Remodeling in the San Juan Islands

While showing property I am often asked, if the home could be renovated and/or increased in size as the lot is perfect but the home is too small or too dated for the prospective buyer.

As I have said numerous times, it is still more cost effective to buy existing and remodel than it is to build new construction. With new homes, the cost is $400-$500 per square foot, and it is 20 months before you can walk over the threshold.

If you are buying a home that you intend to remodel, your feasibility study should include some of these items. These tests and research should be done prior to closing so you know that your intended remodel can actually be approved.


It is important to interview several contractors as you are looking for one that is compatible with your communication style, has the time, worker force and service providers in place for the size of your remodel. Checking references is very important. We do not have a functioning Angie’s list in San Juan County, but your real estate agent, neighbors, lumber yard store or acquaintances should be a good starting point. Insist on a legal contract between the parties with procedures for change order, punch list items, warranty, and cost over runs. Many of the contractors on the island will not bid a remodel due to the complexity and unknowns so they offer time and materials contracts.

Your contractor should walk thru the home prior to closing with you to ensure that your ideas can be accomplished within your budget and time allocation. Typically, it is not possible for the contractor’s inspection to be invasive, i.e., removing siding or sheet rock, unless you have contracted for it in the purchase agreement.


Your budget is very important. As mentioned above, you will most likely not get a guaranteed bid and cost over runs and change orders are part of the life of a remodel. You need to build in a contingency fund on a remodel as there are many unknowns and unexpected items. One rule of thumb I have used is, budget x 2. An example is one contractor friend of mine went out to replace windows on a home, he ended up having to replace the entire wall on the front of the home due to wet rot. The problem was not detectable until the siding was removed.

Basically, you can do anything you want to change a home, it just depends on how much money you want to allocate for the project.

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Merri Ann Simonson

Managing Broker

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc

1-800-451-9054 Office

360-317-8668 Cell