Question: I’m renovating. Do expediters really help or is this just another layer of someone to pay during construction overages?

— Skeptical in Vinegar Hill

Dear Skeptical:

Would you travel up the Rio da Dúvida in the Brazilian rainforest without a guide?

I’m not saying the New York Department of Buildings is a malarial deathtrap, but New York’s labyrinthian building codes and regulations can be treacherous and costly if you don’t follow them. Just ask the guy who built a 31-story Upper East Side apartment building in 1986 and had to dismantle the top 12 stories because the building was too tall.

An expediter is formally known as a “filing representative.” Their job is to get a building project through the city approval process as quickly as possible with a minimum of hassles. They work for single-apartment renovations all the way up to major high-rise developments. Large building companies have their own staff expediters while smaller architectural offices or general contractors have expediting firms or individuals they work with regularly.

All expediters have an up-to-date, nuts-and-bolts grasp of the minutiae of Buildings Department regulations — what forms to file, whose approvals are required, what are the variances allowed — that even construction professionals are unlikely to master.

So if you’re up on all the department’s regulations, know your way around the city government and have whole days off to stand on lines, then, no, you probably don’t need an expediter. If not… depending on the size and complexity of your project, an expediter will charge anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Final note: Homeowners, landlords, small business and building managers can take advantage of “Homeowners Night” — a three-hour session held every Tuesday evening in each borough, where Department of Buildings staff can answer your basic questions and provide information. It’s a good place to start.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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