CODG, Inc.
Claudio Ortiz Design Group, Inc. Negri Residence Carmel-by-the-Sea

Budget-Time Frame-Quality...... What Gives?

Your plans are done……….. you waited months for the plans to be approved, and spent numerous hours selecting finishes and materials.  In fact, you can’t wait to select a contractor; most likely there are lots of contractors to choose from in your area.  You probably have friends that swear by a local builder, but on the other hand you have family that swear by another local contractor in your neighborhood.  What to do?  This is a huge decision you are about to make and more importantly, the contractor you choose will be spending your hard earned money.  However, this is a dilemma that plays out in the minds of many of our clients.  But how do you know what to expect from the bids you are about to receive?

Well like everything in life there is a process.  We see it everyday in our lives, nature, and our daily routines.  We are part of the process of life and construction is part of this science too.  There are some fundamental key questions you need to ask yourself in order to understand and know what to expect in the construction of your house and costs.  Here are the three main questions you need to have answers to:

·      Is there a time frame that needs to be met?

·      Is there a budget in mind that cannot be exceeded?

·      Are the quality and materials the objective of the project?

Knowing which one of these three questions is your priority, will allow you to see and understand the direction your construction project will undergo.   Let’s analyze each of the questions in more detail:

When time frame is the priority, you can expect costs that run higher than the typical and the quality in craftsmanship and materials can be sacrificed to meet the deadlines.  A rushed time frame will require more man-hours and can overlook certain details no matter how much you think you or someone will be dedicated to the specific tasks.

If budget is a priority, finishing the project could either be on time or it could run longer than expected, because cost can dictate the priority a subcontractor will set aside on the project in order to meet your budget.  For the same reason, finding materials that fit the budget allocated for the project could take time to find and delay timelines.  Due to budget constrains the quality of the materials may have to take a back seat in the project.  This could end up in a selection of materials that resemble what you had in mind but are not your ultimate wish.

When quality and materials are the objective in your project, then budgets tend to be higher, especially if certain quality is expected.  Finishing can take longer than the average industry project in your area in order to meet the expectations.  In some cases, having certain materials will take longer to find or longer to arrive at your supplier/fabricator.  For example, some of our projects have included hand mosaic tile patters that took approximately three months to arrive on site after finalizing the templates and color samples. Not to mention that the cost was well over $500 per square foot.

In summary, if your focus is on a timeline, then expect to have sacrifices on your quality and cost.  If budget is the driving factor on the project, then expect time frames to be extended and quality not to be to expectation.  Lastly, if quality and materials are your expectations then the cost could be higher than the norm and the project could take longer than the typical.  Knowing these parameters will help you better understand your construction process and the bids your contractor will submit.

Understanding these simple basic questions at the beginning of your project will help you see where and how a contractor will adjust the construction bid.  When you have a better understating of what is expected, you are more likely to except the construction cost and in return achieve the ultimate goal of building your dream home with a process that meets your expectations - in other words an exciting project…. You should not experience any less than the ultimate joy when building your home.  At least for me, I can not express the feeling when a client thanks me for not only the home I have designed but for the process they have experienced watching their dream home come to realization.

Claudio Ortiz, Principal
CODG, Inc.

You can email me with comments or questions at

Floor Area or Not?

When it comes time to listing a house in the MLS, the garage is not part of the evaluation cost and for a good reason.  The market value of a house is based on the habitable spaces only.  However, the difficulty comes into play when a buyer is looking at the options to add more floor area to the house that they are looking to purchase.  How can you determine how much square footage to add? This is when you ask, what is floor area and what is not?

Floor area is the gross square footage of all buildings or structures on a building site, therefore the term Floor Area Ration or FAR is used. Most municipal codes include all of the garage or parts of it.  That’s why it’s always good to check with the planning department to obtain their definition of FAR or consult with a local professional.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Coastal Zones of Monterey County, the garage is part of the Floor Area Ratio.  In the inland areas of Monterey County, the FAR is not use to measure the gross floor area of all of the buildings on site; instead the footprint of a building is used.  In the City of Monterey the garage is excluded from the floor area ratio but an additional designated square footage is allocated for the garage.

A standard four thousand square foot parcel in the City of Carmel is allowed to have 1,800 square feet of house.  A listing in the MLS will describe a house on a lot like this one to be a 1,600 square feet but what is not taken into account is the floor area of the garage. In most cases the garage is an additional two hundred square feet. Therefore the total gross floor area of all of the buildings on site is 1,800 square feet, which happens to be the maximum Floor Area Ratio allowed per Carmel’s Municipal Code.  The potential for an addition is none! That’s the simple scenario.  Let’s look at a different scenario on a six thousand square foot parcel. The MLS listing describes the house as 1,850 square feet.  The floor area allowed in Carmel for this size parcel is 2,460 square feet.  The first thing to add is the square footage of the garage and in this particular parcel, let’s assume the garage is 200 square feet. The total floor area of all of the buildings on this site is 2,050 square feet. The potential for an addition on this parcel is 410 square feet. The tip here is to add the garage in the total square footage and then deduct it from the FAR allowed.  Make sure to include any other structures on site that can be categorized as floor area, for example a storage shed that has headroom of five feet or more.

Here is something else to consider; if the house you are listing does not have a garage but has a carport instead, you still have to add the square footage of the garage in order to determine how much floor area you can add to the existing house. In other words, in the City of Carmel you have to provide a parking pad, garage or carport with a minimum of two hundred square feet that is counted as part of the Floor Area Ratio.  This is true for a four thousand square foot parcel.  For an eight thousand square foot parcel you have to allocate a four hundred square foot garage, parking pad or carport.

Hopefully this helps you understand how governmental agencies view floor area on a site and next time you are asked, how much can I add to this house? Or what is floor area or what is not?  You will be better prepared to answer these questions.

Claudio Ortiz, Principal
CODG, Inc.

You can email me with comments or questions at



    Claudio Ortiz is the principal and founder at CODG, Inc.  With over fifteen years of experience designing and working with local municipalities.


    December 2015
    September 2015