Tips for estimating construction costs, getting accurate bids and completing a no-surprise project

After completing an 840 sq ft ADU (rental cottage), I thought I would share what I learned. In addition to the tips below, I have 2 pages of recommendations. Email me at

1. Call your contractor’s recommended geotech soils company immediately to find out how long it will take to get a site soils test (for construction, not fire clean-up), and how long it takes to get the report back. (try to get a guarantee) Results affect plans, foundation, and engineering. Companies are booked out.

2. Does architects’ services and estimate include coordination with engineer and what might engineering costs be?

3. Does architect order and pay for mandated energy reports (Title 24, Cal Green, etc)?

4. Are sprinklers mandated for your remodel or new construction? Get it in writing from city if not. A 2nd unit may not be mandated if main home does not have them.

5. Ask contractor about sprinkler manufacturer. See Sac Bee story about faulty sprinklers causing havoc in one neighborhood.

6. Research mandated materials for roof, siding, windows, if applicable (fire resistance).

7. Get ALL discussions about materials and agreements in writing, or at least an email confirmation from your contractor.

8. PERMITS: city, county, water, sewer, school ‘impact’ fees. Research before you start. I received a $12,000 surprise permit bill from Sonoma county at the end of my project, for sanitary district ‘infrastructure’. And Marin residents don’t realize that even for a remodel, they may need to test and replace the sewer line.

A $1.595 steal?

A $1.595 steal? Similar to a foreclosure auction, a savvy buyer with all cash may be able to pick up this gated 10 acre property in a judgement sale. Stellar close-to #Sonoma Plaza location. Mediterranean home w pool and southwest views over valley. Do you need a savvy local #realestate agent who uncovers #wine country deals?

Have a guest house or suite you can donate to fire victims?

I have found the best way to offer a landing pad for those who have lost their home in the Paradise Camp fire, and possibly their business as well, is to register your in-law, cottage, or suite of rooms on the AirBNB disaster page here. I believe there will be many willing to relocate, at least temporarily.

Take the best photos you can and offer a realistic description of the home, suite of rooms, location, how long it is available and price (if any). On AirBNB, you are able to interview potential renters. I am looking for a good template for a rental agreement to protect a homeowner under these circumstances, even if no rent is charged. Contact me if you are in need of one. I hope to have one by the end of the week.

Here’s the Story… of Orange Formica….

This retro chic mid-century modern will be on display Sunday 2-4. I’m holding this home open for a colleague and will enjoy meeting potential buyers who appreciate the De Luca design, and can envision modern upgrades that would add value as well.

Spacious rooms, great indoor-outdoor flow PLUS a 3-car garage! Don’t miss this super cool home for sale by the original owners in a great Mill Valley school district.

208 Ricardo Road
Mill Valley


Sneak Peek of a Mill Valley Beauty!

This newly remodeled vaulted-ceilinged home on a large lot has it all: Easy indoor-outdoor flow, a large, flat, back yard, an open floor plan, high scoring schools and great location. Featuring wood flooring, a gas fireplace and windows on both sides, the great room is elegant and inviting. Spacious master suite with modern en suite bath. Set back from the street, this 4 BR, 3 BA home offers both a sense of privacy and solitude, and easy access to the freeway. A detached garage and plenty of extra parking on the paved drive completes the picture. A winner!

Contact listing agent for viewing times of 139 Belvedere Drive in Mill Valley.

Julie Leitzell

A gorgeous Mill Valley home before it goes on MLS!

There are a lot of Previews for new listings in both Marin County and Wine Country real estate this week-end. I am showing my off market listing linked here – on Saturday. For buyers who don’t do well when there is competition, it is a chance to submit an offer for a gorgeous Mill Valley home before it goes on MLS! Close to town, remodeled, and the desirable Middle Ridge neighborhood.


Mill Valley Remodel – Not on MLS

Tired of multiple offers? Sellers want a quick, quiet sale on this gorgeous 3 BR, 3 BA Mill Valley home. Not going on MLS until the week after the 4th, so now is the time to snap up this gem. Great room with stone fireplace and view of the redwoods. Stunning master bedroom suite with huge dressing area, sitting room and sparkling master bath. Remodeled kitchen w quartz counters. Magical Middle Ridge location – close to downtown Mill Valley! Price not yet determined – somewhere between $1.75 and $1.85 for a 2,279 sq ft home. See this off market home by contacting realtor Julie Leitzell.

Contact information at: