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Lawrence Turner Design has been operative as a design business since 1990.

The reality of home improvement

The taxing of additions and remodels

Satisfied Clients

The reality of home improvement

Although home improvement shows such as the Learning Channel's "While You Were Out," "Trading Spaces" and "In a Fix" has inspired many homeowners to renovate they substantially misrepresent how much time and money such projects really take.

"I'm impressed with the creativity and like that the shows expose people to good design," said L.A.- based interior designer Gary Gibson, "but reality doesn't come with all the perks that these TV shows do: Real people don't have crews of free labor. In reality, a completely remodeled kitchen takes 12 or more weeks, particularly if you're making structural changes, and you can't do it for $1,500."

"People don't realize how many hours of preparation and planning are involved," Catherine Grennan, who recently remodeled a triplex, said. "In real life you don't have so many subcontractors focusing on your project at once. To them, you're a small job. Most subcontractors need a lot of small jobs to make a living, and your job is just one on their list. It was a slow process, but realistic." Catherine stated, "Now I'm glad the project didn't go faster, because I got exactly what I wanted." "

Catherine estimated the whole project would take three months. It took nine. She hoped to spend around $100,000. Her costs have exceeded $150,000.

Catherine Grennan estimated that well over half of her costs have gone toward labor. "I paid $200 for paint and $1,000 to the painter," she said.

Evan Farmer host of "While You Were Out," admitted that his crew really does take more than two days to knock out a remodel and that three weeks of design time precede every episode. Although shows differ, they usually have one or two designers, one or two master carpenters and often an assistant, plus one or more people devoted to accessories, sewing, painting and applying faux finishes. Labor fees which are often the most expensive part of any home remodeling job aren't calculated into the $1,500 budget. The reason the crew finishes so quickly is that all the prep work is done the day before and they have a well-stocked work truck.

"We have access to every tool we need, and the truck is well-organized, so tools are easy to find," Evan Farmer said. "Most people doing projects at home don't have the right tools and have to go to the hardware store three times." And a final perk: "We don't have to clean up after the show. We have a crew that does that."

"A lot of these design shows are made strictly for entertainment value," said Lauri Ward, owner of the New York design firm Use What You Have Decorating. "So much of the work is slapdash, you wonder how long it will hold up. These shows are more about pleasing the audience than the homeowner."

Designer Gary Gibson stated, "A muted, sophisticated environment done in earth tones might look great, but won't appear that exciting on television," he said. "People want flash. The best designs for television tend to be flamboyant. They're clever, but I don't know how long people can live with them."

A realistic time line for a kitchen remodel might look like this:

Designing which includes selecting materials, hardware and finishes: 3 weeks.

Cost analysis after design completion: 1 week.

Material procurement: 2 to 12 weeks. (Entirely dependent on availability)

Construction: 6 to 8 weeks

Total: 12 to 24 weeks.

Evan Farmer design tips:

Don't underestimate the power of paint. Nothing transforms a room more than paint.

The 90/10 rule. Start by taking everything out of a room. Then put only 10% back.

Look for a focal point, such as a window or fireplace, and then arrange the room around that.

Think outside the box. Allow a huge amount of time. And, above all, have patience.

Quotes from Reality hits home by Marnell Jameson, marnij

The taxing of additions and remodels

Increase in tax basis for additions and remodels depend on the size and scope of an addition or a remodel. Typically remodels or additions that add square footage to the existing structure are likely to cause an increase in property tax basis.

Robert Quon, a Los Angeles County director of assessor's operations, stated, "Additional square footage will trigger an increase."

Although cosmetic improvements typically do not lead to higher taxes the county tax assessor reserves the right to increase the taxable basis of the property when any work for which a permit is required is done.

"If you use an existing closet to add a new bathroom, that would trigger a reassessment," said Barry Bosscher, special assistant at the L.A. County assessor's office.

Individuals who tear down their existing houses but leave a portion of the original structure standing may get a small tax break but the main reason for leaving a portion of the original structure is that development fees have to be paid on new construction.

"There's a slight benefit if you've kept the foundation and a portion of the studs," said Barry Bosscher of the L.A. agency. "Not all of the house is new, so we would do sort of a blend. Say, 5% of the original value, and 95% as new."

Blatantly illegal tactics like under estimating the cost of the project or failing to obtain a building permit are the only ways to avoid an increase in the tax basis of the property.
Any improvement to property, a new swimming pool, a spa or a patio cover, can increase the cost basis of improvements on a tax bill. In the past the county tax assessor has used arial photography to determine property that had added swimming pools without a permit.

Tax hikes sometimes kick in before a project is completed.

"There are incremental adjustments. Let's say you're adding a family room addition and you only have enough time to do the slab foundation by the end of the work year," said Gil Parisi, director of administrative roll services at the L.A. County assessor's office. "We would assess you only for that portion."

If a property has been owned for several years the tax basis will be near the original purchase price and as a result of the recent escalation of property values it may be less expensive to build an addition than to buy a new property. This is due to the fact that any property sold in California will have it's tax basis set at sales price on sale.

Quotes from Add-ons can be taxing Jeff Bertolucci,

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Barbara Teater 1-626-335-5257


Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnical State University at San Luis Obispo in 1987

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