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Question DetailsAsked on 11/22/2016

Price for qualified consultant to join first time home buyer in viewing to estimate renovations

I'm a first-time home buyer in Conshohocken Pennsylvania. How much would it cost to have a qualified building professional join me on some home viewings to provide a very rough estimate of Home Improvements prior to purchasing the home

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I commend your thinking, and this is the sort of pre-offer inspection and assessment with the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and NAR (N tional Association of Realtors) have been calling for to make homebuying a more "informed" decision. However, today, except with higher-end homes and especially very high end condos and penthouses and such, is a rarity for this to happen except with serious fixer-uppersmaking it a tear-down is a likely part of the decision - so basically looking for a starting base for a major remodel, not just repairs and relatively minor improvements. Also more common for commercial real estate, where owner or tenant remodeling and improvements to newly purchased pre-owned properties are considered pretty much the norm before move-in.

But for normal range residential homes that is not a normal thing to do (at least before making a contingent offer) and especially not on more than one house which you intend to put an offer on subject to the results of the assessment, and it involves logistical issues working against you. One of which is that such a review is best done along with or after the home inspection so those items that NEED to be done are known and inclluded in the assessment, and also because many homeowners and selling realtors do not want this sort of advisor or consultant along till after an offer is made, THEN the walkthrough with any contractor or consultant is done pursuant to a contingency regarding the consultant's estimates. Basically, from the seller's perspective, the more the buyer knows about potential costs of repairs or improvements the lower their offer goes or the more contingency items they list for the seller to have done at his cost before closing, so bad for the seller. In some locales the local realtor board essentially makes that sort of "wish-list" consultation prior to a written offer taboo.

Of course, contingent on not losing the house because your offer is too late getting in, you can almost always take photos or video while walking through on a buyer's initial viewing and then run over them off-site with an architect or estimator or general contractor for ballpark cost estimate - realizing that the home inspection would NOT yet be done so any items on that list would not be included up to that time.

For a single home visit (bearing in mind the need to coordinate the advisor and the Realtor for the visit time), typically about $150-250 for an hour or two for a home inspector (who can sometimes informally give a cost estimate for repairs, if inclined to do so, but almost never will give any committment or "formalize" his estimates in writing) as a consultant [not doing the actual linspection at that time]. About $200-400 for a general contractor "consultation fee" (a very GC's few will do it free or real cheap in hopes of getting the work, but very few, to avoid price-shopping) who you have pre-chosen as "your contractor" if you eventually go ahead and buy the house. For minor improvements / repairs, a GC who specializes in such work on new buys (your realtor probably knows a few) maybe $100-200 for an hour, provided not talking major remodel or an addition or such. An architect or residential construction civil engineer or residential engineering cost estimator probably more in the $250-350 per house visit range for an hour or so onsite, for off-the-cuff on-the-spot type guesstimates that they cannot be held to in any way. For written estimates of cost on a checklist of repairs and improvements, typically more like $500-1500 for a single property to document (with photos) what improvements are anticipated and a preliminary cost estimate for the work with itemization for each element of work.

For multiple home assessments - assuming you have the time to evaluate and compare multiple homes in a short timeframe without losing most of them to other offers while you are looking and awaiting recommendations and costs - probably not more than about 10-20% discount per visit off the above costs if doing multiple visits in a short timeframe, because you are likely talking multiple call-outs - rare you could go through several houses which you are looking at one after another - showings just don't normally work out that conveniently.

Talk to your Realtor about this - but his/her strongest objection is likely to be what I said above - other than on-site off the cuff ballpark costs (which don't give you a real warm fuzzy feeling about what it will actually cost after closing), the delay in getting the estimate and deciding whether you then want to make an offer is likely to result in the loss of a lot of the potential properties to another offerror while you are thinking.


One caveat since you said you are a first-time buyer - IF you meant REPAIRS, not improvements then talk to your realtor about what contingency items tied to a home inspection are. After making your offer, you (if put in the contract, as usually is) you have a short time (commonly 7-14 days) to get a home inspection or an evaluation by a contractor or architect or plumber/electrician/HVAC contractor or whoever you want to evaluate the condition of the house, and to modify your offer or demand certain REPAIRS (usually not improvements - that turns owners off unless required by code) be done by the owner at his cost prior to closing as a condition of the offer. Be sure you understand what a inspection contingency is and that your contrat has one - that is the normal way the buyer protects himself against such inspection-identifiable unforeseen conditions or faulty workmanship or utility installation or such - by getting the inspection(s) and then deciding which of the commonly 50-100 items on the inspection list merit demanding the owner repair/replace them at HIS cost as part of the deal, and which you put on your upgrades/improvements/minor repair honey-do list for you to do or have done at your expense after closing. Of course, in the contingency offer modification you have the option of negotiating with the seller about what items he repairs/replaces before closing, or possibly (this option usually initiated by the Seller as a counteroffer) possibly dropping the sale price and leaving some or all the repairs to you to do after closing. Your Realtor can explain it to you - be SURE you understand from your realtor how it works and its limitations and the short inspection/counteroffer time period to address such issues before your offer becomes binding.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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