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  • Lorianna Kastrop

Build it now or later? What are the considerations?

By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

So, you’ve missed the window for doing your construction project when everything was a lot less expensive (due to the recession). But now you have your financing together and you are ready to move ahead. What are your choices? Right now in the Bay Area there is still a building boom occurring. Some materials require long lead times, the top contractors have their schedules full (usually until winter or later), and some consultants (structural and geotechnical engineers, surveyors, etc.) are difficult to schedule as well. Subcontractors who are in great demand have raised their prices accordingly. Should you wait until things cool down before moving ahead?

For small projects especially, kitchen or bath remodels for example, the cost per square foot may be out of proportion for the size of the project. In the past a $300 per square foot rough ballpark figure was reasonable for small remodeling projects. Now none of the bids are coming in at that range. We are telling some of our clients that they may be better off to wait on construction, at least until the winter, but there are other considerations. In some cases, you may not want to wait for prices to come down.

Here’s the problem: if you get a building permit, you can’t get the permit extended forever. Most jurisdictions want you to start construction within 6 months of getting your building permit. They will let you extend a permit for 6 more months for a relatively small administrative fee. So, that’s a one-year period. Sometimes they will not give a further extension than that. Occasionally they will give you an additional 6 months if you talk to the Building Department and make a convincing case for your delay, but as a rule, you don’t want to pull the permit if you can’t start building within a year. If you don’t start building, and you can’t get a further extension, you will have to go back through the permitting process, including paying plan review fees, and architectural fees for the resubmittal. So, if you want to wait more than a year for a better construction window, don’t get your permit yet.

Here’s the important caveat—if your architect has your plans ready, or nearly ready, you don’t want to wait past December 2016 to get your permit!

The new California Building Code will go into effect on January 1, 2017. This new code will have requirements that did not apply before, and your plans must be revised to meet the new code if you submit for a building permit after January 1st. Therefore, if you are in the design process now, you should try to be on target to submit before the end of the year to avoid unnecessary redesign costs.

We are in the process of scheduling our current clients for submittal before year-end. If you are trying to figure out when to get started on your project, we recommend that you talk to your architect right away about this timing issue.

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