how much $$$ to finish?

thisishishouseSeptember 18, 2011

Looking for some educated ballpark guesstimates on how much it'd cost to finish someone else's custom build.

We recently found an MLS listing in an area where we've been watching for a piece of land. Someone selling a partially finished custom home. There's presently 1400 sq ft finished living space. There's an additional 2700 rough framed. It's not an old home with an addition, because I know the area and the house wasn't there 3 or 4 years ago. Looks like they may have built in phases and are stopping now for whatever reason.

The unfinished space is rough framed, closed with siding, roofing, windows. It'd need electrical, plumbing, insulation, drywall, mechanicals, and all the fixins'.

From your experiences, any guesses at what it'd cost to finish? My WAG is $150-$175k might get it done.

We're only entertaining the thought because in this area, the very few lots that ever do come available cost nearly what this listing is down to. (it's been on & off market for ~18mos, dropping each time. I bet there's not a huge market of buyers looking to finish someone else's project.) It'd be almost like buying a lot and getting a shell for free.

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That would be almost impossible to answer. It would be all over the board depending on where you are and what type of finishes you want then it would only be a hit in the dark guess.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 9:55PM
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Speak to a local gc for cost estimates.

I've looked at these type of projects, but have always backed off as they've been sitting unoccupied over the winter and all kinds of frost damage is possible. If you buy, do so only after a thorough inspection by a structural engineer or architect.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 12:54AM
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robin: finishes aren't really the mystery for me. We've renovated our homes so many times that I have a good idea of what all the finishes could cost. The variable for me is pricing everything inside the walls. (Insulate, elec, plumb, rock, etc)

worthy: Yes, if we ever seriously considered this, a builder/architect would definitely be included on our initial walk-thrus. And this one hasn't been empty. There's a family living in the 1400 finished space. I think they must've built in stages and ran out of steam.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 7:28AM
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Epiarch Designs

it depends how much, if any, work you would plan on doing yourself. Given the areas you are asking, it also depends on types of each area. For example, insulation can cost as little as .20 sqft up to $3 for closed cell spray foam sqft per inch. Gyp hung and finished typically runs around $.9-1.10 sqft. Plumbing and electrical depends on runs, locations, quantity, etc. Can not really throw a number on it, but I would budget around $60-80 sqft to finish it out maybe.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:48AM
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Sophie Wheeler

200K+ and would have to be a cash sale as there really isn't a bank out there that would be happy with giving a loan on this situation.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:26PM
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Can you break it down? How much is the land worth? How much is the occupied 1400 sq ft worth? Who built this? Were permits filed? Were inspections made? Any leins? Foreclosure notices filed? Do you LIKE both the finished and unfinished portions -- exterior and layout?

Sometimes 'no pig' is better than one in a poke. lol

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 5:28PM
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Check to make sure all permits are pulled and signed off for the work done and find out what other permits are needed. Water? Sewer? Electric? Like chisue said also, you need to make sure you have a clear title. Make sure all the material on the property are paid for. Who worked on it licensed contractors? homeowner? where are the plans and were they approved by the building inspection dept? Drainage?
Lots of questions need to be clarified first. Get everything in writing and keep a journal who what when and why.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 9:19PM
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lzerarc: Thanks for the ranges. My initial guesstimate was on the lower bound of your 60-80 range. It'd be safer to go with the higher number.

hollysprings: thanks. That $200 estimate jibes with lzerarc's range. Regarding financing, that'd be an important consideration. Thanks for the reminder. I've currently got the funds to buy the place OR finish the place, but not both. The bank would need to lend either a mortgage or a construction/HELOC.

chisue: tough to break it down exactly. The town were looking at doesn't have land come up that often. Lots of big old estates or farm land. When big tracts come up, they frequently get bought by community preservation funds and turned into conservation land. When lots do come up, they're usually not the size/price we're seeking. Right now there's only about 10 land listings. There's currently 20ac for $2.3M, 17 for $1.2, 13ac for $800k, a few prime 5ac lots for $700k, The rest are 2-4ac for $300+- but they're real rough and would require lots of site work. (trees, ledge, steep, wetlands, etc) Given those comps, I'd value the land of the place in question at $350k. The listing is only $450k, So the real question is: IS a 4100sq ft shell worth $100k?

Regarding if we LIKE what's there: We're neutral on it. It's not what we'd build, but it's closer to what we want than the existing stock in this town. I'd really be into it for the educational experience. First it'd get our 'foot in the door' in this community. It'd also be valuable learning experience for when we'd do a full build. I'd probably use this as a stepping stone. Watch for another piece of land then do a full build 5-10 years down the road.

chisue/marie: Permits, liens, titles, etc: it'd HAVE to be on the up & up before we'd even look at it. And the town is question is small and wealthy. I don't think someone can change a lightbulb without neighbors noticing and a review board approval. I think buying an unfinished shell would save us at least a year of review/permit meetings alone!

Thanks all for the input. It's a slow market, and it's been listed on & off for over a year. If it's still there in the spring, we'll give it some consideration.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:38AM
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How accurate are RE assessments in the area? (This sounds like our neighborhood; many lots are valued higher than the improvements on them.)

If you can afford to buy the land with it's liveable 1400 sq ft house, might you plan to finish the rest of the framed portion as you can afford to do so? (We don't know why the current owner stopped.) Do you want a house this big? Might you lop off a portion; pay lower taxes; be happy will smaller?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 12:53PM
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There's nothing worse than being house poor. If you have the money to buy it but not work on it, you've just entered the seventh circle of hell. And, given the information you have about the community it's in, you might even move up to the ninth circle. A town like that isn't going to be lenient with a permanent under construction home. It very negatively affects their pocketbooks in both tax revenue and in image of the neighboring homes. If bought with one of the new renovation purchase loans, you are likely to have to move pretty quick to complete it or else face a bunch of fines.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 1:41PM
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chisue: The assessments are pretty consistent. It's currently assessed and taxed for only the occupied portion. The average home in this town is 700 with 14 in taxes. I'd expect when finished to slot in around there. And we wouldn't buy and let it linger. 1400 sq ft with 3 kids is doable but not comfortable long term. (we're in 1800 now and would ideally like to gain another 1200 ish)

Green: I don't think in this case we'd be house poor. We could buy it out right, mortgage free. Then either deal with a construction or HELOC for the finish work. Or we could get a mortgage for half the purchase price (50% LTV) and use the other half of our savings for the finish work. Not sure if there's subtle details preferring one over the other.

And it's only unfinished on the interior. From the exterior, it appears all but finished. Siding, windows, roofing, paving, landscaping, hardscaping done. It's also set back from the road on a 2ac lot, surrounded on 3 sides by apple orchards and conservation land across the street. No neighbors to complain. Heck, it's been in a state of stalled completion for so long, I suppose any neighbors or officials who've taken issue would welcome completion.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 2:51PM
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What state are you in?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:03PM
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