With a solid handle on the budget, take one step closer to your dream home
(Above) Renovation project by Sweeten contractor John
The Hamptons…the mere mention conjures up poolside luxury and endless summer. But what’s it really like to live—and renovate—there? If you’re considering buying a home in the East End to renovate, there are a few things you should know. We’ve done the homework, so read on to get a sense of what is involved in a Hamptons renovation. Keep in mind that all renovations are unique, and that many variables factor into the equation.
Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, has compiled a general guide to costs across the Hamptons, focusing on four renovation categories—cost per square foot, kitchen, bathroom, and permits. It’s worth noting that every professional contractor will want to have a detailed chat and inspection of your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.
A quick clarification: when referring to the Hamptons, we are talking about the Town of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton, which together comprise many hamlets and villages. Hamlets such as Westhampton, East Quogue, or Hampton Bays lie within the boundaries of the town of Southampton, while the villages of Amagansett and East Hampton are within the administrative boundaries of the town of East Hampton. This means that any building permits you file (discussed below) will be with the offices of the towns of Southampton or East Hampton.
There is a season for everything, but especially so in the Hamptons. Sweeten architect Andrew has a word of wisdom for would-be renovators: “The time of year is really significant. There is a big push before summer, and everyone is very busy. If you are planning a renovation, don’t plan it in the spring; it’ll be more expensive and you’ll be competing against everyone else for the best contractors and subcontractors. If possible, get the design process started in the fall and do the work in the winter, when it’s the low season.”
Costs per square foot
In speaking with experts who work in both New York City and the Hamptons, the general consensus is that costs per square foot are essentially the same in both locales. As we pointed out in our cost guide to Westchester County, proximity to Manhattan dictates both the buyer demographic as well as real estate values. This, in turn, is reflected in the cost of renovations, according to Thomas Hickey, an architect and founding partner of GRADE New York who often works on both NYC and Hamptons residences. As Sweeten contractor Eric points out, however, there are subtle differences between the villages and hamlets, with East Hampton being the priciest.
While renovation costs per square foot will vary depending on whether it is a gut or non-gut, and the level of finishes and customization you require, Eric tells us that there is a starting point of $150 per square foot for renovations with stock materials. Luxury waterfront properties, however, start at $500 per square foot for high-end renovations and can exceed $1,000 depending on the level of complexity and finishes. (See Budget Basics: Renovation Costs Per Square Foot, where we outline three levels of renovation.)
When it comes to design and working with the Hamptons’ wide range of architecture, style, and material costs, interior designer Beth Kushnick of BAK Home suggests “setting aside between 25 – 30% of the budget for interior design.” She adds, “Resources are limited in the Hamptons, so designers have a great opportunity to help their clients” pull together a look that is on time and on budget.
According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value 2018 Report, a major upscale kitchen remodel averages $146,779 in New York or $733.90 per square foot. This is based on a 200-square-foot kitchen with top-of-the-line custom cabinets, stone countertops, imported tile backsplash, built-in refrigerator, microwave, commercial-grade cooktop and vent hood, as well as all new lighting and wood floors.
Thomas explains that to arrive at a breakdown for a kitchen and master bath remodel, his firm typically takes the percentage of square footage that the spaces occupy in the house. For a kitchen plus master bath remodel, this usually amounts to 30 to 40 percent of the entire house.
According to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value 2018 Report, an upscale bathroom remodel averages $76,146 in New York or $761.46 per square foot. This is based on expanding an existing 35-square-foot bathroom to 100 square feet, relocating all fixtures, and installing a new shower with a frameless glass enclosure, freestanding soaker tub with high-end faucets, stone counters with dual sinks, one-piece toilet, and a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan.
An average basement conversion in the New York area is $75,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report. The project for this size budget includes a 20′ × 30′ foot room and a 5′ × 8′ foot bathroom with a shower and bar area as well as insulation and laminate flooring. This sample project works out to $117 per square foot.
Permits are a big part of the renovation process in Hamptons towns. While expediters are not regularly used there, the process can involve two types of experts not usually called upon in renovation projects elsewhere.
- Environmental consultants can assist homeowners and architects in parsing land use regulations, coastal environmental planning, and acquisition of related permits. Given the delicate ecosystems and the proliferation of wetlands and sand dunes along the coasts, these consultants are crucial to navigating this aspect of the permit process. They are also able to answer questions about whether you can expand the footprint of a house or add a dock, etc. They typically charge by the hour (ranging from $250-350/hour, with a minimum project fee). For an initial site inspection and report, some offer a flat rate fee around $1,500 to inspect the property and produce a report.
- Local attorneys who are well-versed in the zoning codes of the particular town in question can help navigate the process. Sweeten architect Andrew tells us that East Hampton recently changed some of its codes and a local attorney assisted him and his client in liaising with the town office on a debated matter of allowable square footage. Attorneys’ fees vary; a local real estate agent can provide recommendations.
While the town offices may be small and provide a more personal interaction, as Sweeten architect Andrew relates, don’t mistake that casual air for a casual approach to enforcing regulations. For example, certain neighborhoods in the Hamptons won’t allow work on weekends, or after a certain time in the high season. Recently, there have also been more attempts to limit the square footage on properties, as well as accessory structures that may be used as rental properties. There are also stringent regulations at the town, state, and federal levels that will affect your renovation, depending on how large it is.
Andrew also notes that while it’s important to understand what the current code is, you should also try to find out what is “in the works in terms of changes to the code. You can start a project, and spend over a year in the design process, and the code can change. You should try to find out via word-of-mouth or at town hall about what big changes are on the horizon.”
The Town of Southampton provides this handy Building Permit Application Checklist for residential interior renovations (note that different fees and applications are required for other types of construction). Building permits for residential interior remodeling here run $65 per square foot up to 2,000 square feet on the first story of a house, with a $50 fee for up to $1,000 of estimated construction cost (ECC). This Electrical Permit Fee Schedule indicates that electrical permits range from a minimum of $50 for a re-inspection to $1,000 for additions, renovations, basement wiring, and garages with more than 7 devices over 15,000 square feet. Fees for plumbing fixtures are $5 per fixture with a $50 minimum.
On the (more fun) planning side, Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers you a downloadable roadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a renovation, including laying out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Once you post your project on Sweeten, you’ll be matched with multiple excellent contractors who can provide their expertise and estimates. Sweeten stays involved and monitors your project until it is completed. The result: peace of mind during the renovation and your dream house at the end.
Learn more about remodeling costs based on location and project scope with our handy cost guides.
Refer your renovating friends to Sweeten and you’ll both receive a $250 Visa gift card when they sign a contract with a Sweeten general contractor.
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.