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  • Lorianna Kastrop

Want to build next summer? Now is the time to start.

It is very common for businesses and homeowners to wait until the springtime to get started on improvements to their buildings. Better weather means that contractors don’t have to allow for delays and site protection due to rain or snow. What is often forgotten, however, is that the design, planning, and approval process can take weeks, and sometimes months, to complete. If you wait until spring, it may be late summer or early fall before you can get under construction and you will lose that favorable weather window. Also, if Planning Departments receive many applications at the same time, they can get backed up and take longer to process permits.

The best way to ensure that your construction occurs when you want it to is to get started early. By starting the design process in the winter, your architect can complete the design, get preliminary bids, submit for planning approval, and ultimately have your permit ready when you need it. Building permits are valid for 6 months, and the deadline can be extended. So you can hold onto it until you are ready to start construction.

Every project is unique, but as an example, we currently have residential projects that are waiting up to 6 months for planning approval, depending on the city. That really disrupts the homeowner’s expected timeline. Imagine if they are adding on a room for a new baby, for example. The baby will be walking by the time the room is ready!

On even simple commercial projects, like Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, or tenant improvements, planning permits are typically taking about 2 months. Bigger and more complicated projects obviously take much longer. This summer we worked on a pet hotel, as well as a restaurant that really needed to be open before Thanksgiving in order to take advantage of the boost in holiday business. Timing is critical.

Even on a straightforward project, you should allow at least a month for design, client approval, engineering, and the production of construction documents. Then add a couple of weeks to get competitive bids and choose a contractor. Then add at least 2 months for planning approval. Therefore, the minimum time frame to expect is about 3 to 4 months before starting construction. It is longer than you might think.

Another incentive for tackling a planned improvement project right now is that many tax breaks are scheduled to end on December 31 unless Congress extends them. No one is certain which breaks will be renewed for next year, so business owners should check with your tax advisors to take advantage of them while you can. For example, usually capital improvements to a workplace must be depreciated over 39 years. But if you are a lessor, lessee, or subleasee and you complete leasehold improvements to your restaurant or retail establishment before the end of 2013 you can deduct:

• $250,000 first-year expensing for eligible improvements • 50% bonus depreciation for eligible improvements • 15-year amortization period for any costs not deducted with first-year expensing or bonus depreciation

Find details about write-offs for qualified property in IRS Publication 946. So, take advantage of the wintertime to get a jump start on your project for 2014.

Lorianna Kastrop Vice President The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

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