No. of Recommendations: 2

You wrote, Having just completed a 3 year major renovation of my home, and having overrun my overrun padding through plumbing surprises, floor rot, electrical retiring, failed appliances and contractor deceit, I can tell you that it never ends up costing what you think it will cost.

WARNING: Slightly off-topic diversion follows...

Let me add my recent (relatively minor) renovation experience.

I just bought a new-to-me (town) home in the Seattle area. I put 20% down and had set aside about $19K toward improvements and repairs. The contractor bid $10.5K+tax on the improvements - the bulk of the labor just being a paint job - and I assumed from the inspection report that there might be another $3K in repairs, giving me nearly $4K in padding for surprises.

The improvements did not involve replacing the flooring; but I didn't like the existing carpeting ... and stripping the carpets would allow the contractor to spray the walls (smoother, cleaner finish) instead of roll and brush. Two weeks before I closed on the place I decided to replace it all with bamboo - which blew right through my budget of course, since it more than doubled the cost of the project. (It only added 2+ days to the schedule, so I moved the closing up a week.)

I seriously underestimated the scope of the repairs though. The inspector downplayed the issues I pointed out, so I assumed they were not serious. He was wrong; I was right and should have listened to myself. Turned out the repairs cost me about $8K. (The work not done by my contractor anyway.) And we both missed the leaky, improperly flashed skylights.

The contractor is finally wrapping up the work on the house (he's about 5 weeks late). I added a few more work items to the project which he's charging me for time and materials. (I might have added a day or two of work; but he's been dragging out completion.) All in, I think the General Contractor, Plumber, Landscaper, Roofer, Lowes, Home Depot, Lumber Liquidators and the Great State of Washington will have collected about $39K from me on this little project. So instead of spending $19K, I'm about $20K over my original budget.

None of these monetary budget overruns were my contractor's fault. Had I left well enough alone, I could have had everything done for just over the $19K I'd set aside. But of course I didn't know about the scope of the real problems with the house until I'd already committed to installing the new floors - which already had me digging into my remaining cash reserves. At least the contractor was pretty honest and stuck with his price commitments, though he could have done a better job with his time management. (If he did, I think his clients would be happier AND he'd be making more money.)

And BTW, contract labor rates are MUCH higher here than in north Texas. And the state charges sales tax on EVERYTHING here as well. (In Texas, they don't apply sales tax to labor.)

Also, I doubt anything I did other than the floors and replacing the vanity in the powder room will add any resale value to the house. Perhaps $10-15K at most. And none of that work was in the original budget. But it seemed to be what was necessary to get a place in a good location 10 minutes from work in a condition I could live with in the short time allotted for the original house hunt.

Of course your mileage will vary... :-)

- Joel
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