Running like hell from your renovation can be cheaper as well as saner

Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral
By Teri Karush Rogers  |
August 19, 2011 - 10:21AM

Over on, an apartment owner has posed a common renovation quandary: Spend $20,000-$25,000 on a rental apartment to bunk at while contractors tear up his apartment and piece it back together. Or save on the rent and tough it out.

Seemingly, the latter is not such a bad option if you work full time in city full of great take-out and eat-out options. But from a quality of life perspective, virtually no one thinks sticking around is a good idea.

"GO! You can't imagine how bad it will be for you," says one commenter. Offers another: "You will lose your mind. I promise. Don't'll regret it."  

The other problem, as we are once again reminded, is that the choice between spending or saving $20k in rent is an illusory one: There is little or no savings to be had by staying put, because your contractor will charge you more to work around you.

How much? We checked in with a couple of contractors.

"I have no problem charging 20% more," says Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations, who we contacted after he chimed in on the StreetEasy discussion under his Primer05 handle, saying, "It costs me much more than if they were to leave."

The extra costs, he explained to us, involve time spent cleaning (it changes from "working on a construction site to an apartment you are working in with great care to eliminate debris and dust") and the fact that "the chances are great that we can only work in a certain part of the apartment at a certain is much cheaper to demo 2 bathrooms at once than to do them one at a time."

BrickUnderground's NYC Renovation Chronicles columnist and general contractor Yoel Borgenicht of King Rose Construction concurs that "the $20k the buyer will save on rent is less than the cost of living in the apartment as the job will take longer and be more costly."

"What ends up happening," he says, "is that [the clients] end up being miserable and try to rush the work which leads to mistakes.  The relationship with the contractor takes a beating as you cannot have a happy customer if they are int he apartment while they are working, since you can't eliminate the dust and inconvenience.  I charge more for this type of situation to cover the increased cost of protection, slow pace of work and hand-holding that this situation requires.  I would say that a 5% surcharge is a good ballpark figure to use."

That's a conservative figure, according to Borgenicht's Renovation Chronicles predecessor, architect David Katz, who previously estimated the surcharge at around 20-40%

Running the numbers, a gut reno of a family-sized apartment generally costs about $200,000-$300,000, so a 20% surcharge would be about $40,000-$60,000, translating into about $6,500-$10,000 a month that could be spent on an alternative place, assuming the renovation proceeds like clockwork on a six-month schedule.  

Our vote? Get out now.

(; previously)

Related posts:

NYC Renovation Chronicles: The high cost of staying put


Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.