I'm looking for a pointer in the right direction. I plan to renovate
my home (which is in Brooklyn, NY). The home has been somewhat
neglected for many years and I've decided to take out a home equity
loan and completely renovate the house.
Additionally, the home is now currently a legal two family, however I
would like to convert it to a legal three family and use some of the
rent to pay off the mortgage.
There's one big problem though, I have no idea where to start. Do I
call in an architect first? Do I get a GC to look at the house first?
Do I get the loan first? The house is owned free and clear, so getting
the loan will not be a problem, but maybe I should see how much I
could get first? Please post any advice, personal stories that you
think would help. Thanks.
First step, go to your local library. Look for some books on
remodelling to get ideas. Also look for some books on how to deal with
contractors. And finally, get some books to learn how to contract it
yourself. These will give you the information you need to effectively
deal with this kind of project.
Note on the last one, I'm not saying you should or should not contract
it yourself. By learning the process, you are better able to select and
interact with a contractor.
You might also want to contact your local building inspection office to
confirm you can even make this change.
Start with city hall, and find out if you're even allowed to DO a 3-Unit.
Then find out what 3-units in your area are selling for, and get your
current building appraised, to find out whether what you're proposing to
do makes any economic sense at all. Presumably, you already know
what rental rates are in the area. If you want the mortgage to be no
than 80% the current value of the building, and the payments to be
no more than the expected rent-income, that gives you a rough idea of
your budget, which either a contractor or an architect will want before
can really talk to you, anyway.
After that, whether you want a GC or an architect depends mostly on
your own ability and willingness to make, explain, defend, and live
with your own design choices.
Where are you planning to live while all this is going on?
In your place, I would start with the building department.
What requirements will you have to meet? Is triple occupancy legal
in your neighbourhood?
They may be able to help you find other, completed remodels similar to
what you're thinking of. Alternatively, you might stroll around the
neighbourhood and schmooze. (Amazing what you'll find.)
By that time, you know 1) whether you can do it and 2) whether you'll
be adding on to the building or just moving walls around.
Then you're ready for a contractor, designer or architect.
If it's a fairly straightforward remodel, I'd look for a contractor
who has a tame engineer available. Be prepared to pay for their
time, but it's cheaper than hiring a designer or architect. (My bias
is showing here -- I'm a contractor and I work with architects and
designers -- my experience is that they can be both extravagent and
esoteric. But that's just my experience.)
Architect first? Not at all if you can help it. Let the GC deal with
anything that needs to be sent to an architect.
Basically, from my experience, the GC will provide better advice and
will have a better handle on costs, so can work in your budget.
The architect we engaged drew a plan which quoted out at THREE times our
stated budget. One of the GC's did a re-draw that came in closer to our
budget, and the architect ended up using his ideas. All this running
around took almost a year. What a waste of time and money for us.
I guess the responses you've gotten are not from New York City people. In
your case, you clearly have to start with an architect or engineer. Most
likely zoning isn't a problem, but your construction type might no longer
allow for conversion to a 3 family home. Plus the safety requirements for a
3 family (multiple dwelling in NYC) are much higher than on ones and twos.
There are many changes that you might have to make to the entire house to
allow for its use as a 3 family. An architect/engineer who specializes in
this stuff should be able to give you a consult at a reasonable price. You
will not get any help from the Buildings Department. They will simply tell
you to contact an architect/engineer. Once you know this, you will be in a
better position to determine what you want to do.
"RB" < email@example.com> wrote in message
Thank you for your response. You are exactly correct. I made the
mistake of calling the Buildings Department and was told to contact an
architect, just as you noted. Some help! But, how would you recommend
that I go about actually FINDING an architect that I can trust? I
really don't want to go to the Yellow Pages. Should I ask neighbors
whom have had work done? Any web sites that you know of that might
help me find an architect in the Brooklyn/NYC area? Thanks much.
On Fri, 09 Jan 2004 15:19:33 GMT, "Marilyn and Bob"
Ask neighbors, ask at the local 'real' lumberyards who the local rehab
contractors are, and then ask THEM the names of the designers they work
with. Building dept, snotty though they are, could probably show you the
names of who stamped the plans for projects in your 'hood. Remind them
gently that that is all public record. Make friends with one of the
blue-hair ladies- they love to show off their expertise.
We talked to the bank first to get an idea of how much a loan we could get,
then sat down with an architect recommended by a builder we knew and liked.
My husband (who is an engineer) came up with some initial plans and then we
handed them to the architect to complete them. The architect took a very
long time so in the meantime, we sat down with a few contractors and got
some extremely "ballpark" figures, then went ahead and got the loan (which
also took some time.) We just sat on the equity line until the architect
finished, then we went ahead with the formal bidding process with three
contractors. We wound up going with a different contractor than the one we
originally thought we would choose due to scheduling. We waited more than
six months for the architect to do his thing, and by then our original
builder wasn't going to get ours done before winter.
It helps when you sit down with a contractor to know exactly how much money
you have and if you already have the financing complete, it might get a
builder to put you at the top of the list. One of our contractors basically
said when he's trying to schedule his next job, he looks for who has
financing complete and plans in hand and is ready to go.
The only down side is that interest rates fell and home values rose while we
waited (a year and a half from when we got our loan to the actual start of
construction). So our equity line could have been larger and with better
terms if we had delayed it, but at least it was one part out of the way,
because there are so many details and considerations once you start, it can
really be overwhelming.
-Holly (who is about 90 percent completed on a renovation that was supposed
to be done by the end of October....)
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