Your Place | In new homes, the cost of kitchens varies widely

Posted: June 22, 2007

Question: What should I expect a builder to invest in a kitchen if I am spending $700,000 on a new house in Haddonfield? Is there an amount the builder normally invests as a percentage of the total price?

Answer: I talked to a few area builders about this, and the most consistent response I could get was that the kitchen in a new house should account for 5 to 15 percent of the total cost (a high-end kitchen would be about 20 percent).

Costs in a new house differ from those in a remodel because you don't have to tear out to create, so some of a kitchen's expense is shared with such things as framing and heating/cooling and electrical systems. Of course, what you want will also have a major impact on what your kitchen costs. Cabinets will account for half the cost, so the higher their quality, the higher the final price.

Q: I would like to get some information on how I would lease to buy my mother's home at the Shore. It is an old duplex and needs a lot of work.

A: You would sign a standard rental contract with your mother, but it would include an option clause allowing you to buy the house at a specified time by giving her written notice that you are going to exercise the option to buy at a certain price. The contract should specify that part of your rent be designated as a credit toward the purchase price (toward the down payment). There can be tax advantages to your mother in this, but you'll need to talk to a real estate lawyer about how this can be done. The lawyer also should come up with a contract to spell out all the arrangements. Unless your mother owns the house free and clear, the mortgage holder likely will need to be notified.

The option should include a clause giving you the right of first refusal if your mother gets another offer from a third party. When you sign the lease, it is customary to pay your mother a nonrefundable option fee. There also should be time limits set for purchase of the house.

You should also come to some agreement about the renovations of the property, since the improvement costs could be applied to the purchase price, as well.

Q: My family is getting ready to put our house on the market. When we took some shelving away from one corner of the basement, we found the concrete-block walls were gritty to the touch and the floor discolored and damp, but not wet. I contacted a person who was advertised as doing basement repairs. He said he could put in a sump pump and French drains. I asked him if he did the sump pump and drain, who would then do the repair work needed for the wall. He said that he didn't do that kind of work, but he could make a recommendation. He gave me an estimate and left.

We think it is possible this corner of the house is having problems because of drainage issues outside. I have no idea what I am looking for. Do I need to call a general contractor?

A: I would. A general contractor should be able to determine how the water is getting in and whether you need to spend money on the sump and French drains. You'll need to have some idea of the cause, and some options for a cure, before the house goes on the market - a home inspector is going to see the condition and raise a red flag. But first, look at Joseph T. Ponessa's "Basement Moisture: Some Simple Remedies," downloadable at

Have questions for Alan J. Heavens? E-mail or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101.

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