Q&A with Jean: Why is Renovating in New York City so Expensive?

home renovation New York City

Sweeten’s Founder + CEO Answers Your Renovation Questions

Welcome to #2 in our series, Q&A with Jean, in which I hope to bring clarity to some of the mysteries of renovating. We hear your questions every day and work happily to bring you answers through our team and blog. Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or a serial renovator, each project brings a new set of circumstances and new queries with it. Feel free to email me at JBrownhill@sweeten.com. In the meantime, I’ll even include questions that I get asked most often—even at cocktail parties!

Today our question is about the costs of home renovation in New York City; if this topic interests you, I’d suggest checking out our cost guides, including Budget Basics: Renovation Costs Per Square Foot.

QUESTION: Why is renovating in New York City so expensive?

JEAN: Like a lot of things in NYC, it comes down to logistics. For a general contractor to transport the drywall and studs—not mention the many other materials and tools necessary for the job—to your home, the planning can be really complicated. Not only does the team need to get everything to your apartment building, they need to get it up to your floor. Sometimes that means coordinating with an elevator, but in some cases, it can mean using a crane and craning in materials. What adds to the high cost of the materials part of a bid is the logistics.

The labor side of the equation is equally complicated. A lot of renovation projects going on simultaneously in the city and every contractor needs a tiler, a plumber, an electrician, etc. In order to survive the competition, he/she has to pay a premium to get a crew to show up at your job site. It all comes down to supply and demand. There are only so many skilled laborers in the city, and getting those laborers plus materials to your apartment can be challenging. Even for a house in Brooklyn, the crew still has to drive through traffic and bring the drywall from a warehouse that’s likely stationed in another borough, like Queens. Overall, it’s the cumulative expense of coordinating the drivers, trucks, and deliveries, plus having someone ready to accept deliveries and bring it to your home, that really drives up the cost.

home renovation New York City

Looking for more advice from Jean? Be sure to check out the first installment in this series, Q&A: What to Know Before Renovating a Brownstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.