Posted by Builtin2009, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2010 at 8:34 am
Just finished scraping and rebuilding a 2500 square footer for about $225 per foot all in. A big variable can be how much a general contractor charges for "overhead (profit) and project management." Also, we procured all of the decorative materials ourselves, even the windows and doors. That was a ton of work. We could have spent less, but wanted quality materials throughout.
Posted by don, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm
Whatever it costs get a foundation instead of a concrete slab floor. The soil in most areas is all or part adobe and greatly expands and contracts with changes in moisture content. A cracked slab is more vulnerable to termite infestation.
A foundation gives better access to water and gas lines. Be sure the house is firmly bolted to whatever foundation you have - better earthquake protection.
Posted by BeenThereDoneThat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2010 at 10:08 pm
There are city guidelines on the % construction for it not to qualify as a 'new' construction. About 2 yrs ago, it used to be 50% of the assessed cost. For example, if the assessed value of the property is $800K, then the cost of the construction had to be lower than a certain %. The cost of the construction - not according to what the contractor is charging you, but according to what the city thinks it should be. City has its own formula - the contractor costs are way higher up.
If you exceeded the %, then the city demanded the house be brought upto the code - which is essentially a rebuild - which leads to new construction and the property tax jumps way high up ( as if you have just purchased the place )
Get a qualified architect, who has worked with the city, to help you thorough this.
Posted by Patricia, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2010 at 8:19 am
There is a house in my neighborhood that was built at less than $100/ sq. foot. It is a 2 story custom prefab, but you can never tell it is one, it looks so gorgeous. The 2,500 sq.ft prefab cost about $120K and another $100K was spent on foundation, roof upgrade, cabinets, insulation and electric wiring. The guy who built is incredible creative in finding discounts and good deals. Total construction cost $220K! Contractors can't believe it, but it is true.
Posted by paresident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2010 at 8:43 am
Be very careful when choosing an architect. We choose one who seemed to have very good credentials and has done many homes in the area including on Stanford. But he was awful and it took way too long for him to even finish the plans. These plans were poorly done and cost us more to have our contractor fix them. Make sure you get recent recommendations and check out the work previously done.
Posted by Kira, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2010 at 10:03 am
I strongly recommend a tear-down rather than an add-on. You will get buried in numerous reviews by the city. I also heard that getting a pre-fab and customizing its finish (e.g stucco instead of side board, tile roof, etc) will save you lot of money that you would otherwise spend on architect and reviews.
Posted by good experiences, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2010 at 10:38 am
> “Be very careful when choosing an architect.”
I absolutely agree! Get references. Judith Wasserman, who is on the ARB, is an excellent architect. She also has a fine arts degree and knows all about green building. She will guide you through the process, help you with paint colors, lighting, et al. Really great!
Be equally careful in choosing a contractor. Many are low-balling right now in order to get work. A friend got a quote of $125 - $140K for a project doing a small remodel to a 1952 house. Six months later the tab is at $400K and they’re not done yet! It’s an emotional, as well as financial nightmare.
I HIGHLY recommend Chris Donatelli Builders. Web Link
He did a remodel for us on a 1950’s Palo Alto house several years ago, and more recently built us a new house. He’s a third generation builder and has the highest integrity.
He told us our remodel would take 6 months. Friends laughed. Six months later we moved back in.
He told us our new home would take 1 year. Friends laughed. One year later, we moved in. On time, on budget.
Posted by MKS, a member of the Palo Verde School community, on Feb 8, 2010 at 11:18 am
I did a simple removal of cabinets and upgrade of electrical in the kitchen of my Eichler in the summer of 2008, which grew to half the house(I sourced the materials with the help of the GC and did as much leg work as possible and the finished product (new kitchen, family room, and living room) came to a cost of about 100K.
I think if you are going to rebuild more than 40% of your home get an arch who knows the PA Planning department and their idiosyncrasies. And you need to have a GC you can trust, we used A.C. Construction. They left the job clean (esp during the dry wall phase), collaborated with us when a change was desired and advised on other options should we want them (you need an open mind to want to collaborate with the professionals versus your emotional attachment to your home), and all around honest firm. I am a repeat customer.
Posted by Julia Harkola, PE, PhD, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm
I'm a home builder from San Carlos. In this case, I would highly recommend rebuilding the home. We typically use $275 to $300/sf for an entirely new home, depending on structural complexity and how expensive the owners' tastes run. If anyone is interested, I teach a seminar called "ABC's of Home Building" through Redwood City Parks & Recreation Department (tel. 650-780-7311) that goes into detail regarding conceptual estimating (at the level we're discussing right now), as well as how to properly budget a home building project. The next sessions are on Monday evenings, May 3 & 10.
Posted by J. Simon, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm
If you do decide to put in a new foundation, be aware that the cost of demolishing your old slab and hauling it away will cause you to rethink this plan (demolition cost plus environmental fees). We remodeled eight years ago and it took 18 months. Thank you, Palo Alto Process. By choosing to leave 50% of our walls up, we were able to keep our single car garage (something we wanted). New construction would have required a double garage. Rules have changed so check out what is required if you go with "new" construction (more than 50 % remodel). Good luck.
Posted by Judith, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 10:35 am
Do you live in a flood zone? That, along with the condition of your soil, will determine your foundation. Building code, energy code, Palo Alto zoning code will have lots to say about the quality of construction.
Palo Alto does NOT review one-story houses or additions.
If you do decide to start over, look into "deconstructing" the old building - it's good for the earth AND gets you a big tax break.
And, yes, you need an architect who knows the area, not only to get you through the Palo Alto process but for info on local sources of materials, climate conditions, etc.
Posted by Ada, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 10:45 am
What explains huge construction cost difference, which in Bay Area is 2-3 times higher than in other areas or states? In TN residential construction cost starts at $65/sq.ft, in Texas and Florida it is $75-85/ft for mid grade , in Pennsylvania it is about $100/sq.ft. Why for God's sake it is $300/sq.ft here? Has anyone tried to take advantage of cross-state price arbitrage?
Posted by been there, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 11:22 am
I agree with all above that the one thing you want to do in such a major remodel is get a new, raised foundation. The old Eichler slab foundation is the one thing you should replace! Check into property values, homes on raised foundations always sell for more than comparable square foot on slabs. Slabs are also a problem for mold -- have you ever noticed houses with old carpets on slab foundations, how there is a black line around the edge that looks like someone didn't clean the carpet well enough? That's mold, not dirt. Temperature cycling on these old slabs causes condensation and mold growth.
What about a green "manufactured" house? You do the foundation, and they come set it up on site, very fast. It's not like old prefab houses, many makers now will do green, healthy, environmentally friendly construction, and you get something made indoors in a factory to your specs, with very little waste as there is in traditional construction. You don't necessarily save money, but you can if you plan right.
I don't know about the property tax issue. Do your best to get information directly from the property tax office.
Also, one issue in Palo Alto that may be relevant to cost: Palo Alto planning dept does not issue temporary occupancy permits that people often get so they can move in before the project is completed per the permit. You may find, as we did, that our mortgage rates went up while we were furiously trying to finish nonessential and cosmetic work to sign off our permits, in order to be able to refinance the construction loan to home loan. The timing ended up costing us a lot of money. This is one aspect of construction that favors manufactured homes: once it's all set to go, you don't have the delays of traditional construction (in traditional, count on twice what your contractor tells you, so you can be thrilled when it's done just 60% longer than promised). However, the planning department may have little experience and a lot of reservations about manufactured homes, so expect to be a trailblazer there.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 11:27 am
There are a lot more rules in CA than in most states. To build here you need a soils test, a structural engineer, shear walls, earthquake safety, green building issues, etc. Much of this isn't required in the rest of the country.
We lived in Texas in an unincorporated area near Dallas. There were no building codes or inspectors, the only fee we paid for an addition was for the change in property tax. Building costs on the east coast are lower, but only by a little.
Posted by good experiences, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Judith is right about deconstruction. You must get an appraisal first, to qualify for the tax break. I recommend Floyd & Marianna Sparks: (760) 419-3301 or (760) 419-3370. They are located in San Diego but do a lot of work in the Bay Area and they are very experienced. Be careful of appraisers who promise unrealistic numbers!
For actual deconstruction, Paul Gardner at Whole House in East Palo Alto. 650-327-1933
You will get a tax write off that's well worth the effort.
Re concrete slabs: I don't know if you can put radiant heating on top of an existing slab, but radiant is a great way to go.
Posted by Ada, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2010 at 4:09 pm
Yes, "there are a lot more rules in CA than in most states", but they don't explain hundreds of thousands of price differential. I think we need to collectively push back on outrangeous mark ups and find more economical ways to source and build. I heard some smart people in the Penninsula manage to cut the construction costs down to $80/sq.ft by smart negotiation and shopping around. They also flew contractor from Arizona and paid for his studio apartment here. There are many ways to save, especially if you have time, but since most of us do not have time to manage projects ourselves and because our time costs a lot more than what we could save we end up paying through the nose. Recent example - 2 quotes from certified electricians for track lighting along the exposed roof beams. First quote was $8K, the second quote was $1K - go figure out!
Posted by litebug, a resident of another community, on Feb 9, 2010 at 8:21 pm
If you are interested in manufactured homes you might check with Sunset Magazine. I seem to remember some feature articles about them in there in the past.
As a dedicated watcher of HGTV I've seen several shows featuring some very attractive manufactured homes. In one episode they showed how they were made, transported, set up, etc. It was very interesting. In another, the manufactured home had to be able to withstand hurricanes. There are usually customization options.
I have heard that it can sometimes be harder to get a mortgage for them than for stick-built homes. I don't know about the insurance and tax implications but they should be investigated.
Posted by Oldhouse, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2010 at 1:01 am
Thanks to the O.P. for the great question, and all the very helpful information and advice. I wish there was a website, similar to Yelp, where you could get recommendations about architects, contractors, and information about remodeling and construction. I have thought about remodeling v. rebuilding for years but thought it was all too expensive to even consider. Now I have some hope that there are feasible ways out there. Please keep posting more on this!
Posted by Ada, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2010 at 9:37 am
There are more feasible and economical ways to build! You can call some of these companies and ask for references in the area. Check Canadian company called Pacific Homes Web Link and look at the portfolio of homes built in California. If you pay a littl extra for custom exterior finishes such as stucco, iron grills, etc you noone woudl ever guess it is premanufactured.
Posted by Southgate Resident, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2010 at 9:47 am
I heard that manufactured homes is the best kept secret which architects and contractors don't want you to know. I wish people who built their houses this way locally would come out of the closet and share their cost information.
Posted by Casey, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2010 at 1:11 am
Regarding property taxes, I think the reassessment depends on how long you've owned your home. If you've owned your home for 5 years, then the land assessment will stay the same. If you've owned your home for less than that time, the Assessor will assume that the entire purchase price was for land value only, if you end up going the new construction route. So your new land value = existing land + structure value. Then, they'll tack on the current market value for your new construction. The good news is that property prices for new construction is down, which should help your comps.
Posted by MidtownRemodeler, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2010 at 12:20 pm
I'm the original poster of this thread and would like to thank everyone who responded. I have a couple of quotes already for about $150/sq ft for a 2500 sq ft single story, with decent but not fancy finishes. I'm amazed at how many people suggested prefab - that option now looks attractive considering the cost and time savings. I'm starting a new thread on prefab homes.
Posted by NewToWillows, a resident of Menlo Park, on Feb 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm
Do you happen to have the contact information or the person who built the home using a prefab in your neighborhood or whom they used? Is the property in question one that is on Maybell? You can contact me privately at ww13 (at) yahoo (dot) com.
If you don't mind sharing I'd be interested in hearing which general contractors are pricing in this range. Does this quote include their fee?
Posted by PA Resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Someone posted a cost of $275/#300 per sq ft. Dont believe a word of it! That's a ridiculous price., Talk to a lot of contractors and insist that you will only pay $150 a sq st and see them come down to earth. Prices go up once they hear you live in palo alto too.. You can build a nice 2500 sq ft 1 story house for about $280k for the foundation, framing, comp shingle roof, walls,plumbing electrical and all the labour. plus another (depending on you) $80k (cheapo) to $130k (decent, vinyl windows etc) to unlimited (fancy) for the finishes- doors/windows/paint/electrical and plumbing fixtures/hardwood floors, cabinets counters, etc.
Posted by Palomar, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 16, 2010 at 12:28 am
So what's the skinny on these prefabs? What do you get? Complete package, or just walls/interior-exterior finishes/roof? Are windows included? Is interior (flooring/baths/kitchens) done? Can you order a prefab home a-la-carte?
Also, has anyone used the wall systems or panels alone to put together a custom home? What is the cost saving of getting entire "shell" versus walls and put them together?
Posted by new comer, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 6, 2012 at 9:30 am
Not sure if this thread is still alive. I'm looking to rebuild my house with custom prefab and would like to hear recommendations. I've done some search online and found a list of manufactures who do the build for you but not sure which one to choose from.
Posted by Chuck Scifers, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm
Yes, Pre Fab homes are great. The quality homes in Europe are Pre Fab - the stick-built are the low end.
My first design job after college (Industrial Design) was to develop a factory-built housing system. It worked out great and we received FHA approval. The fit and finish were good, rooms had square corners, tight envelope, etc.
Cheaper, faster, better.
And structurally - consider any stick-built home traveling down the freeway at 55 MPH!
Until we can be freed from the grasp of the inefficient unions, we are doomed to shoddy, overpriced home construction.
I am now working on incorporating green - passive solar design into factory-built, modular housing.
Posted by New Project, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm
We are considering doing a new build and was interested in paying about $160 - $175 per sq ft. If you have time, I would love to hear who you ended up going with and how your project went. Hope to hear from you or anyone else who was able to build near that range. Thanks! cowanidoa(at)gmail.com
Posted by DC, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm
Late to find your site, so hope not too late to contribute. I've been looking into pre-fab home designs/costs. For those who haven't already checked, the two I found the most helpful - and with amazing modern designs - were Studio 101 Designs (firstname.lastname@example.org), and MK Designs (mkd-arc.com) by Michelle Kaufman, who designed the Sunset Breezehouse that another contributor referred to. Sorry, I only noted the modern design architects. I'm sure there are more traditional designs out there. Both sites include info on what's included in the price as well as what's NOT included. Hope this is helpful.
Posted by Lionel, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm
Hello guys, is this thread still alive?
Btw, I don't live in PA, I just bought a house in San Carlos, and was searching around for construction cost then stumble upon this forum, I hope you don't find me intruding on your neighborhood.
I am very interested in contacting some of the folks here who said they received quote for $150~$175 per sqft. I am always told to use $250 per sqft as a number for my remodeling and reconstruction, and I don't know how realistic it is.
The project I want to do is to add on the existing 1200 sqft single story home to build a 2900 sqft two story home.
Please contact me at lionel_lei(at)yahoo(dot)com thanks.