When you are budgeting for a renovation, it is just as important to know what is not included as much as what is included. It can be very difficult for a layperson to identify all of the details, especially in larger projects. The most important reason to know what’s in and what isn’t in the budget is that you want to avoid any surprises either financial or in the scope. Omissions in the scope of work can hide up to 20%-30% of the true total budget requirement.
Let me start with some low hanging fruit, landscaping. In our line item budget sheet, the first major category is “Site Work”. We list about 20 items such as: Excavation, concrete work, foundations, underground utilities and landscaping (walks, walls, planting, and driveways), etc. As part of projects like additions, landscaping can be a significant part of the budget, especially if you need a new driveway for that new garage. Since most building plans don’t address this, it is often overlooked and by the time the owner gets to that stage there are often budget restraints. My personal recommendation for folks is to hire a landscape architect and landscaper if there is more than remediating the disturbed area involved. The main reason we have those line items in our budget is for the client so they can understand the projected cost they will incur while deciding what resources to use. In the example of landscaping, I can also point to the scalability of deferring this component since it wouldn’t interfere with or cost more to do it later in order to get the initial construction underway, and to also use your favorite landscaping contractor when the construction crews leave.
A few less obvious things that are important to understand in the initial planning include:
1. Design/engineering or survey work costs and timeframe.
2. Cost and time of permitting and/or zoning issues.
3. Who buys the fixtures and if provided, what quality are they?
4. Will any utilities require upgrading such as a larger electrical or water service?
While it can be challenging to feel like you have everything covered, there are ways to better understand some of the “unknowns”. In the case of hazardous materials like asbestos, we can often know that a particular neighborhood has duct work in the walls that are wrapped in it. In this case we typically carry an allowance if we have seen this before so it isn’t a huge surprise… and if it is not present, the client gets a refund! In the initial excavation, while you cannot be certain of what lies below the ground, the builder should be able to discuss what type of issues you may find and how they would be remediated if uncovered.
Remember the 5 p’s, Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance Happy renovating!