Let that be a lesson to you

I’d driven by 707 Virgina St in El Segundo for months wondering WTF? You could tell it was empty and abandoned. Finally about six weeks ago we started to see some action. A new electrical access pole was setup and the tiny 800 sqft home was demolished.  That was a month ago. Each time I drive by I look for activity and progress and what I see exemplifies everything bad you have heard about big construction jobs….It’s going to take longer and cost more than the initial assessment.

Once upon a time I came to the conclusion that buying grandma’s crappy house and throwing a couple hundred grand at it was the only way we would ever get a home we wanted to live in. (I was wrong, turns out renting was our answer) I talked to architects, friends, builders, even went as far as talking to a prefab home manufacturer. No one. And I mean NO ONE had good things to say about big remodeling jobs on a home you know nothing about. For people that had lived through construction the stories were worse.

First thing is that without a property in hand, no one wanted to put a number on the cost to remodel or add onto. Eventually I got some back of the envelope prices of $200-$500/square foot.  $200/sqft to update and remodel. Additions are in the $400-$500/sqft range. Yes $200k for a master bedroom addition.  But what can’t be accounted for are the unforeseen variables.  (which isn’t true because in real world budgeting there are ways to budget for overages and extenuating circumstances yet contractors are trying to get a job with a low quote and don’t include much buffer). So l let go of any hopes of having the time to find a property, buy a property and get construction started quick enough that it wouldn’t bleed me dry or lead to divorce.

The other thing is timing. It takes forever to get plans and permits and to get contractors on site. At each step each party is pointing their finger at the other as to whom is to blame.  The architect took too long. The city took too long to approve the permits. You didn’t approve the plan changes…the weather…my other job site…my crew was busy…that sub-contractor was booked. All without a concern for the person writing the checks.

So in addition to your initial budget being 15-50% over you should plan on the timing to completion being 1.5-2x longer than estimated.

So back to Virginia St. Someone is writing checks. Writing checks for nothing to happen. Writing checks waiting for stuff to happen. But it happens on their schedule and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Let’s let Virginia Street be a lesson to us all.  Grab some popcorn and let’s see how it plays out.


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