmap on your project page. The design agreement on your project page spells out every step start to finish.

2 – The hiring process starts with the meeting at your home, which is what we charge the $250 for. We introduce the one and best designer we have in your area.  That’s part of our service is that we’ve interviewed hundreds to narrow it down to the one we believe is the best fit.  Design requires meeting on site and that takes at least half a day’s work.

3 – The platform is for you to work with the architect and later the contractor.  Project management is provided by the designer/architect during the design and permitting process.  Then during construction the contractor provides the project management.  An additional project manager would cost $160/hour and just a few hours a week adds up to $30,000 over the course of a project.  We don’t offer that “extra cook in the kitchen” as it is not a good use of your money.
Sign up to see example budgets, example floor plans, or to use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Who owns architecture plans? You paid for the service, not the plan

If you are a typical owner, you expect to “own” your plans after you hire an architect and pay them to create a design for you.  That is not exactly how it works because any set of plans has tricky liability and copyright issues. We will explain these issues and how the industry standard of the owner having the right to build the project while the architect owns the copyright is very reasonable.
First we’ll share an infuriating scenario that really is the architect’s fault: Fairly often, an owner hires an architect, they progress through a certain amount of design and the relationship or project is just not working out. The owner decides to fire the architect and the architect says “This is my design, you can’t use it in any way unless we negotiate a price and you buy it from me”. This happens.
The owner’s mind is blown! Imagine you just paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for someone to work for you and then they tell you that he or she “owns” what he was just paid to do? That’s simply not how any typical employer/employee relationship works.
While a nightmare, this is a communication error that can be easily mitigated and it is the architect’s responsibility to explain why the plans are copyrighted.
Most importantly, what you want as an owner is typically the right to build your project. This is what you get with New Avenue.  Many (but not all, and not even most) architects follow this practice too.
There is a nuance with architectural plans that is similar to buying a book. When you buy a book you can read it and keep it on your bookshelf.  You can’t edit it or start making copies to sell.  You have the right to use the documents created by the architect for your project in the same way.  This is similar to having the right to buy and own any copyrighted material.
Frankly, you can stop working with your architect, or you can hire another architect or you can hire your own contractor and in each scenario you can use the plans.
There are two big limitations though:
1.  You don’t have the right to replicate the designs or use them build another home on another site. There are several reasons for this:
– There are always specific site conditions that need to be considered by the architect for plans to be safe to use.
– An additional project increases the legal liability of the architect so it is not allowed.
– You did not pay for the vast majority of the “details” in the plans.  Details are often times dozens of intricate drawings for how to assemble a part of the project.  These are crafted over decades and are used over and over again on projects.  Since you, as the owner, did not pay for the years of development to make them, you don’t own the right to use them or copy them.

2. You don’t have the right to use incomplete plans to build the home because this creates liability for the architect who created the plans. For example, you can pay to just sketch up a floorplan in the Schematic Design (Phase II in our process) and then stop. You can then use these completed Phase II documents (i.e., the floor plan and design) to work with another designer or architect.   But you can’t get half way through the construction documents (Phase IV in New Avenue’s process) and then fire the architect and try to build the home with an incomplete set of drawings.  This also creates liability as mistakes inevitably occur and it leads to liability, and lower quality construction that leads to lawsuits.

In conclusion, you can stop working on your plans and keep the portion of the work that is completed and this is for the one project that the plans are for.  If you want to finish an incomplete set of plans you typically start all over with a new architect however you may be able to sign a release from the original architect who then allows the new architect to finish the plans. This involves a release agreement that releases the first architect from the liability that the new architect will assume.  Then you can continue the plans from that point forward.

Why you need insurance when remodeling or building a new home

Insurance is a good thing when remodeling or building.
At New Avenue we require that you have homeowners insurance for your current improvements on your property.  Improvements are basically your home and anything else built on your property.  A typical homeowners policy covers these buildings.  Our lawyers tell us of scenarios where something bad happens when a consultant, architect or contractor is on site.  For example, a dog knocks over your grill and burns your garage down.  This happens while the surveyor is also there so you blame him or her. Your insurance covers this and protects the surveyor.
There’s no need to fear this though.  Check your current homeowners insurance and you should be covered so you don’t have to buy anything new:)

$1,000 for a custom home plan? This is a ripoff that will cost you.

One of our architects recently emailed this to me:

“I lost a commission on a NEW BUILD to a guy who charged a grand!!! Now I made most of my fee back, fixing it, but you wouldn’t believe how often that is the case.”

The key here is that the owner in this story still paid “most” of the original architect’s proposed fee. For the same cost the owner had to endure a painful experience of starting with a defective plan, then figuring out how to fix it during construction.

Every architect has this story.  Very few owners understand it.

The lesson is that a great designer or architect will create a better design, your project will be a much more enjoyable experience, and the time that the architect spends working on your project creates efficiencies that save you money.  Basically, you can’t avoid the work so you might as well hire a professional who knows what he or she is doing!

Eight years ago, I founded New Avenue and at the time I was guilty of misunderstanding the design process.  I had no idea what an architect really did. I fell for the prefab myth that scale and efficiency would save you money. It turns out shipping costs and cranes eliminate any cost benefits of prefab building. Worse than the lack of savings is that you get stuck with the existing design. That is never as good as a truly custom design for the specific site where you are building.

The key is finding a good architect who follows a good process and stays involved start to finish.

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