Planning to build a new home.. guide me!

We recently bought a 1950’s home in Palo Alto that we intend to start planning for complete remodel and adding ~1000 sq ft.
Totally confused as of now on who to work with and how even to gauge if GC’s estimate are in good range or not. Where do I begin?
Any pros here willing to chat? Beer/Coffee (or their virtual counterpart during shelter-in-place) on me!

1 Like

Wait a few months… contractor prices will come down in this recession.

1 Like

I am happy to wait few months… indeed, with time in planning the house, and getting city approvals it would already be 6+ months.

Given I have never done this before, do want to learn and understand some basics.
On other note, any one with real recent experience with Palo Alto city… how long would approvals take?


Congratulations on the house. There are a few people on here who build/have built houses here.

I was curious what were the reasons that motivated you to build a house vs purchasing an existing one? Just curious to understand. Thanks.

@skz I am in exact same boat as you - adding 1000 sqft to my existing house in Palo Alto. My application is already in progress with city hall. I was interviewing a few GC in Jan/Feb, but haven’t made the call yet. I am not sure if I want to go through the actual construction in 2020 - or should I save cash for other investment. But plan to get city approval regardless.

Disclaimer: Not a pro at all in adding addition. Happy to chat and share notes with each other.


Contractors will be hungry and a lot cheaper on the backside of this national tragedy.

1 Like

Build vs Buy came down to what we can afford. Within our budget, we could not get a good house for our needs. And we are going in with assumption that with 1.5-2years of work and time, we perhaps will be able to shave off few $$$ and get to better house

1 Like

Great to meet you @Boolean. Will be great to share notes :slightly_smiling_face:
Did you do plan/design with architect firm or design-build GC?

I built several spec homes a few years ago. Cloud is building now. I found tearing down much more cost effective that remodeling. New construction is much cheaper than bringing old buildings up to new code. With the scale of your project the city will require the existing structure be brought up to code. May need a new foundation and stripping to the studs. Cost prohibitive. Plus new is always better quality

1 Like

I think there is a threshold :slight_smile: Remodeling works up to xxx then new construction is cheaper.

50% remodel triggers all kinds of city requirements.

50% additional sq footage?

Or is it more subjective like 50% additional “value” added due to the new remodel?

1 get a few estimates so that you can compare the range.
2 if you get it through the process in 6 months kudos to you.
3 doing a down to stud remodel and addition saves you some money

  • foundation (portion)
  • framing (portion)
  • fire sprinklers (if you stay under 500 addition)
  • utility connection fees

btw, building is another job. there will be cost to you to follow through even if it isn’t with $.

1 Like

Yea, I am dealing with it (unfortunately) - if you are adding more than 50% of existing sqft, you need to add fire sprinkler to the whole house - which also means upgrading water line to bigger size and so on. Also adding more than 1000 sqft added more requirement around Green building requirement (at least for Palo Alto).

1 Like

In addition to that, you can get 9 - 10 feet ceiling throughout the house - that’s one limitation I hate from remodeling older houses.

1 Like

Single story. For two story, 2nd story is 8 feet.
My Austin house is 10-12 feet :wink:

My goal is to have a new build in BA… one day I hope!

I think it is 50% monetary value add. Pretty subjective. Up to building official. Your contractor and or architect can advise you.

1 Like

I gave up on that hope long ago because of ever increasing land cost and construction cost.

High ceiling not only look grand but allow for good air ventilation especially during Summer, don’t need to switch on air-con, air-con is BAD. In Singapore there are some very high ceiling* offices built by British which doesn’t need to use air-con at all, very cooling.

*Not sure how high, guesstimate is at least 20 feet high.

I built a house on the peninsula a few years back. My advice is to talk to as many people as you can: contractors, project managers, architects, structural engineers, designers, geotechnical engineers…

You will learn a lot and most people are willing to share their advice whether you go with them or not. Invite them to walk your property. They will notice things that will help you judge others.