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How Much Does a Gut Renovation Cost in NYC Area?


Renovating an NYC apartment or brownstone can be a multilayered affair.

Budgeting for renovations is an undertaking with countless movable pieces that need to be accounted for. You have to be on the same page with the rules of your co-op or condo board, know any permits you may need to apply for with the Department of Buildings (DOB), and choose the right team and materials to handle your project.


But a gut renovation in NYC can be rewarding, as it can help add value to your apartment, save you money in the long run due to rising material and labor prices, and allow you to create a living space you are proud of.


There’s a lot to digest regarding the costs and process of a gut renovation in NYC, so the team from Prevu Real Estate has put together an essential guide to all the things you need to know before renovating your NYC home.


Average cost of renovating in NYC

Knowing the cost per square foot is the easiest way to ballpark your potential expenses when renovating your NYC apartment or brownstone.


Even if you’re only aiming to do a kitchen or bathroom renovation, square footage is a reliable way to estimate the average cost.


NYC homeowners can generally expect to pay between $100 to $200 per square foot for a gut renovation, including labor and cost-effective materials. The price can reach $300 per square foot and greater per square foot depending on the experience of the team you hire, the quality of the materials, and the general scope of the work being done.

But it’s important to note that those numbers are the average, and many factors can affect your project's final price.


For example, if you choose to renovate a single-family brownstone, you benefit from not worrying about board approval. However, if you plan to add height or depth to your building, you may need to secure specific permits from the DOB. The bright side is greater freedom to choose who to work with.


In the case of co-op or condo buildings, you may be looking at a lengthy approval process before you’re allowed to renovate, and the board will require you to hire licensed and specially insured contractors to create the plans for the project and get the job done. This can potentially boost the labor price even further, as the cost of architectural plans may also be necessary for layout changes or larger projects.


How to budget for an NYC renovation

The easiest way to budget for a complete gut renovation in New York City is to break down the most significant expenses, get an idea of the average cost, and always plan for unexpected expenses.

Below, we list the top items on a renovation budget that will demand the most of your savings. Of course, each can fluctuate in price, but being as informed about them as possible can help you plan a successful renovation.


Top items for a renovation budget

  • Working with an architect

  • Choosing the materials

  • Getting board approval & related fees

  • Temporary housing costs

  • Unexpected expenses

Working with an architect

It’s always a good idea to start your home renovation project with a licensed architect. Skimping on experience in favor of cheaper cost may seem enticing on paper, but the long-term effects of a poorly-executed renovation can set you back way more than you may initially save.

That’s because gut renovations usually involve buildings that need upgrading from old infrastructure and outdated systems. It may require re-arranging plumbing and electrical, new HVAC installation, and roof and wall repairs.

An architect will plan the renovation to ensure none of these newly-installed systems will fail in the foreseeable future.

For brownstone owners, you’ll likely work with just your architect. But condo and co-op owners will have to get their plans reviewed and approved by a board-hired architect as well. Depending on the building, their fees can run anywhere from $1000 to $3000.


Choosing the materials

If you choose to save on anything, consider saving on materials.

Materials can suck up your budget quickly if they are high-end or custom. For example, choosing concrete sheets or reclaimed wood instead of quartz or marble for your countertops can save you a pretty penny, and the difference mainly lies in visual appeal.

You may want to be more selective regarding critical features like electrical systems and appliances.


Getting board approval & related fees

Be prepared for a lengthy approval process when you pitch a renovation project. The board considers details like the effect on your neighbors, the length of the project, and how invasive the project will be.

Your primary expenses here will involve any fees the board may charge, non-refundable deposits (anywhere from $250-$500 or more, depending on the building), and the rules the board lays out for your project.

They may restrict the work to a specific season, which can extend the time of your contractor’s team and potentially affect the cost.

You’ll want a clear idea of what kind of renovations you want to complete before hiring an architect to start the project. This way, you can take some time to have a back-and-forth with the board to see what rules they may impose and how that will affect the renovation timeline.


Temporary housing costs

Depending on the scope of your project, temporary housing can be a significant expense.

If there’s a lot of tearing down, you may be forced to find a temporary living solution as you wait for the renovations to be completed.

You will also have to decide what to do with your furniture and belongings. If your building has enough storage space, you can divide your things between the space and a room within your home.

But if the renovations are extensive and your furniture is too large, you may have to consider hiring a moving company to pick up and store your things until the renovations are complete.


Unexpected expenses

There can be many unexpected expenses that come up during renovations. It’s virtually impossible to anticipate all of them, but you can prepare for the most common ones and be aware of how you can handle them when they arise.

The most "expected" unexpected expense is a change order. This is a term for a modification or change that must be done to the original renovation project plan. For instance, there was an injury at the worksite, and it may cause a delay of two extra weeks. This can affect the board fees, labor costs, and temporary housing costs.

The best way to handle change orders is to prepare for them in the initial work contract. The contract can include a detailed description of how change orders will be handled to make life easier for both you and the contractor.

Hidden material costs are another unexpected cost you may not be aware of. Most contractors won't include the price of material fabrication – such as cutting and altering any material to fit the necessary measurements – in their quote.

Because of that, it’s good practice to speak to your potential contractor to see how they handle those expenses. Naturally, the cheaper the materials, the lesser the cost of fabrication.


Finally, be aware of delivery and service fees. Whether you’re buying new appliances or specific materials, getting them to the worksite and installing them can be pricy. However, you can plan for these expenses by deciding on the exact materials and appliances you want and selecting backup options in case the original choice proves too costly.

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