What does it cost to buy, sell or build in the San Juans

Cost of construction, selling and buying real estate in the islands has continued to increase based on the requirements to meet the current regulations and overall material and service cost increases.

One could say that it costs more and takes longer to comply with the various regulations that govern the real estate and related construction industries.

Based on the medium home price of $444,000 during the last 12 months, a buyer will spend an average of $6,800 in closing costs, not including the prorated taxes, insurance and homeowners dues. The seller will spend on average $40,000 based on the same home price. This doesn’t include any repairs that may be necessary as part of the contract or the seller’s prorated items; it is merely closing costs, septic inspection and a tank pump.

In the current market, a buyer can purchase a home for less than the cost of custom construction as many homes are selling below their original cost and/or replacement costs. The recession didn’t have as much of an impact on the cost of construction as it did on the value of existing properties.

Until our housing inventory is absorbed, resulting in less selection, and we experience upward pressure on our prices, the option for custom construction will not be as attractive to the buyers. The advantage of custom construction is a buyer is able to have built the exact home they had in mind and it will be ready for occupancy in about 1-3 years, subject to the size and complexity.

Below is a detailed list of typical rates and fees that as a REALTOR we note in the industry when we are managing a transaction from listing or selling a property through the closing. Most transactions need several of these service providers during the contract period.

The list is not meant to be all inclusive nor relied upon; it is merely for general information purposes. In most cases, I provided the actual cost or the floor of the price range. As in the case of any project, you can always spend more money. General Costs

May 2015

$1,250 Septic perc, design and permit. Good for 4 years and can be renewed for a fee subject to change

$250 If backhoe is needed to dig the perc holes

$15,000-25,000 Septic system, subject to the type of system.

$300 Each riser installation

$300-2,500 All maintenance components; risers, observation ports and cleanouts.

$800-1,200 Septic pump, subject to size of tank

$100-200 Septic inspection and report

$50 hour Septic on-site labor (digging for inspection purposes)

$550 Home inspection, additional $50 for each outbuilding, $250 for guest house

$75-$100 Roof inspection and certification

$20,000-30,000 Well Budget. Average depth is 375 ft ($15.50 per foot, pump @ $1,600-3,200, plumbing, all testing, electrical and outbuilding )

$5,000-7,000 Installed water storage tank 2300 gallons

$100 Bacteria test as stand-alone

$2,500-3,000 Draw down test on well for quantity, subject to time frame, this quote is for 4 hour flat line that takes 24 labor hours

$300 San Juan Short List- Quality well test for 7 items

$200 Monthly in town water, garbage and sewer minimum charge

$24,023 In town water and sewer hook-up fee

$21,000 Roche Harbor water and sewer hook-up fee. $8,000 for water and $13,000 for sewer

$500-15,000 Water hook-up charge to various community systems

$500-800 Plumber’s water meter installation fee Varies Cost to bring secondary power to site with transformers Call OP&L to confirm location of nearest transformer

$145 hour Excavation equipment and clearing, plus a set up fee

$190 hour Rock hammer

$85 hour Dump truck

$50-85 hour Labor – chipping, shovel work, tree removal clean up

$45 yard Gravel/fill dirt

$80 yard Top soil/sand

$5.50+ foot Trenching in dirt for utilities

$15.50+ foot Trenching in rock for utilities

$9-10.00 foot Fiber Line trenching and installation for last mile –Island Network

$175+ foot Cost of construction for a low-end priced home with Formica and vinyl

$235-250 Cost of construction for a mid-level priced home with hardwoods, marble, tile, Corian, high-end appliances

$250+ foot Cost of construction for high-end priced home

15%-25% more Cost of construction on a non-ferry serviced island

$55-75 General Contractor, licensed, bonded with tools

$35 hour Handy man or casual labor

$50 hour Landscaper- design and install

$25-35 hour Yard maintenance

$25-28 hour House cleaning person

$35 hour Window washer, roof and gutter cleaner

$700-1,500 County approved Residential Plan Application (RPA) including consultant and SJC fees (SJC = $400 + consultant )

$1,500 Provisional Use Transient Rental Permit including consultant and SJC Fee

$2,800 Conditional Use Permit with public hearing- Consultant and SJC Fee

$300+ hour Attorney’s fee

$90-150 hour Land Use Consultants

$10,000 min Design or Architectural expense for home, subject complexity

$25,000 Avg Design or Architectural expense for home

$75-95 hour Drafting/design work

$2,000-2,200 Flood Insurance Letter of Map Amendment

$2,500-6,000 Property Survey

$2,000-4,000 Boundary Line Modification

$1,500-2,500 Find corners via Surveyor and re-stake

$2,500-6,000 Wetlands report and delineation, if needed

$2,500-5,000 Archeologist Report, subject to parcel size and findings

$150 per hour Archeologist on site while excavating

$54.87 Title Cancellation fee minimum

1.78% Excise – Typically charged to the seller

1% Land Bank Excise Tax – Typically charged to the buyer

25%-49% Monthly Property Management Fee based on gross income


This list of prices may be startling to some but it is the reality of living in our islands. Some of the General Contractors struggle to process competitive bids to secure regular work as there are so many variables and unknowns to each project.

One of the largest issues is that our labor in the construction and related industries has, in some cases, become transient. If a framer can’t find an affordable rental he/she will relocate to a city that not only offers a good wage but has rental housing available.

I hope that this information is helpful and if you have any questions regarding our real estate market, please be sure to contact me. I have created a list of my recommended service providers, if you would like a copy; just email me your request.

Written by Merri Ann Simonson 

Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc Managing Broker/Sales Manager



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