Dennis and Doug’s Income Property

Dennis and Doug are brothers who bought two income properties right next to each other.

The buildings they bought are a few blocks from UC Berkeley and just up the street from the famous Gourmet Ghetto – Berkeley’s restaurant district and the home of Chez Pannisse.

Both properties have ground floor storage and parking that is frankly, just a huge waste of space.

They hired New Avenue to design, permit and build additional apartments on this lower level.

Lower floor will become apartments
Lower floor will become apartments

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A New Custom Home: The Goal “A Home to Grow Old In”

Amy and Tom owned a 743 square foot two bedroom one bath home that was built in 1943.  That’s tiny and it just doesn’t work for all the goals the owners have.

And their goals were clear. When asked what they want they said they want a home for “Growing old in. We want to add a new larger living area with redesigned kitchen, add a bathroom for the second bedroom, enlarge original bathroom to accommodate wheelchair if necessary and convert attic to accommodate 2 home offices.”

The answer in this case was a new modern custom home that we designed and built from the ground up.

El Cerrito is a smaller city just east of San Francisco with an amazing location, easy access to San Francisco. Many of the homes are smaller older cottages that were built very quickly to serve the booming Kaiser Shipyards as they built homes for WWII.  In fact, a few clients have shown us where steel spare parts from the shipyards were used to build the homes themselves!

This is the before picture:
Before Donal

 

This is the new home. It’s twice as big and built to meet the needs of living and working for the next 100 years!
photo 2

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Oakland Welcomes New Avenue with a Gentrification Tag

Aargh…

Well, it looks like lifting a home, restoring it, making it safer with a seismic retrofit and adding an affordable accessory dwelling in the lower floor, remediating lead and asbestos isn’t always appreciated.

Remodel of west oakland bart. Vandalized;(
Remodel of west oakland bart. Vandalized;(

It wasn’t always this nice…

Before Center 2

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What is a Vacation Home

Mountains, beaches or the country, if you’re building a home to getaway to any of these places then we have experience with just that.

We have remodeled and build small beach cottages.  We have created entire Wyoming compounds with a home, barn, and office that can fit 15 people.

Many people dream of a small cottage or cabin in the woods but reality tends to drive these vacation homes to be massive – and quote often two or three times the size of your main home.  This is caused by the goal of inviting guest and those guests may be an entire family or two.  We see many vacation homes that become four bedrooms and three bathrooms and around 3,000 square feet.

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Additions, Remodels and Custom Homes – The 5 Phases of The Design Process

Best Practices in architecture and construction manage a project under five phases that we will review here.  All projects, whether a $5,000 bathroom remodel or a $5 billion dollar stadium have these five phases.

The phases are defined as:

Phase 1 – Program Development: Defining what your goals are, what you want to do, what is in budget and what you are allowed to get permitted by the city or county.

Phase 2 – Schematic Design: The design of the floor plan, layout, exterior drawings called “elevations”

Phase 3 – Design Development: The selection of heating and cooling systems as well as interior design elements such as appliances, materials, furniture, paint etc…

Phase 4 – Construction Documents: The technical “blue prints” and engineering that is needed to get a building permit and build the home.

Phase 5 Construction: Getting bids, hiring a contractor and building the home.

Architecture is critical in all 5 phases.  We usually introduce a contractor at Phase II, Schematic Design as they can provide an estimate at that time.

Design is not a perfect march forward. There will be back and forth and changes to designs and specs all the way through the completion of construction.

 

 

 

The Right Way to Start a Project: How New Avenue seamlessly brings together owners and architects to start a remodel, addition or new home

At New Avenue, we make it as easy as possible to start your project right.

We have found that just one meeting in your home with an architect is the perfect way to begin.  Architects see things in minutes that many of us will never see!  Design talent, matched with countless hours in a studio during college and thousands of hours more studying other homes in your community makes a difference.

You can get free visits from architects and contractors. They will come by and give you a sales pitch by trying to impress you with their past work while not giving you new design work for free.  We save you time by charging a small fee to justify making the first meeting a working meeting. We don’t make a sales pitch in your home, we come ready to work for you.

Here are our first steps in the New Avenue process. We recommend you follow this process matter who you consider working with:

Step 1: Owners fill out a Goals & Ideas questionnaire on New Avenue.  These questions are based on our experience with thousands of clients and architects and they are designed to get owners thinking about the right

Step 2: Set up a call with New Avenue project manager to discuss the goals & ideas and the New Avenue process. You can tell us a time to call you here.

Step 3: Sign up for a $250 in-home design session. You can sign up on the New Avenue site here.

In this meeting an experienced architect will listen to your goals, share their design ideas, and review zoning and building codes.

We commit to having an architect follow up within a day and we can meet with you within a week.

Step 4: The architect will introduce themselves using your project page.  Here is an example of an introduction:

Hello Rachel & Laura, My name is David. I am a New Avenue partner architect. Your project sounds really exciting! I would like to suggest that we meet at your property so that we can meet, look over the home and discuss your options for design and development. Are you available in the early evening sometime next week? At the moment Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings are open for me. Do one of those dates work for you? David
Another architect said this:
My name is Brad. I’m an Architect with New Avenue. Your project sounds very exciting and I’d love to meet you at your property to hear more about your vision. Do you have any availability to meet next Wednesday between 11AM and 1PM or the following Tuesday also between 11AM and 1PM? I look forward to meeting you.
These messages are posted in a private message on your project timeline
Private Message on Timeline
Step 5: After the meeting you’ll receive a detailed Design Proposal that will list every step in the project, the hours and cost for each step. You can click approve to hire the architect and we automatically provide a design agreement the delivers the industry’s best practices in design, permitting and construction administration.

You can sign up and 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, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Trust us! Seriously. Use These 3 Essential & Free Tools Every Addition, Remodel or Custom Home Needs: A Design Agreement, Construction Agreement and Budget

If you are planning an addition, remodel, or custom home then save this message.  Seriously. Save it and use these three documents.

This is the most important article we can share with you.

Communication is always stressful and challenging.  Every remodel or new construction project has questions that need to be answered or changes that an owner, inspector, architect or contractor want to make. Some of these changes are great improvements, some are in response to discoveries, some are just part of the creative process (picking, kitchen pulls, paint colors etc…)

Anyone who promises not to make mistakes and not to have changes is over-promising. Sometimes over-promising is caused by optimism and enthusiasm while other times people may just outright lie to you.

Every project needs a Design Agreement, Construction Agreement and Budget. These three documents help the owner, architect and contractor communicate expectations.  That’s it.  That’s the goal!

Owners, architects and contractors use New Avenue’s innovative system to manage projects that cost between $50,000 to over $2,000,000.  Current projects are located from California to New York.  Our software system collects insights throughout the design, permitting and construction process. In one year we see more transactions, proposals, and changes than most most architects and contractors see in a lifetime.   We incorporate those lessons in the industry’s best agreements and budgets and we provide these to you for free.

We are genuinely afraid of any project that does not have a clear agreement and budget in place.  In fact, we won’t work with anyone who doesn’t want to use these.  Without this expectations are guaranteed to be wrong.  We recommend that every project use these three agreements to set the right expectations and establish a healthy working relationship:

New Avenue Construction Agreement

New Avenue Design Agreement

New Avenue Example Budget Format For $100,000 – $5,000,000

Project are easier to manage, more efficient, and more affordable when the team has a clear understanding of the work to do.

  • This saves you time and headaches.
  • When you save the architect time, you save money.
  • When you save the contractor time you save money.
  • When mistakes go down the owner, architect and contractor will have fewer mistakes and this improves quality.

Everyone is happier as a result!

Following the guidelines set forth in these agreements requires discipline and the New Avenue project management system makes that part easy.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

9 Construction Communication Gaps – How to Talk to a Contractor

Construction lingo can lead to confusion before your job even begins. This often creates cost overruns and frustration.

This article tells you what to look for in a construction bid so you can avoid surprises.

Anywhere you see something you don’t understand you should expect to be surprised by a cost that you didn’t anticipate. If you don’t know an acronym or brand name or word in the bid, just ask. That’s the goal of reviewing the bid with a contractor.

Here are 9 common communication issues that can cause you pain that is easily avoided:

Allowance: This is a dollar value that a contractor has noted for something in your project.  For example, your allowance for your bathroom tile is $2,000.00.  If the cost of the tile goes up or down then you pay or save the difference.   A large number of allowances means that the contractor is shifting the responsibility of getting certain products for a specified price to you.    Be careful of more than 5 allowances in any bid and make sure you know how to buy something for the allowance price noted.   Often times an allowance for windows is just a small fraction of the windows that you probably want to buy.

OPCI:  Owner Provided Contractor Installed.  You will be paying for these products and storing them on site for the contractor to install.   The contractor is responsible for installation costs. This can be a great way to save money, but you certainly want to be aware of what you have to buy. If you buy the wrong thing or too little then the contractor is justified in charging you hourly to go out shopping for you.

PBO: Purchased by Owner.  This is the same as OPCI.

NIC: Not in Contract.  This is work that the contractor is not responsible for.  You will have to accept a change order and pay additional money to get this work completed

By Owner: This is the same as NIC.  You are responsible for all materials and labor to complete this work.

TBD:  To Be Determined.  There will invariably be something needed that costs you money.  TBD should rarely if ever be part of a construction bid.  The point of a contractor is to eliminate TBD.

Verify in Field or VIF: Danger!  The contractor will verify if some work needs to be completed after he or she starts and it will then be your responsibility to pay for it.  It’s better to pay them hourly to remove any VIF conditions before you sign a contract and before they start work.  Be very clear that the site slope, soil conditions, plumbing, underground utilities, electrical are all included in the bid.  We’ve heard contractors complain that the dirt was heavier than they expected.  While possibly true, it’s their job to deal with that.

Existing Condition: The current condition of anything such as underground utilities, underground rock/soil issues, mold, asbestos, dry rot.  These should almost all be determined prior to accepting a bid.   For example many roofers will say that dry rot (which is a visible fungus) is an existing condition and is not part of their bid but they could easily look at rafters from outside and see that dry rot is an issue.

 T&M: Time and Materials.  The contractor will work by the hour and will bill you for their hours plus their materials and then will typically mark it all up by 15%.  This puts all the risk on you as the customer and gives them an incentive to take their sweet time while running up both labor and material charges.   There’s no reason to use T&M for anything other than a small job that takes just a few days.

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, just click here and tell us when to call you.

 

How Long To Build a Custom Home or Remodel a Home

We reviewed all of our completed projects and found the following timeframe for construction:

  • The maximum construction time was 13 months
  • The fastest build was four months (this was during the 2010 recession and everyone was ready to work at a moment’s notice) 
  • The average time to build a project is 8 months.

This includes projects that cost between $100,000 and $500,000. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 9.55.16 AM

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18 Common Budget Busting Construction “Change Orders” That Occur During Additions, Remodels and New Construction

The New Avenue online project management system reviews hundreds of projects at any given time.  We track all of the change orders submitted by contractors in these projects.

This post highlights the 18 most common change orders.  These are changes that may be called “surprises” on your project and often times they shouldn’t be surprises at all.  You should be planning on these changes.

You can review this checklist and check if your project budget includes them.  Do this and you can be prepared to review any bid.   You can make sure the full scope of work is included in the price you are quoted.

First, a note on what a “Change Order” is.”Change Ordering” is a verb used in the construction industry and it’s something that many owners are completely unaware of.  One of the unfortunate facts of many remodels is blown budgets. One cause of this is that unscrupulous contractors use change orders in a strategic and deceitful way to offer low bids.  They then make your project a miserable experience as they introduce additional hidden costs.  Some (and certainly not all) contractors make all of their profit off of these “Change Orders”.  This is true for projects ranging from small $1,000 projects to billion dollar bridges.  The good news is that many contractors have noble motivations.  They became contractors because they want to build beautiful homes – and they want you to be happy.  Even a perfect project can have 20+ change orders that you willingly choose to make.   In fact, you can have 20 or more change orders and still complete the work on budget.  With a well prepared bid the changes can be fun ways to add things that you love. Use this list to improve your next or only remodeling experience.

In our review, 13 of the 18 most expensive change orders were “discretionary”.  Discretionary change orders are changes the customer asked for. This was not part of the original bid.  It is an add that the customer requested. We consider those good change orders. They often pop up as a project is progressing on budget and the customer had a little reserve money socked away and they decided to add something nice.

However, five of these change orders were “non-discretionary”. These are the unpleasant changes. These changes are difficult to manage because sometimes the cause is beyond the owner’s or builder’s control. A building inspector may exercise their authority and request something that is not in the plan or the budget. In this case disagreeing with the inspector is an issue of fighting City Hall.  From what we have seen, City Hall never loses that battle. Other times, a designer, engineer or contractor overlooked something. Again, in a complex project this if common and a little leeway is fair.  But if this happens too often then it becomes a real question of competence or even integrity. This varies wildly by professional and most professionals are very fair and honest. However the bad apples are also very good at figuring out how to get you. It might be that you didn’t read the plans or it may be that you love custom woodwork… or both.

A well run project will stay within 10% of the bid.  If an invoice is 25%, 50% or even 100% over budget then you should tell your contractor these two things: 1) “I’m paying what was in the bid, I’m sure you can make it up on the rest of the project” or 2) “I’m canceling the contract and going back to bid with different contractors”.

Here is the list of top 18 Change Orders. This list is from all of the projects reviewed not just one project! The average of 8% increase from the original construction bid to the final completed project cost with the 8% split evenly between discretionary and non discretionary changes.

1-13 Discretionary Change Orders: 

1) Add a new bay window to the home.  Since windows were being added in the addition, it made sense to add a bay window to the existing living room at the same time.  Amount: $5,684

2) Upgrade window quality Marvin windows and Velux skylights.  Amount: $4,086

3) Landscaping:  Install a fenced in trash area and stone flatwork in the yard. Amount: $3,393

4) Add a gas line to a backyard cottage to upgrade from electric stove to gas:  $3,000

5) Change siding from Hardi board concrete to wood board and batten.  Amount: $2,325

6) Add tile to main home entry stoop.  Amount: $1,880

7) Add crown molding to living room and kitchen.  Amount: $1,761

8) Install a new skylight in a loft.  Amount: $1,487

9) Additional tile wainscoting in bathroom and tile nook in shower.  Amount: $1,050

10) Change from stained concrete floor to tile floor throughout 610 square foot space.  Amount: $1,050

11) Add false wood beams to living room.  Amount: $996

12) Addition of extra lighting fixtures throughout house.  Amount: $835

13) Provide and install 8’x4′ fence and lattice made of redwood for trash cans.  Amount: $771

Non Discretionary: 

14)  Foundation improvement: Excavate an additional two feet for foundation improvements, fill with compacted gravel, additional concrete.  Amount: $6,042

15) Fire proofing of laundry room.  Amount: $2,151

16) New water line from the street to the main home in order to increase capacity for fire sprinklers. Amount $5,505

17) Add fire sprinklers due to a new building code requirements. Amount $4,360

18) Replace electrical panel in main home with a new 200 amp service, including a wire from the street, new panel and all breakers.  Amount $3,272

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