How much does it cost to renovate a house in the Bay Area?
It seems the inner monologue of a lot of locals might sound like the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” on repeat. Is the Bay Area, which is a notoriously expensive place to live, worth staying in? If you own a home, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”—particularly if you have plans to remodel it.
Every dollar put into your home can yield many more dollars out as the housing market continues its inevitable climb. Most renovations will theoretically add value and increase your home’s equity. According to ComeHome, an online home valuation tool, remodeling a bathroom increases the value of the home by 12% and a kitchen redo increases the value of the home by 19%.
And the investments don’t need to be mortgage-worthy endeavors, either. A recent survey conducted by Houzz, an online look-book for remodeling and design inspiration, found that San Jose and San Francisco metro areas topped spending in the country for remodels, with a median spend of $25,000.
The estimated median cost of remodeling, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s 2018 survey, is anywhere from $25,000 for a bathroom to $200,000 to renovate an entire home. Though this certainly is not cheap, it’s a fraction of the cost of an average East Bay home. According to the Mercury News, the median price of a single-family home in the region is close to $935,000, which is a 16% increase over last year. Here’s some unsolicited advice—stay put, and put your money back in your home. Not only will the return on your investment likely prove worth it in the long run, you get the added bonus of living in one of the best places on earth—without having to move.
Two of the most common remodels in the Bay Area include kitchen and bathrooms. Often the busiest center of our homes, the kitchen isn’t just a place to cook, it’s often the de facto social hub for family and friends. As such, it’s also one of the most common areas for refurbishing—and among the most costly. Electrical work, plumbing, appliances and cabinets can all be costly individually, and together they can become a significant investment.
As for bathrooms, the size, prospective materials to be used—stone, tile, glass, etc.—and the nature of the renovation—a complete redesign with plumbing and electrical changes versus a mere aesthetic reimagining that can be achieved with paint brush and new set of towels—can span a pretty wide gamut price-wise. Bay Area residents can expect to pay anywhere from $6,500 to $40,000 on the upper end for a completely re-envisioned bathroom, according to BayAreaBath.com. When investing in a bathroom addition—and who doesn’t need an additional bathroom?—the price tag may be higher. The estimated cost of a mid-range bathroom addition in San Francisco is $65,360. The estimated cost in San Jose for the same midrange bathroom extension is $63,474. For those keeping track, a 5-foot-by-7-foot area is considered “midrange.”
Berkeley-based HDR Remodeling estimates that the average cost of a kitchen remodel in the Bay Area is between $120,000 and $185,000. “To soften the sticker shock, take the long view,” the company says on their blog. “This investment in your home adds significant value—especially if you’re adding square footage.”
Keep in mind that permitting in the East Bay can be an arduous process—especially right now, due to the added strain of Covid on city administrations as well as a spike in local construction.
The City of Berkeley, for example, is notorious for the length of time its permitting process can take, which is often upwards of six months. Some veteran remodelers suggest working with a local architect who has prior experience navigating the city’s bureaucracy to expedite the process. Not only will they know how to keep your remodelling or renovation project compliant with local building codes, they often have expert knowledge of arcane zoning laws. For example, various jurisdictions have different regulations regarding what can and cannot be done during renovations on a heritage home. If your home is in a historic neighborhood, your renovations may require additional sign-off from your local planning department.
“If your home is historic, your remodel will almost certainly need to go through a detailed planning-and-review process by city building officials,” writes Steve Branton, on wealth-management firm PrivateOcean’s blog. Branton reminds us that city codes will often try to preserve the historic aesthetic of single homes as well as the neighborhoods in which they are located. “…If your 10-year-old home is surrounded by structures that are 50 or more years old, you may be held to the same remodeling standards as your neighbors, even if the structure itself isn’t historic.”
That said, historic homes listed on the National Historic Sites Register might be eligible for special subsidies to help preserve their historic value.
In the end, any improvement you make to your home will likely result in your greater satisfaction with it. So, to answer Joe Strummer’s eternal question, you should stay—but try not to go—insane while remodeling your home.