Journalist, Author & Detroit-Home Renovator

The Contractor Gives Us Our First Estimate

We met with the contractor yesterday to get an updated bid based on our ideas and needs, which were pretty minimal. We’re using the same contractor as the sellers for two reasons:

  1. We like him and he seems thoughtful and competent.
  2. No other contractor even wanted to give us a bid.

Anyway, we had the original budget based on the sellers’ plans. Because we didn’t intend to be as ambitious (no powder room on the first floor, no walls really being moved, etc.), I thought for certain that the costs would be lower.

I thought wrong. Oh so very wrong.

I am experiencing a bit of sticker shock from even the “cheap” option that just gets us into the house without any of the niceties. I’m so glad our friend James was here with us this weekend. He was so understanding when I actually teared up inside Honest John’s, hungry and overwhelmed by the sheer scope and price.

Side note: Here is our original post
talking about our finances for the project.

So what are the numbers, you ask? Here are the three price options so far:

  • Price 1: $300,000 (This is as the current plans are drawn)
  • Price 2: $244,000 (This includes all the finish work, etc., but no back fence, no repair of the front walk, basically nothing that could be done later.)
  • Price 3: $200,000 (Bare bones; not even replacing the windows.)
  • None of the options include replacing the back porch or fixing/replacing the garage. That’ll be another $20,000 at least. Plus, the roof will need to be replaced in the nearish future.

Check out the spreadsheet below for more details.

Of course, I have some questions and am mulling this over. We’re figuring out what we can do with our first $100,000 and what can really wait. Plus, we need to know what Karl and I are capable of doing ourselves. This cannot be a “we hand you a check; you hand us the keys” job. It just isn’t financially or emotionally possible. But, we are still not sure what we are skilled enough to accomplish.

My goal is to get the structural and mechanical stuff done with our $100,000. If we can do that, and we have an empty box (maybe with drywall up) before we run out of money, at least we’re looking at saving for the finish work or doing it ourselves. That seems like a way better plan than trying to, say, learning plumbing.

Here’s what we hope that will include:

  1. All demo: $7,490
  2. Sitework: $2,300 (burying the electrical; moving the gas meter; backfilling)
  3. Basement column: $350
  4. Electrical: $16,397
  5. Plumbing: $16,500
  6. Gas piping: $600
  7. HVAC: $12,000 (I hope; there’s a big cost savings between the columns, and I don’t know why)
  8. Gutters/downspouts: $936
  9. Foundation waterproofing: $405
  10. Doors and windows: $44,925
  11. Ventilation/insulation: $4,485 (again, an unexplained cost savings between the columns; could be as much as $7,880)

Total: $106, 315

Side note: Photos of the house. 

As you can see, we’re already over our budget without accounting for the GC’s fees, contingencies or general conditions. Plus, there’s no framing in this budget or drywall. We’re going to have to figure out where to cut back and what we can do even on this stage.

We might be able to do the demo, but we are also fighting against a tight deadline. Have I mentioned we have to be living in the house by August 1?

Ok! Here we go. Nothing else to do but buck up and pray.

House Repair Budget

5 Responses to “The Contractor Gives Us Our First Estimate”

  1. Anna Newell Jones

    I feel your pain Amy! What a sticker shock! I would probably take the same approach as you. Pay for the bare bone essentials to get done, do as much of the work you can yourselves and then spread the rest out over time. Thanks for posting about your renovation. It’s cool to follow along.

  2. Greg

    Ouch! Old houses are basically money pits, even when they already have plumbing and electricity.

  3. Marco Túlio Pires

    Argh, that’s so expensive! Are those prices even justified? Or is it just that the house need that much fixing? I feel your pain. Makes me want to go there and help you guys. Miss you!

  4. alysonsee

    At some point, let’s have a work day and see if we can make it a little neighborhood party as well. That fence is totally doable with some unskilled labor/elbow grease.


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