Home Buying in 94040>Question Details

CA Mom, Other/Just Looking in Mountain View, CA

Total remodel costs?

Asked by CA Mom, Mountain View, CA Sun Feb 21, 2010

I realize a lot of people are going to tell me, well, it really depends on this and that, but I'm just looking for some general guidelines. If I buy a 50 year old single house fixer upper in 94040 or 94087, how much will it cost to renovated it? Assuming it's around 1000 sq feet, 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms. I mean the whole works: new kitchen, bathrooms, double pane windows, floor, paint, furnace, water heater, electrical panel, tenting for termites, etc. It doesn't have to be super high end fancy stuff, but it should be nice and respectable. I would be hiring people to do all of it, since I don't know anything about construction. Any guesses on cost? Thanks for your time.

Help the community by answering this question:


It depends on the financing and the level of work needed. But you can do it for as low as $40 - $50k and as high as $100k. There are way to many variables to quote off top but there are some financing programs available to make the process easier.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 27, 2010
Ca Mom,
You have pretty much gotten good answers to your question. What I would like to add is I like Aileen's and Daves answers and just to expand on that a bit there is an over riding datum that covers almost all construction and that is IT WILL ALWAYS COST MORE AND TAKE LONGER THAN PREDICTED this above datum has proven true from small to large projects. If you understand that then at least you will walk into any project with "open eyes'.
I hope this helps, as always feel free to contact me with any questions.
DRE# 01397256
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
CA Mom,
Although I am in a totally different part of the country and I happily defer to the local agents who have responded to you regarding specifics in your area, I went through something very similar to what you are considering.

I had lived in 2 bedroom home. Four children later, 2 bedrooms didn't cut it.

Like you, I searched for homes in our area but I couldn't find anything I liked enough to shell out the kind of money I would have needed to.
So, even though we knew we were building the largest house on the block (definitely an investment no-no), we knew we loved the neighborhood and we were planning on staying long term so we decided to go for it.

It was a very tough year and a half. We had to move out of the house for a year, so as an agent below mentioned, living expenses are an important consideration.

If you are prepared to hire very carefully (don't forget you need a good architect to start), research thoroughly, budget for twice what you are told in both time and money, get to know the people from the town very well who will be involved in the permit/inspection process(learn to smile sweetly no matter what you are thinking), be prepared for the 1000 or so decisions you will be expected to make in a timely manner, realize you will be spending a lot of time at your home improvement store, have a great sense of humor(essential), realize that it is okay to cry occasionally, then you will end up in a home you have put a lot of yourself in and reap your reward.

Again, best of luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010

Mountain View does allow 2nd stories, but it depends on the neighborhood. There are single family overlay zones in Mountain View that prohibit 2nd story construction (ie. the Gest ranch neighborhood of M.V.)


Aileen makes a great point - if you buy in the typical (if there is such a thing) 850K neighborhood, your looking at a 6500 sf lot. (ie. Cuesta Park). If you move up the price point to 1.1-1.2 million you're likely to get a lot (Waverly Park) with at least 8200-9500 sf and great Mountain View schools (possibly Los Altos schools - Blossom Valley Estates).

Fiind a livable 4 bedroom in the best neighborhood that you can afford. Over time you can do smaller projects that add value to the home. You also need to find an agent who knows the pros and cons of each neighbohood and builder.


Dave Blockhus
Coldwell Banker - Los Altos
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Mountain View allows 2nd. story. The max. S.F. that you can add is 45% OF LAND FOR LOTS UNDER 5000 sf MINUS THE EXISTING STRUCTURE AND THE ALLOWABLE % GOES DOWN AS THE SIZE OF THE LAND GOES UP. The cost to add (either 1 or 2 levels) would be around $150/SF. I suggest that you buy a house in Los Altos school district which will appreciate more.

Paul Binesh
CELL 650-906-8310
Web Reference: http://www.xlhomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Hi CA Mom,
Not only the headache, but the expense of providing housing for your family during the (often extended) permit process, and through construction.
When you look at $1250k in 94040, do these homes also have larger lots than the $850k properties?
Do they feed to the same schools?
All of these factors will affect the price.
You truly are best discussing this in person with a realtor who knows the area well and can show you comparable market data to support offer prices. I'm sure any one of the people who have answered here would be happy to discuss it with you with no obligation.
Best wishes,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Thanks for all your comments.
What am I trying to accomplish? I have 3 small children right now. If I buy a 4BR house in 94040, it would cost around 1.2 million. If I buy a smallish home it would cost 850K. So, what can I do with the 350K difference? Of course the HEADACHE of such a project is a huge deterrent.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010

To quote one of my daughter's favorite morning show personalities (Mr. Rogers), "Can you say overbuilding for the area? I knew you could."

Why would would buy a small home and spend a lot of out of pocket money (that might be better used elsewhere), to expand it into a large home. It is likely that the small home is located in a neighborhood of similarly small homes. On the surface, being the largest (and probably the most expensive) home in the neighborhood doesn't make much sense.

You need to ask yourself "What is my ultimate goal in purchasing a home?" Once you determine your ultimate goal, take steps towards reaching that goal. I can't see how buying a small home and doubling its size makes sense. But then again, I (and the other contributors) aren't quite sure about what you are trying to accomplish.


Dave Blockhus
Coldwell BAnker - Los Altos
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Best determine what value would be prior to any work , Many make HUGE mistakes put more into property than value never can sell it.

No one can render and opinion best contact contractors get quotes, then price purchase of product.

I am a Realtor, general contractor, investor, what you are stating wears me out just the thought if you are going do a total gut much is involved more you can imagine, best start on smaller project work your way up to big project such as this one.

Web Reference: http://www.lynn911.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Hi Mom,
Now we're into the 'it depends' territory.
Some cities have a single-story overlay and won't allow a two storey addition.
Construction costs entirely depends in whether you're adding extra bathrooms or kitchen facilities.
You could be looking at anywhere from $250 per sq foot to $500 per sq foot depending on what you choose to do.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Your answers are very helpful. Thank you.
Now, humor me... What about expanding a place, say, making a 2 bedroom house into a 4 bedroom house? Maybe make it 2 stories, instead of 1? Is that even allowed? Thanks.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Feb 23, 2010
Hi CA Mom,
I am a real estate agent and a general contractor and have built more than 40 homes in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.
My estimate for what you have in mind is about $100,000+/-.
I will included any design work and permit processing.

Paul Binesh
4546 El Camino Real, Suite 250
Los Altos, CA 94022
CELL 650-906-8310
Web Reference: http://www.xlhomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 22, 2010
CA Mom,

One thing you might look at is to buy a home in better shape (financing it) and not put as much out of pocket cash into a remodel. I would also suggest that you find an agent who has experience in remodeling/fixing things up. You might be over improving the home for the neighborhood thereby reducing your return on investment dollars.

Dave Blockhus
Coldwell Banker - Los Altos
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
the points I was trying to get across, if not so consisely were:

1. The city of Sunnyvale is inconsistant with their application on regulations. People have gotten in trouble for not bringing bedroom windows up to code. Other cities will not let you change windows in bedrooms without bringing them to code.

2. The MUCH MORE imprtant point is that it is not safe for small children to be in bedrooms where there is no easy egress if there is a fire. So if you are going to change out windows for yourself you should do it to today's codes for safety.

The most important point for CA Mom is that it will cost her $50-80K to completely remodel a house. so if she can get a home for more than 80K less than someone else's partial remodel and has the cash to do the remodel, it is to her advantage to do that than to buy an upgraded home.
DRE 01191194
Web Reference: http://www.marcymoyer.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
My advice is to retain a General Contractor with a crew & independent contractors that he regularly jobs out to. That means you only have to deal with one guy. Also have an attorney who handles real estate matters review and amend the General Contractor's Contract. And, ask for references you can contact about the General Contractor. Plus call the Better Business Bureau.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
Hi Marcy,
Please see the following information provided on the City of Sunnyvale website:
'A building permit is not required if the window is replaced in the same configuration and the existing
manufactured window frame remains unchanged. This is commonly referred to as retrofit window
For all other cases, when there are any changes to the window frame, location, size, header, or
changes to the height or width of the window opening, a building permit is required. Following is a
listing of the general requirements for permit applications based on the 2007 California Building Code
and 2008 California Energy Efficiency Standards.'

We had pulled permits for other portions of the work (roofing, for instance), and so inspectors were on site without any problems.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
This is from a previous poster on Trulia


I took a risk in replacing couple old single pane windows without permit and the city inspector shows up and tells me that we need permit. My understanding is if we touch the frame then we need permit but in the place I live, it seems like irrespective we need permit. Now I am in a place where should I replace the new with old window (which is kind of pain) or I have to correct and follow code.
Follow code would end up throwing the new window, make a larger spacing, order new windows and then install (whcih would add 2 more weeks)

Just so that I understood the risk in the below situation - what if I pay the permit but do not get inspection and let it expire. What would happen? Would there be a penalty later on?
Appreciate your thoughts.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
There was someone on this board who got in trouble in Sunnyvale for replacing bedroom windows with the same sized double paned windows. The city web site does say that if you just retrofit a window, ie replace a window with the same size window no permit is required, but they have gone after people who try to do that in a bedroom. Is it possible the city is not consistant, she asks sarcastically?

In any case, if you have young children it really is safer to have a window that they can climb out of if there is a fire?

DRE 01191194
Web Reference: http://www.marcymoyer.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
Permits are not required if you do Retrofit windows.

If you do new construction windows where you will change the window frame you will need a permit in either Mountain View or Sunnyvale.

The advantages of Retrofit vs. New Construction are debatable, and many window companies will try to persuade you to install retrofit because it's easier. If however you want to alter the size of any window or want something more elegant in terms of style you will need new construction, and therefore you will need to get a permit.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
HI Mom,
In the city of Sunnyvale, if you replace windows with exactly what's there you don't need a permit.
I just assisted the sellers with remodeling a property that you can see at http://www.581Cheyenne.com The remodel cost came in at just on $50,000.
For that they replaced the roof,
Fumigated & repaired termite damage
Replaced appliances
Replaced some wood floors and refinished others
Completely re-landscaped including sod and watering system for a lot that was close to 10,000 sq ft
New windows
New granite in kitchen and both bathrooms
New appliances in kitchen
Repainted inside and out
Replaced all of the light switches and power outlets and added some electrical safety features
Replaced light fittings
Replaced the front door and all internal door hardware
Replaced all cabinet hardware including hinges
Removed beams and refinished two ceilings.
Removed a 5' built in medicine cabinet and refinished the wall.
Installed mirrors.
Also included in the $50k price tag was $2500 worth of staging.
Added lattice to about 60feet of fencing.
I hope this helps,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
CA mom,

It really depends on this and that....
Sorry, couldn't resist.

There really are so many variables that the only way to get a good idea of what it will cost you is to start interviewing contractors. Interview extensively and thoroughly and do NOT automatically go with the lowest estimate. Talk to as many people as you can who have gone through similar remodeling.
Are you going to be doing your own general contracting? If so, be prepared to spend the time necessary to interview and research, to find the best and most dependable contractors.
I have been through a major renovation and I can say that I wasn't prepared for the amount of decision making and personal time involved. Although my builder was my general contractor I was still on site every day and I practically lived at the home-improvement store.
In the end, of course it was worth it. Not sure I would want to do it again, but I am glad that I did it.

I wish you the best of luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
CA Mom,
these figures are based on my exensive renovation experince but of course can vary based on how well you negotiate and where you get your material:

Kitchen costs:
1. New cabinets $6-10K including installation
2. Granite counter: $2500-$3500 depeding on size of counter and quality of granite. If you use quatzite or silestone it will be a few thousand more, and laminate $1000 to $1500
3. Appliances: $4-6K
4. Tile floor $1000-$1500
5. Sink and faucet: $700 with installation

Bathroom Assume shower over tub and 100 sq ft or less
1.New tub and shower with solid surface tub surround: $7000 If you use tile $3,000
2. New vanity $500
3. New floor $1000

In order to do new windows with a permit you will have to change the window openings to be large enough to for ingress and egress in the bedrooms. this means cutting in to the stucco : $15,000 If you just replace the windows with the same size that was there originally it will be a lot less, but anytime the city comes to inspect for any other permit they will red flag it and make you re-do.

New wood floors:
$3-5 a square ft installed so if you have $1000 sq ft about $3000 to $5000

New carpet:
$3 a square ft installed

Furnace: $2000

Water heater: $1000

Electric Panel: $5000

New copper pipes: $2500

Termites: $1800

Roof: $12000

New paver driveway: $$7,000

Landscaping: $3000

So the total low end is $76,000 assuming you do roof and driveway and landscaping

Marcy Moyer
DRE 01191194
Web Reference: http://www.marcymoyer.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
Of course it depends but if you budget yourself I think you could plan around $50K. This would involve no additions or major structural modifications.

Kitchen $15K
Bath $5K each
Electricity $5K
Plumbing $5K
Windows $7K
Furnace $5K
Misc. $5K

Make sure you get permits for kitchen, plumbing, electrical, furnace, and windows.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 21, 2010
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