Re: Cost estimates
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 14 Feb 2010 07:00:59 -0800 (PST)

On Feb 14, 2010, at 4:19 AM, Marganne Meyer wrote:

I'd logically think that the more experience you have, the better
you'd be at setting a budget.

Think through the construction of ~40 homes with all the underground work through all the piping, walls, wires, insulation, bathrooms and kitchens, etc., and how many different contractors have to be coordinated. Plus all the permitting and town board approvals, rezoning, and inspections of all that. Weather -- monsoon rains. Suppliers going bankrupt.

Green technology that workers are using for the first time. Manufacturers shipping the wrong carpet. Wood floors laid where linoleum was supposed to go. The concrete truck stuck in traffic. Look around the room. Each item required a plan, a decision, a search for materials, an order, a delivery, a sorting, a transport to the install locations, installation, inspection, finishing.

It's complicated and no project is just alike. I actually don't understand how anything gets built! I would go nuts with the number of people that have to be coordinated. And dealing with city inspectors is a whole job, and totally unpredictable. In NY bribes are part of the budget.

Budget overruns are often because the codes change in the middle. One restaurant rehab here just had to completely redesign the plumbing in a building and get new permits because the city changed the code in the middle of their project. Back to architect, back to drawing board, back to the permitting office, back to suppliers, etc. No income for another 6 months. End of restaurant.

Construction costs can change overnight. We had bids on a teeny tiny iron stair support last year that almost doubled because they price of iron went up. The fence installer made fence bids subject to the current price of iron at the time we decided to install. Magnify that by 40 for 40 homes and you are in a heap of trouble.

That's why developers loose money on projects. The purchase price is set at contract signing but costs keep going up. The later sales have to pay for those cost increases.

We have had tons of complaints about our construction but aside for some poor design issues, other developers have consistently said, Oh, that always happens.

I once thought that having new construction would avoid all the problems of old houses. And need no renovations. Wrong. Completely wrong.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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