Thursday, February 15, 2007

Starting from the Ground Up

We close escrow tomorrow.

But being in escrow hasn't kept us from going into the house and getting estimates on everything from security systems — well almost getting, since the guy from ADT security never did turn in a bid — to heating and cooling.

The process of receiving and comparing proposals from all these various contractors is a pretty mind-bending experience. Take for example our foundation. When our stellar inspector, Lisa Yetter, took a look under the house, she pointed out that there did appear to be some crumbling around the perimeter of the foundation. There also appeared to be a badly cracked beam running across the center. "It's not urgent, it's not a huge amount of work," Lisa told us. "But get to it when you can."

Now, I don't purport to know anything about foundations, but I trust Lisa. I also have relied heavily on Lisa's Roladex full of contractors over the years. She threw out two names of local foundation specialists for me to call.

The first specialist I'll give the bloggy name "Stone." This wasn't my first encounter with Stone. I'd hired him about four years ago to inspect a foundation of another house I'd put a bid on, and he'd come back with a proposal that I'd found respectable. He was able to pinpoint the exact problems with the existing foundation and also nail down a price for adding a finished winecellar to the extisting basement (just a crawlspace, really). He seemed to really know what he was doing. Thus, out of the two names Lisa gave me, I called him first.

Stone's bid for the foundation on the Jewel of Hollywood came back at $40,000 — a figure that stopped me cold. How could Lisa have been so wrong? When he told me, I experienced the cartoon effect of thought bubbles over my head filled with images of new kitchen appliances and bathroom and tile fixtures popping one by one. We haven't really nailed down an exact budget, but whatever it is, I knew $40K would be a heaping chunk of it. So I asked Stone if there was anything we could put off for later.

"Oh, so you want to do the cosmetic stuff first?" he asked indignantly. "I turn down jobs from people who do the cosmetic stuff first."

A pretty saucy answer, I thought, from somebody looking to take more money from me than it cost to fund my entire graduate school education. But my heart was still with Stone. I'd paid him for the inspection, and by increments I was working through the denial phase and into the phase of accepting the economic realities of a remodel. I believed what everyone has been telling us — that you've got to budget 20% more than you expected to spend. It always costs more.

But then, I had the number of this other foundation specialist. At $150 a pop, just the inspections for things like this can start to get expensive. But Jim reassured me that paying for a second opinion would be money well spent.

We'll call this second contractor "Seismic Shazam!" They came. They inspected. They proposed. And their bid was $9,780.

Suddenly, I felt as though I'd just made 30 grand.


Blogger celia said...

thirty grand?! buy shoes!

March 5, 2007 at 7:57 PM  

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