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Looking for an idea of what I would likely have to spend to separate utilities out for a duplex. We are talking an over/under in a moderate cost market, separating out electric, water and gas. Or just examples of what it cost you to do the same thing, since you can't see the job I am considering. Really looking for a WAG, but have no concept of whether it would be closer to $5K or $50K. Looking at buying a house with 2 family zoning but no separate utilities, so really can't call for an estimate since I don't own. Will be running the numbers on just the SFH but want to have a clue as to the potential.

TIA,
IP

cross posting in building maintaining a home
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inparadise: "Looking for an idea of what I would likely have to spend to separate utilities out for a duplex. We are talking an over/under in a moderate cost market, separating out electric, water and gas. . . . Really looking for a WAG, but have no concept of whether it would be closer to $5K or $50K. Looking at buying a house with 2 family zoning but no separate utilities, so really can't call for an estimate since I don't own. Will be running the numbers on just the SFH but want to have a clue as to the potential."

A coupe thoughts.

You are talking about have three new meters installed - electric, gas, and water. Assuming that the current meter locations are reasonably accessible and that there is room for readily available for three new meters, I suspect that it would be closer to your first number (5k) than you second number.

No direct experience, but based on why my clients tell me, a new meter should be in the several hundred dollar range, plus installation (collectively x00 - to 29xx), and in your case plus cutting the existing lines and installing some new connections and a few feet of lines into and out of the new connections. Times 3 in your case.

The foregoing assumes that the lines to the upstairs and downstairs diverge near the existing meters and not elsewhere in the house, and that one separated never really merge again. Depending on how the lines are installed, it may potentially be a much bigger job if new lines need to be run into one of the units. My concern given that it is an upper/lower, that the lines are not run by unit but run up from the lower unit to the upper unit in multiple locations and that a single new meter for each utility would not suffice.

I know you were once (not sure if you still are) a realtor and that you know how to write contracts (and/or use a lawyer) but most contracts I see have an inspection period, and you could certainly use your inspection period to get the relevant trades in to inspect and at least give a ballpark figure for you calculations. A properly written inspection clause and contingency would give you an out if you absolutely need to separate and the estimates are too high.

Regards, JAFO

Disclaimer

Yes, I am a lawyer, BUT THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE; it is only general information. NO CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS INTENDED TO BE CREATED, NOR IS ANY SUCH RELATIONSHIP SO CREATED. FOR SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE YOU SHOULD TALK TO A LAWYER IN YOUR AREA.
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Really looking for a WAG, but have no concept of whether it would be closer to $5K or $50K. Looking at buying a house with 2 family zoning but no separate utilities, so really can't call for an estimate since I don't own. Will be running the numbers on just the SFH but want to have a clue as to the potential.

Just because there is zoning for 2 family homes doesn't mean that it is a 2 family home. One reason that many 'duplexes' don't already have separate meters is that they weren't built as legal duplexes. Legal duplexes typically require separate metering. So, I would suggest that you confirm that it's actually a legal 2 family first. You also need to make sure that there are separate HVAC systems and separate electrical panels for the 2 units. Again, for buildings built as legal duplexes, these systems are typically separate, but for those that were permitted as SFHs, they generally aren't.

As JAFO said, if all you have to do is add more meters, it's going to be closer to the $5k - $10k range. If you have to do the permitting, add separate HVAC and separate panels, it's going to be a lot more.

AJ
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Just because there is zoning for 2 family homes doesn't mean that it is a 2 family home. One reason that many 'duplexes' don't already have separate meters is that they weren't built as legal duplexes. Legal duplexes typically require separate metering. So, I would suggest that you confirm that it's actually a legal 2 family first. You also need to make sure that there are separate HVAC systems and separate electrical panels for the 2 units. Again, for buildings built as legal duplexes, these systems are typically separate, but for those that were permitted as SFHs, they generally aren't.

I'm going to disagree. At least here in the Boston area, it is not unusual to have legal multi-family houses (2 or 3 family) that do not have separate utilities, and where the utilities are included in the rent.

So I think I would make sure that this particular house is a legal 2-family, but not having separate utilities does not mean that it is not a legal 2-family.
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I don't know the specifics, but there are ways to submeter water. I know many apartment complexes were originally built with master water metering, which were later retrofitted to submeters located in each unit.
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I don't know the specifics, but there are ways to submeter water.
Electric is also pretty easy to add a submeter. ($40 for the meter socket and $50 for the meter plus some wiring and conduit to make the connections. And the labor)

Not sure about gas. I think usually the meters are immediately adjacent to a pressure regulator that goes from street pressure to house pressure, so that might complicate things. I don't know if the regulator is normally before or after the meter.

If you are thinking you'll go with submetering, I'd check for any rental laws regarding that in the area you're considering.
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Thanks everyone for your input.

IP
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I think most of the replies are making a lot of assumptions. I suspect that the actual cost could vary a lot - and your suggested numbers are a fairly reasonable range. Much will depend on what is existing in the structure.

Take electric. I recently had a new electric breaker panel installed. The cost was a bit over $2k. If everything is wired up to a single electric panel, at a minimum you'll need a second panel and then you'll need to split the circuits up by which unit they serve. And you may find that some circuits serve both units. I'd expect this if the house were originally built as a single family and later split into a 2 family.

On the other hand, if each unit already has it's own breaker (or fuse) panel, adding a second meter could be pretty inexpensive.

For gas, it's quite possible that a single line runs from the meter into the structure, and then splits to serve each kitchen, heater, and water heater. Depending on the layout, there could be a single trunk line through the house with each of these items branching off of that trunk. Splitting this up would involve opening up several walls to add additional lines. Then again, they could split right after the meter, with separate lines going into each unit. That would be much easier.

Water has similar issues to gas. It all depends on how the lines run inside the structure. Could be easy, could be very hard.

Unfortunately, it's likely pretty hard to determine where all of these lines run and how they split off to the various end-uses. The electric might be the easiest to figure out. A single breaker panel will make it hard. Separate breaker panels in each unit will be much easier and cheaper.

I'd also think about what other renovation plans you have for the property. If you're planning to do extensive renovations, with multiple walls opened up for work, that could make it much easier to separate the utilities. Access to the interior lines will be available, making the work for the professionals easier and the added costs lower. If you're not planning on anything more complicated than paint and flooring, the costs to separate utilities could be higher because of the access issues. Not only will the professionals need to knock holes in the wall, they will have to be patched back up.

You might be able to figure some of this out just by inspection. Where are the breaker panels? Can you see T fittings in the lines between the meter and the structure?

--Peter
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A lot depends upon local law. I've looked into submetering one of my properties, built as a duplex in 1955 time frame.

If you want the utility company to separately bill they need to agree. Also, in my case for water & electricity, I'll need three meters, one for each unit and one for the common area.

Local, Orange County, CA, plumbers charge about $400 for a water meter.

An alternative is have only one bill sent to you and you divide the bill based upon some reasonable standard such as:
- ratio of total square feet allocated to each unit
- number of bedrooms
- number of residents
if appropriate with an adjustment for common areas.

I believe there are companies which will do the calculation and billing for you. Look for the phrase RUBS, Ratio Utility Billing System. Here's one which I know nothing about:

https://www.multifamilyinsiders.com/apartment-ideas/accounti...

Jack
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