Working with Architects and Contractors on Your Manhattan Townhouse Project

Working with Architects and Contractors on your Townhouse Project - The Sussilleaux Team

Introduction to New York City Townhouse Projects

The allure of New York City townhouses is undeniable. With their classic facades, elegant interiors, and prime locations, these historic properties offer a unique blend of charm and urban living.

Dina and I have not only been helping our clients buy and sell their Manhattan townhouses over the past two decades plus, we have also helped our clients with their renovation projects. To cut to the chase, you can’t go wrong by following common sense tasks and ensuring that your build a team of qualified professionals around you.

However, even after doing all the right things, townhouse renovations are both challenging and rewarding. Understanding the complexities of the process, and working with the right team of professionals, can help ensure a successful outcome.

Finding the Right Architect for Your Manhattan Townhouse

Assessing Your Project Needs

Before embarking on a townhouse renovation, it’s essential to define the project’s scope and vision. Clearly outline your goals, and establish a realistic budget to achieve them. This will help you in selecting an architect who can bring your vision to life while staying within your financial constraints.

Researching and Interviewing Architects

To find the perfect architect for your townhouse project, start by seeking recommendations you’re your real estate broker, friends, family, or online review sites. Evaluate their portfolios and experience, paying particular attention to similar projects they’ve completed in the past. Schedule interviews to discuss your project and gauge their understanding of your needs and goals.

Understanding the Architect’s Design Process

The design process should be a collaborative effort, with open lines of communication between you and your architect. Discuss their preferred methods of communication and establish a timeline and deliverables for the project. This will help ensure a smooth working relationship and keep the project on track.

PRO TIP: I always recommend interviewing several architects and carefully reviewing their past work. It’s important that your architect understand your vision, and apply his or her expertise to exceed your expectations.

Selecting a Reliable Contractor for Your Townhouse Renovation

Soliciting Contractor Recommendations

Finding a reliable contractor is crucial for a successful renovation. Gather personal referrals or explore online reviews to identify potential candidates. Evaluate their experience and areas of specialty, focusing on contractors with a history of working on Manhattan townhouses or similar projects.

Requesting and Reviewing Bids

Once you’ve shortlisted potential contractors, request bids detailing their cost estimates and scope of work. Compare these bids to your project requirements and budget. Assess each contractor’s availability and timeline to ensure they can complete your project within your desired timeframe.

Verifying Licenses and Insurance

Ensure your chosen contractor has the proper licenses and insurance coverage to protect you from potential liability. Check for any past violations or complaints with regulatory agencies, such as the New York City Department of Buildings.

Case Study: No workman’s compensation insurance

A client of mine was having work done in a rental unit in one of his properties. The contractor had let his insurance lapse, and one of his workers got hurt on the job. Who paid? My client. Always ensure that all the documentation is both present, and valid.

PRO TIP: A common complaint that I encounter in the field is that once the contract is signed, the contractor doesn’t show up. Contractors are jugglers – they gather as much business as they can, and then allocate their manpower resources among the jobs based on their perceived priorities. When checking references, you want to pay particular attention to how timely the work was completed, and how consistent was the makeup of the crew who worked on your home.

Navigating the New York City Permit and Approval Process

Understanding Local Building Codes and Zoning Regulations

Familiarize yourself with New York City building codes and zoning requirements relevant to your townhouse renovation. If your property falls within a historic district, be aware of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) regulations and guidelines that may apply.

Collaborating with Your Architect and Contractor

Your architect and contractor will play vital roles in preparing the necessary documentation and plans required for obtaining permits. Collaborate closely with them to streamline the application process and address any potential issues early on.

We have a whole article that dives deeply into the permit and regulation aspect of townhouse renovation: Understanding Permits and Regulations for Manhattan Townhouse Renovations

Managing Your Townhouse Project for Success

H3: Establishing Clear Communication Channels

Maintain open communication with your architect and contractor throughout the renovation process. Schedule regular meetings and progress updates to discuss any unexpected issues or changes that may arise. Promptly address concerns to keep the project on track.

Monitoring Budget and Timeline

Stay on top of expenses and adjust plans as needed to keep your project within budget. Monitor progress to ensure milestones are met on schedule, and make necessary adjustments to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

Conducting Inspections and Quality Control

Regularly inspect the workmanship and adherence to plans during the renovation process. Address any issues or deficiencies promptly to maintain quality standards and avoid costly fixes later.


Working closely with architects and contractors is crucial for a successful Manhattan townhouse project. By choosing the right professionals, establishing clear communication, and closely managing the process, you’ll be able to navigate the challenges and reap the rewards of transforming your townhouse into a dream home.

Further reading

You can return to The Complete Guide to Manhattan Townhouses, or go to the preceding article in the Renovating Manhattan Townhouses series: Manhattan Townhouse Maintenance: What You Need to Know, or move on to the first article in the Living in a Manhattan Townhouse Section: The Advantages of Living in a Manhattan Townhouse

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the average cost of a Manhattan townhouse renovation?

The average cost of a Manhattan townhouse renovation can vary significantly depending on the scope of work, materials, and level of finish desired. A ballpark estimate for a high-end renovation can range from $300 to $700 per square foot, but it’s essential to consult with your architect and contractor for a more accurate estimate based on your specific project.

How long does a typical townhouse renovation take?

The duration of a townhouse renovation depends on factors such as project scope, complexity, and permitting requirements. A comprehensive renovation could take anywhere from 12 to 24 months or longer, while smaller projects may be completed in just a few months.

How can I find an architect and contractor with experience in historic Manhattan townhouses?

To find experienced professionals for your historic Manhattan townhouse project, start by seeking recommendations from friends or family who have completed similar renovations. Online review sites and local professional associations can also help you identify architects and contractors with a proven track record in working with historic properties.

What are some common challenges faced during townhouse renovations?

Common challenges during townhouse renovations include navigating complex permitting processes, addressing structural issues, upgrading outdated systems, preserving historic features, and managing budget and timeline constraints. Working with experienced professionals can help mitigate these challenges and ensure a successful outcome.

How do I handle disputes or disagreements with my architect or contractor?

If disputes arise with your architect or contractor, it’s important to maintain open communication and address concerns promptly. Seek resolution through negotiation and compromise, and if necessary, consider mediation or legal counsel to resolve more complex disagreements. Maintaining a professional relationship throughout the process can help ensure a positive outcome for your townhouse project.

Michael Sussilleaux

Michael Sussilleaux

Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker

M: 917.647.1464

Dina Sussilleaux

Dina Sussilleaux

Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker

M 917.324.6158