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Talk » Sales » Discussing 'How much to renovate a studio?'

How much to renovate a studio?


Saw a nice UWS prewar studio (525 sf) a couple of weeks ago that requires close to a full gut renovation. Here's a run down of the major aspects:

- Replace small galley kitchen (no anticipated movement of water/gas lines)
- Replace 5x7 bathroom entirely
- Ebonize existing hard wood floors
- Replace moldings
- Paint 14x20 main room and 5x8 dressing room (no skim coating)
- Outfit 4 closets including doors
- Install wall-through A/C
- Add several lighting sconces
- Potentially replace 2 windows

1) What is a decent estimated price range for doing this assuming a relatively high end job (maybe a 7/10 - good fixtures, miele dishwasher, liebherr fridge etc.). I have read $150k+ to gut a studio which seems excessive.

2) Do you get this back? I've read conflicting opinions on this... Is it dumb to buy and renovate a studio? In other words is the bang for your buck more on a larger apt?

Thanks very much...

1) around $85K. I wouldn't call this a gut. You aren't replacing floors etc.

2) I would have to know which studio to see comps, but I'd assume you'll get about half of it back -- OTOH, the place will be much more rentable, and when you want to sell it, it will sell faster.

ali r.
DG Neary Realty

150k does seem a little bit high. I would say around 120k for a relatively high end quality. If you need design service, drawings for board review or DOB permit, please contact me at My fee is very reasonable. Thank you.

I'd say you're closer to $150K than that $85K lowball from Ali.

I'd say 100K with the appliances, maybe 115K if you go fancy all the way.

Surely cost of CONSTRUCTION ground up of a new studio apt isn't much more than 150k.

you can do it for $40k...look at the cabinets, maybe they can be refinished, rather than get new ones...i had a studio and did the kitchen (small) for $10k with stainless steel appliances, including granite countertop, the bathroom tub can be reglazed, sound like you want to stay a few years and then move so why put $85-$150k into a studio you won't be in for the long term....find a contractor who works on small spaces and look on e-bay for used tile, etc.

The per square foot cost that experienced renovators throw around on this board for high end renos is typically 25%-50% higher than the ground up construction costs I'm familiar with. Boggles my mind.

Cost of construction where? Nebraska? Ohio? completely irrelevant. Or cost of construction for 1/100th of a brand new building in Manhattan? also irrelevant. The high cost of remodeling one apartment is due to the inability to spread fixed costs, the in-situ work structure and the high cost of labor in the city.

I'm always lower on my reno estimates than just about everyone else on this board. All I can say is that my estimates are in line with what I see contractors charging and clients (sometimes including myself) spending.

It's a studio, don't plate it in gold.

Here's my breakdown:

I'm assuming $50K for the kitchen and bath (which is probably $750/sq. ft. for these spaces -- the kitchen is, as the OP noted, just not that big);

$10K for the floor treatment and the moldings (I had my floors in my Junior-4 redone for $4,500, and my living room crowned for $3k);

$10K for the paint and closets; (again, I had my Junior-4 nicely painted, including ceilings and trim, for about $5K, so I'm assuming the studio will cost you a little less, and that you're spending around $1,500 per closet);

$5K for airconditioners (which is maybe $1,500 for the unit(s) and $3,500 for installation),

$10K for electrical and windows -- which is allowing $1K per sconce and $2K per window.

Where do you guys think I'm under?

ali r.
DG Neary Realty

I am with you, Ali. It is a studio, not so long ago, 2002 to be precise, they could be had for 200k. Prime UWS and everything. I would try to get those numbers down even further. Mouldings, hmmm - would try to smuggle some day laborer types in and buy primed poplar from Dykes. Painting - paint myself. Windows - unless you are uberpicky, shouldn't cost 2k per. Marvin has a reputable distributor - WDI. Floors - find out who does them a lot int bldg.

$50k for a bathroom and kitchen is a small studio...he's taking about a galley kitchen.

If you budget $100 psf in reno costs you should be okay in terms of resale. Of course it depends on the finished results. I agree with julia, to re-use what you can.

To do everything on your list, you'll likely spend more than $100 psf, but Ali's budget might work.

"2) Do you get this back?"
Maybe, maybe not & that's a concern. Don't overspend & make it a white elephant.

"Is it dumb to buy and renovate a studio?"
Could be, but I think you're OK if you don't over spend.

"In other words is the bang for your buck more on a larger apt?"
I'd say yes, but can you afford a larger apt?

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of buying studios, so proceed with caution. If you bought at an inflated price & then put in more $ to reno, you could wind up with a white elephant & not recover your reno costs.

Comment removed.

I'm doing this as we speak, plus floors but minus a few things you have listed there in an alcove studio. But based on what you are doing, 80-100k is a realistic figure.

Go to Home Depot and outfit your kitchen there. They are professional like you would not believe and they will sell you everything at once for a price that no one will beat. If it's a studio, I'd try to go with all GE appliances, FYI.

Also, as much as you may want to deck your studio out, don't. Do it inexpensively with the right appliances and materials and you will make it all back (assuming it was a wreck/not-redone in 20+ years).

I would skip ebonizing the floors, that is something that is too particular to be useful in resale, no matter how good it looks.

(Matthew Russell - Brown Harris Stevens)

I second ar's comments. Keep the budget tight, if the building comps won't help you get your money back. However, if the apartment is intrinsically "special" in some way (say location and/or views) why not up the budget. Such an apartment, which is suitable for long term personal use or as a pied-a-terre, could justify a miele dishwasher, for example. Who doesn't like a quiet dishwasher in one room living?

Thanks very much for this - all extremely helpful advice!

Another few questions - if I want to remove the tub and install a shower, will I absolutely have to file with the DOB? How long will it take with / without an expediter? And how much will an expediter cost? I've heard from $2-6k - does the price vary depending on the expediter as well as the extent of the job?

I realize that there's probably no hard and fast rules, so advice and personal anecdotes are appreciated.

once you start going the DOB route, you're in for a long time of waiting.. is the studio really worth paying architects, expeditors and waiting for 1-2 months for approval?

Also, consider that by replacing the tub w/a shower, you may affect re-sale value. Some people expect that if there is just one bathroom, it should have a tub.

Thanks, and let's assume I've considered all of this and more. Any help with my actual questions?

If I want to remove the tub and install a shower, will I absolutely have to file with the DOB? How long will it take with / without an expediter? And how much will an expediter cost? I've heard from $2-6k - does the price vary depending on the expediter as well as the extent of the job?

You should also check the board regulation for the drawings/documents required for board approval, they may also require you to file with DOB. Some buildings do the filing for you.

ali can you refer a contractor?

If I want to remove the tub and install a shower, will I absolutely have to file with the DOB?
Yes & the coop will require it

How long will it take with / without an expediter?
Hard to say. Depends on how busy/understaffed the DOB is & how competent your architect/expeditor is. Many architects/expeditors slack off & you have to keep calling them. If you use an architect that does "self certification", it goes faster. But, IMO, definitely use an expeditor because they are the ones who hang out for hours at the DOB, trying to get plans approved. IMO, if yr gonna do this, ya gotta do it right & it's expensive. IMO, almost more important than getting a good price is getting a competent architect & expeditor.

And how much will an expediter cost? I've heard from $2-6k - does the price vary depending on the expediter as well as the extent of the job?
Work out a price up front with the architect & expeditor. $2 sounds about right, $6 sounds way too high for just a bath to shower or bath reno

I use Roger Bailey a lot -- one thing I like about him is that he can adapt his work to different price points. I've seen him do very high-end work, but he also worked with us to do a budget reno of our old condo.

917 - 239 -7075. Tell him Ali Rogers sent you.

ali r.
DG Neary Realty

Many, many thanks Dwell. I appreciate the advice. And thanks for the recommendation, Ali.

Look at the actual code -

Chapter 1 - Administration, 28-105.4 (Work exempt from permit) & 28-105.4.2 (Minor alterations & Repairs & Work not constituting Minor alterations or ordinary repairs).

What a co-op/condo requires is a separate beast.

I am not a plumber or an expediter or an architect.

I just called the # listed at
for "Manhattan Plumbing Chief"
Manhattan: (212) 566-5280
Bronx: (718) 579-6916
Brooklyn: (718) 802-3714
Queens: (718) 286-0620
Staten Island: (718) 816-2208

I spoke to the dep't spokesperson about changing a tub to a shower. Because the trap size changes, you need a permit. For plumbing work up to 25k, you don't need "plans" per se or an architect or an expediter.

The licensed plumber should file an LAA1 - Limited Alteration Application.

An additional resource might be to actually call the DOB. They were fast to answer, and I (assume) accurate in what the DOB requires.

Again, what the bldg requires is a separate issue.


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