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residential construction costs


June 2019

By Liz Renner, Project Manager



A simple breakdown of typical Bay Area construction fees for 2019.


the context.

The Bay Area is currently a hotbed of new construction through both tech company growth and a ginormous affordable housing crisis Construction companies are desperate to accommodate this demand with crew on top of political turmoil that has caused wood and steel tariffs to increase. It is no surprise construction costs have nearly doubled in the past few years, and we find homeowners are oftentimes struggling to educate themselves on accurate costing. Here at see arch, we find it a necessity to be as candid as possible with clients on conversations of cost.

We’ve compiled a simple cost breakdown of what we are seeing (in a general sense) around the Bay Area and what homeowners should be looking for in the bids they receive from general contractors. It is critical to understand what is and is not included during the bidding process. The “cheat sheet” is intended to be used as a framework (pun intended) to the process and not matter-of-factly.

Construction Cost Sheet 2.jpg

We don’t want this to indicate as costing is not black and white. There is a gradient of pricing and quality for every project. We’ll break down a few of the items above and how that directs price.


The scope of a project is the main driver of the consultants required on a project. We find, in most cases, the following tiers involve the following folks. The Bay Area construction industry being so busy has driven the demand for all parties involved in the process. Obviously, the larger the project (or the more complicated the design), the larger the team, the larger the cost.

Tier 1 - All-Interior Remodels

  • Architect (not to exceed 8-12% construction cost)

  • Structural Engineer (typically 5% of architectural fees)


Tier 2 - Additions, ADUs, Med-Lg. Remodels, Additions, ADUs

  • Architect

  • Structural Engineer

  • Title-24/Energy Consultant (Cost varies, required reports range to a few hundred dollars)

  • Surveyor (Cost varies per site/project complexity)


Tier 3 - New Construction, hillside properties, FEMA properties, creek properties, or lots of digging

  • Architect

  • Structural Engineer

  • Title-24 Consultant

  • Surveyor

  • Civil/Geotech Engineer (Cost varies per site/project complexity)

  • Hydrologists (Cost varies per site/project complexity - $3,000-$7.000)

  • Landscape Architects (typically 5-10% of architectural fees)


Bonus Add-ons - For a fully faceted, integrated design

  • Interior Designer

  • Mechanical Engineers

  • Lighting Designer

  • AV-IT Consultant

permit fees.

As regulations grow in complexity, from energy codes to stormwater management, permits themselves have increased in complexity. Permit fees throughout the lifetime of a project include everything from your regular planning/building permits to school district fees which can be overwhelming.


Municipal districts are just as busy as everyone in this industry, with many cities farming out permit reviews to third-party companies. These companies have a benefit from an extra throughout review as they’re typically an hourly service sometimes creating an unfavorable amount of corrections. Thankfully many cities are working on ways short-track Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) permitting to allow for ‘some’ relief to homeowners looking to aid housing needs.


the bidding process.

It’s quite uncommon for anyone to steadfastly stick to industry standards. Every company has their own process and way of doing things to tailor to their audience. This carries greatly into pricing, specifically bidding. It’s not a bad decision to shop around once you’re ready to build but it is important that when comparing bids from general contractors, you have a clear understanding of what’s included. That $70,000 lower price might look like the deal of a century but low and behold, it turns out it didn’t include concrete to repair the area in the public right-of-way required by the city. Or your “finishes” number was so low due to the fact it only included the installation. You could get down to the nitty-gritty and understand if sponges are included in the “tile installation” budget.

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