How to find out what neighbors are doing with renovations, and costs?

Asked by Allenleechris, Palo Alto, CA Sun Feb 10, 2013

Many houses on our street are under construction. Are there public records that we could access to see what renovations they are doing, and the costs associated to get a ballpark for rates of renovations of various kinds in our neighborhood? We live in Palo Alto.

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Marcy Moyer’s answer
Marcy Moyer, Agent, San Ramon, CA
Sun Feb 10, 2013
You can pull the permits on line. Go to :…

You can check what permits have been pulled and the value of the individual project.

Marcy Moyer
Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto
DRE 01191194
Web Reference:
1 vote
Mindy, Home Owner, 94306
Tue Feb 12, 2013
You may browse through the permit application to check, however, it's a known fact that when a homeowner enters the approximate cost of the project, it is entered using a standard formula during design process, which is very different from the market value or cost of actual upgrade (formula calculation is typically less than actual cost). Also, during the course of construction, it's not uncommon for people to be forced to make change orders that increase the costs, especially if you are dealing with an old property.

Therefore, in reality, your best bet is to check with the homeowner or architect of the project to see how much a particular project cost them. Do not ask the builder, since the builders tend to progressively increase prices during successive projects.
1 vote
Juliana Lee…, Agent, Palo Alto, CA
Mon Feb 11, 2013
To really see if the renovation is comparable to what you are considering, you need to look at the details of the renovation.

Builders love to be contacted about possible new business. If they are doing work nearby it will be easier to get them to stop by and just chat with you. The quickest way to get a good estimate would be to call them, tell them you are next to one of their job sites and would like to know if $xxxx is a good ball park number.

Some very rough numbers to work with would be $250+ per sf to add on a bedroom. The cost of labor to replace or install a new window is roughly equal to the cost of the window. The cost of a bathroom or kitchen remodel varies dramatically (triple, quadruple ...) with exactly what you want done.

I have a short diary posted on-line showing my experience building a new house in Palo Alto.

Palo Alto has most newer building permits posted online. You can research them from:…

Many projects encounter "change orders" so the cost listed for the building permit may not be very accurate even after adding all the sub projects together. (You've surely heard about the cost overruns for our library).

Another aspect to consider is how much value will be added to your home after doing the work. It can very dramatically. Adding one bath to a 3 bed 1 bath home can add more value than the cost. In general you want to be very careful if you are doing remodeling to increase your home's sale price. For Palo Alto I have fairly good statistics showing the increased sales price for homes which were torn down then rebuilt:

Juliana Lee
Cell 650-857-1000
Top 3 agent nationwide at Keller Williams Realty

Over 25 years experience
Over 1,000 home sales in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
Web Reference:
0 votes
Miekeba Jones, Agent, Silver Spring, MD
Sun Feb 10, 2013
Hi Subjectivity, take a stroll and ask the neighbors. Or you could check for permits.
0 votes
Cindy Davis, Agent, San Diego, CA
Sun Feb 10, 2013
I lived in Palo Alto a long time ago and it's great, pretty part of the world. Without intending to sound ridiculous, why not call your neighbors or wander over and talk to the construction folks. I'm sure the works could direct you to a manager.
0 votes
John Souerbry, Agent, Fairfield, CA
Sun Feb 10, 2013
Ask them. If they have applied for permits those will be on file at the building department, but there are no public records of costs.
Try looking at the City of Palo Alto's Development Center web page:
0 votes
Sherri Melton, Agent, Augusta, GA
Sun Feb 10, 2013
I would call several contractors and get quotes for remodeling the kitchen and baths. Those are the most important updates you can tackle.
0 votes
Jennifer M H…, , Miami, FL
Sun Feb 10, 2013
Your best bet may be to ask your neighbors directly about what renovations they are doing to their home, and they may fill you in on the costs associated with the projects. You can also check out local companies, and they could provide you with more information on costs and such. Here is one example:…

Good luck!

Jennifer Hess
HB Roswell Realty
(305) 807-0532
0 votes
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