Renovating can be a daunting process, so we asked Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, a platform that helps people find expert advice and get matched with vetted general contractors, for her best remodeling tips and tricks. 

Fixer-uppers are to imaginative buyers what candy is to kids: irresistible. And when you’re caught up in all that untapped potential at the viewing, a crucial question— “How much does it cost to renovate a house?”—can quickly become an afterthought. So let’s get down to the hard numbers now, before you uncover hidden issues or find your budget maxed out on one space.

What Factors Into the Cost of a Home Renovation?

The Finishes

First, let’s talk finish levels, since they are critical to determining your budget.

  • Budget materials are generally off-the-shelf items from big-box stores or IKEA. Think: laminate flooring and countertops, value-brand appliances, and basic tiles.
  • Mid-grade materials balance cost with quality. Examples include engineered wood flooring and products from the likes of GE, Caesarstone, Kohler, or Benjamin Moore.
  • High-end materials prioritize quality over cost, such as hardwood flooring or marble, and brands like Bertazzoni, Ann Sacks, and Farrow & Ball. This category may also include special materials sourced from overseas suppliers, plus fully custom fabrications.

The Scope

Get real about how big this transformation is going to be. We define gut renovations as going down to the studs; this could mean moving walls or other structures such as plumbing, electrical, or mechanicals. It’s worth noting that things can sneak up on you when your place is older; outdated plumbing or electrical is a common issue. Bringing these systems to code can drive up the cost per square foot. 

A nongut reno, on the other hand, leaves the layout of your home as is and focuses on cosmetic upgrades like new appliances or flooring. If you keep the current floor plan in place, the price will be lower, on average. 

The Size

In the end, estimating the price tag for the renovation comes down to simple math: the average cost per square foot multiplied by the square footage of your home. So the bigger your place, the more you’ll likely have to shell out. 

How Much It Costs to Renovate a House in Four Major Cities

In this case, we are going to look specifically at gut renovations handled by seasoned contractors. A friendly reminder that these figures should be considered averages, as they marry the costs of “wet” rooms (rooms with plumbing, like bathrooms and kitchens, which are more expensive to renovate on a per-square-foot basis) and “dry” rooms (such as living rooms and bedrooms). All prices may vary, based on scope of work and the materials chosen. 

New York City

  • Gut remodel with stock materials (aka budget to mid-grade): $100–$200 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with customization (aka mid-grade to high-end): $200–$300 per square foot
  • Structural changes, extensive customization (aka high-end): $300–$400-plus per square foot 

Dallas

  • Gut remodel with stock materials (aka budget to mid-grade): $60–$100 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with customization (aka mid-grade to high-end): $100–$200 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with structural changes, extensive customization (aka high-end): $200-plus per square foot

Chicago

  • Gut remodel with stock materials (aka budget to mid-grade): $100–$200 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with customization (aka mid-grade to high-end): $200–$300 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with structural changes, extensive customization (aka high-end): $300-plus per square foot

Los Angeles 

  • Gut remodel with stock materials (aka budget to mid-grade): $100–$300 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with customization (aka mid-grade to high-end):$300–$400 per square foot
  • Gut remodel with structural changes, extensive customization (aka high-end): $400-plus per square foot

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