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Per square foot cost to remodel a house in the Bay Area

July 8, 2021

Have all those episodes on HGTV put a lingering desire to remodel your home but you aren’t entirely sure how much to budget for a remodel? In this article we’ll give you the market average prices you can expect when remodeling your home. At the end, we’ll go over creative financing solutions you can take advantage of to pay for remodeling your home. 

Expect to get different prices

When you start collecting bids for your remodeling project, you’ll quickly realize that each company will give you a different price for the same scope of work. The variation in pricing can be attributed to one of their 2 things: the quality of the work or the turnaround time for the remodeling project.

Home remodeling companies like Home Quality Remodeling are able to charge a higher price to do the same work because the quality of work and turnaround time justify it. But rather than just taking my word for it, explore the Yelp and Google review pages of the companies you’re collecting bids from and compare it to ours. In today’s digital world, mistakes and poor customer service are impossible to hide. 

Cost of home remodeling plans & designs

In the construction industry, remodels are categorized either as a ‘like-to-like remodel’ or a ‘structural remodel’. Like-to-like remodeling refers to a project that doesn’t change any structural features of the home. That means no structural or mechanical elements of the house are changed. These include walls being taken down, changing the size of window openings, adding or altering plumbing and electrical wires. 

Like-to-like remodels are projects where you might change the countertops, cabinets, flooring, backsplash, plumbing fixtures like faucets, or the light fixtures. It is worth noting that if you’re swapping out your bathtub to a walk-in shower this is not considered a like-to-like remodel. Replacing a bathtub with a shower requires a special permit and inspection for the quality of the waterproofing done.

In the case that your project falls under the category of a structural remodel, your remodeling company will have to get structural plans drawn up by an architect licensed in the state of California. These plans will be what your remodeling company and the city inspector will refer to when building and inspecting the soundness of the construction. Structural engineer plans run from $6,000 to $12,000 depending on the size and intricacy of the project.

Cost and time to acquire permits

Permits for like-to-like home remodels typically cost $2,000 to $4,000  and take 1 day to 2 weeks depending on the city your home is located. Each city building department varies so if you want to get an exact number, call your city’s builder department and ask them how much and how long it takes to get the relevant permit.

Permit pricing for structural remodels on the other hand are a little more complicated. Each city uses a different criteria to base the pricing for a structural remodel. Some cities base the price of the permit on the future value of the home, some base it on the square footage, some base it on the type of project, and some use an amalgam of all the criteria. In any case, you can expect permits for structural remodels to range from $3,000 to $9,000.

Permits for structural remodels are more expensive than the like-to-like counterparts because structural remodel permits have to go through a much more thorough review process. Some projects need to go through a design review board if there are significant external alterations and some go through an engineering review board to ensure the long term safety of the proposed structural remodel.

Cost of finish materials

Just for clarity, finish materials are materials used for furnishing and decorative qualities. I know this isn’t the clearest definition so I’ll name the most common finish materials and you’ll get an idea of what counts as finish materials:

  • Siding
  • Paint
  • Roofing
  • Windows 
  • Doors
  • Flooring and tiles
  • Crown molding
  • Countertops 
  • Appliances
  • Curtains and blinds

The cost for this is largely subject to you or your designer’s taste. We’ve had project where the finish materials ended up costing $40 per square foot and some run up to $400 per square foot Companies like Lumber Liquidators can sell you flooring at a cheaper price but if you’re looking for premium tiles from All Natural Stone, you should expect to pay a very different price. Fortunately, getting an exact number for the finish materials is fairly straightforward. Figure out what you plan on changing during the remodel, take some measurements, and call the company you plan on purchasing the finish materials from to get a price for the size and type of finish material you’ll need. This also allows you to shop around for better pricing, just make sure to ask them if delivery fees are included in the price they gave you. Another tip for shopping around, ask your Home Quality Remodeling project manager to shop the materials for you. Our company gets contractor discounts from the vendors we often work with.

As for installation of these materials, that is covered by the labor your remodeling company should quote you for; we’ll go over this in more detail in the next section.

Cost of demolition, rough materials, and labor

Just for clarification, rough materials include the structural and mechanical components needed to pass rough inspection. Again, not a very clear definition but here are some of the most common rough materials. You should get an idea of what counts as a rough material by the end of the list:

  • Lumber for framing and sheathing.
  • Fasteners (nails, screws, joist hangers, etc.)
  • Electrical panel, wires, and outlets
  • Plumbing materials
  • Drywall, mud, and in most cases the concrete

For these you can expect to pay $450 per square foot. This is subject to go up a bit depending on the complexity of the project. For example, remodeling a deck on a steel hillside is different from remodeling a deck on plain level ground. 

With the $450 per square foot cost, this covers all the labor and disposal fees during the demolition phase, the installation of all the rough materials, and installation of all the finish materials.

Your home remodeling company should provide you with a SOW or ‘scope of work’ that lays out what all is included in the per square foot they’re quoting you. Giving our clients SOWs is standard operating procedure for us because it protects both you and us from misunderstandings later down the road. 

Financing your remodel

There are 2 loan products commonly used to finance the remodeling of a home. The first and most popular option are unsecured loans followed by HELOC loan products. Unsecured loans are popular for the easy application process and are available to most people with a good credit score. The downside to unsecured loans is that they usually have a high APR and are limited to $100,000. 

HELOC loan products on the other hand typically take more time to get approved for but are equally as easy to get approved for. A popular secured loan product we’ve seen our clients use is Renofi’s renovation loans. Renofi can lend up to $500,000 for a home renovation project secured either by the equity on your home or the future value of the home after renovations.

We’re not professional financial advisors so consult with your financial advisor to figure out what is the best option for you. Also, we’re not sponsored by Renofi or any other financial institution. We’re just sharing what we’ve seen people do.

In summary

Once you determine the cost of permits, finish materials, and rough materials, those are all the costs you will pay if you don’t ask your remodeler to make any major changes along the way. If you’re collecting bids, a good practice is to request a SOW from each company so you can compare apples to apples. One last tip, pick the contractor that you get along with. Remodeling your home takes time and you can expect to spend a lot of time with your contractor.

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