Estimate Remodel Cost on Hillside

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Submitted by XBoxBoy on July 3, 2017 - 8:52am

Hi All,

We're toying with the idea of buying a property that is on a lot with a flat area that then drops off fairly steeply. The current house has extensive foundation issues as it is largely on fill that has settled. If we bought this property we'd tear the house down to the studs and would almost undoubtedly need to put in caissons and an extensive new foundation.

Does anyone have any idea how to estimate the cost of such a project short of drawing up plans and putting them out for bid? I figure the house building would be $300-$400 per sq ft, (We're not thinking of doing anything too wild) but the cost of extensive new foundations I have little idea how to estimate. Any suggestions?

XboxBoy

Submitted by SK in CV on July 3, 2017 - 9:45am.

Hire a civil engineer and come up with a plan, and then estimate based on that plan. There are dozens of ways to deal with active or expansive soil. If the existing improvements are actually on fill that has settled, there may be no reason to add caissons, just level and seal the existing foundation. If it is still active, the difference between doing it right and doing it wrong could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. The worst thing you could do is rely on some guy on a blog that doesn't know what he's talking about.

There is no reason that improvements should cost close to $300 to $400 a foot if you're not doing anything too wild.

Submitted by Hobie on July 3, 2017 - 10:34am.

Any core drills for soil samples by owner or insurance company?

I see this as two step approach. Cost of house and foundation work. House is irrespective of the foundation.

I would hire geologist to walk the site and review soil reports and grading plans from surrounding lots. Probably $1k to get you a ballpark idea of the potential $ exposure for foundation work.

Submitted by moneymaker on July 3, 2017 - 4:35pm.

Unless it's a screaming deal I would steer clear of a house with obvious foundation issues.

Submitted by XBoxBoy on July 3, 2017 - 6:06pm.

Thanks to those that have responded. Here's some additional comments:

We are not even in escrow, or even close at this time. So my questions are about how to get a ballpark idea of cost. (And don't worry SK I'm not going to trust anyone's opinion of what it should cost, only looking for suggestions on how to get a reliable estimate from someone who would actually know.)

There are no soil reports. Doubt if we could do any drilling/soil sampling until after close. So as much as I like the idea of doing something like that, not sure it's possible. Might be able to do it while in escrow, not sure.

The idea of hiring a civil engineer/soil engineer is a good one, and would probably be worth a grand or two if we got into escrow. (Maybe could get in escrow with contingency about soil report. Seller's might not agree though.)

I'd love to steer clear of houses with foundation issues, but the houses with great views that are fixers in our area all have serious foundation issues.

Thanks again,
XboxBoy

Submitted by Hobie on July 3, 2017 - 8:26pm.

XBoxBoy wrote:
but the houses with great views that are fixers in our area all have serious foundation issues.

Exactly. What do the neighbors know. I'd be surprised if this issue was isolated to this particular lot. If it was, then recompacting would probably be the ticket. But many others suggest a larger geologic component.

Thinking the owner knows more than they are telling you. Not good for you. Without finding out the underlying cause, even a low ball offer would be too high. Chat up a geologist.

This kind of thing is what geologist live for ;) People know what is going on at that site. Otherwise it would have sold by now.

Submitted by XBoxBoy on July 4, 2017 - 2:55pm.

Hobie wrote:
I'd be surprised if this issue was isolated to this particular lot.

It is not. This is a common issue in this particular area.

Hobie wrote:
Thinking the owner knows more than they are telling you. Not good for you.

No one is trying to hide anything here. The owner and the owner's realtor openly admit that the lot has extensive settling.

Hobie wrote:
Without finding out the underlying cause...

The issue is simple. The houses were built in the 60's on fill dirt that was not properly compacted. One side of the street where the dirt was scrapped doesn't have any issues. The other side of the street where the dirt that was scraped was pushed to, all the houses have settling issues.

Hobie wrote:
People know what is going on at that site. Otherwise it would have sold by now.

Indeed, the only reason that it hasn't sold is that after considering the costs and risks of the remodel the current price is too high. However there is good reason to believe the price will be lowered. So I'm trying to do a calculation that says at X price it becomes viable. But to do that calculation I need to estimate the cost of the remodel more accurately. Thus I'm looking for suggestions about how to accurately estimate the costs. I realize that this isn't something easily done, and probably has lots of, "well just depends" added to it. My current thinking is to get a builder who has done this kind of work on hillsides and get them to give me some estimates. Bringing in a geologist/soils engineer would probably help tighten up the estimate. But I'm fishing for other good suggestions at the same time.

Submitted by gzz on July 4, 2017 - 6:43pm.

Level and compact a medium size home site: $30,000-40,000.

Preserving and working around an existing house is where the big costs are.

Why not buy, rent it out 5 years without a lick of maintenance, then you can knock it all down and start from scratch.

A ground compactor will shake your neighbor's houses like earthquakes.

Submitted by ljinvestor on July 7, 2017 - 6:49pm.

Ask the GC Sunset West Development who recently did a house a couple doors down.

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