Cost Estimating

What is the best way to estimate construction costs in different cities and among different property types?

Is there any good resource that would tell you, for example, what it would cost to build a new apartment building vs condo building in NYC? Or do you just need to work in the industry and talk to people? I know generally what it costs to build where I work, but not elsewhere.

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Comments (7)

Jun 13, 2020 - 3:27pm

To my knowledge, none that are terribly reliable that are available for free. Someone else might have better knowledge, but from my experience, the best resources have been the Project Management teams at CBRE/JLL/Cushman, local architects (if you can find one you trust there, or have a connection to them), and commercial appraisers.

Appraisers aren't often thought of for construction cost data, but if the team has to do a lot of highest & best use analyses for development projects, they'll spend a fair bit of money on up-to-date systems that provide them with solid construction estimates, and the ones I know are happy to talk and provide some solid insights beyond just their appraisal report.

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Jun 14, 2020 - 11:31pm

Agree with above, the free ones suck. The reality is that every urban deal, and most deals in general have enough unique components that blanket pricing from an index is not going to really be the right solution. Best guess is talking to 3-4 contractors and asking for their concept pricing for that product type including amount of BG/structured parking, construction type/height, etc.

Jun 15, 2020 - 11:25pm

Best way to estimate a project is to issue RFPs to subcontractors and level the bad boy. When analyzing vertical costs it is easy to transfer portions of the SOW to a different geographic location, but trust you will have cost overruns on the west coast vs. east coast if you do not have experience developing on the west. Apartment building and condo are the same direct cost, not a good comparison.

  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
Jun 16, 2020 - 8:43am

For back of the napkin shit, just call local developers or brokers and ask.

For more specifics, there is a database called RSMeans...but it is expensive.

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Jun 16, 2020 - 9:14pm

There's a firm called Rider Levett Bucknall that does quarterly publications. It's not going to give you exact cost estimates, but you can compare cost indexes across cities to get an idea.

You really need a local contractor or cost estimator who works with the product type to get anything of value for underwriting.

  • 1
Jun 17, 2020 - 4:04am

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