Retrofit blog


Finding a Trustworthy Soft-Story Retrofit Contractor


The Soft-Story retrofit boom is attracting some shady folks!

The soft-story retrofit programs of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood are well underway and property owners are now in a rush to meet deadlines. Hiring a contractor is hard enough, but finding a reputable soft-story contractor is becoming a bit more difficult

Are you afraid your seismic retrofit is going to be too expensive? Have you developed some anxiety about how much your soft-story retrofit is going to cost? I am not just talking about the cost of retrofit engineering plans, I am talking about construction costs. In the past two years, I have spoken to hundreds of property owners from Los Angeles and Santa Monica and they are all terrified about possibly paying upwards of $100,000 to retrofit their property. I have also noticed that several retrofit contractors have appeared overnight, some of them claiming to have a Ph.D. in Structural Engineering, and others claiming to be Harvard graduates. The soft-story retrofit program has created a modern-day gold rush of nefarious fly-by-night contractors and so-called “retrofit experts”. In the 15 years that Bay Cities Construction & Retrofit Pros has been in business, we’ve come across all kinds of construction shenanigans, but this is getting out of control.

Snake Oil Salesmen

I recently spoke to a property owner at the AOA Trade Show in Los Angeles and he shared that he was quoted $5,500 for engineering plans for his large, 40-Unit apartment building. This price for a 40-Unit building is ridiculously low, even the property owner was shocked. A reputable structural engineer would normally charge at least $15,000 for a project of this size, but this new wave of structural engineers is charging rock-bottom prices to gain business. But I digress, this property owner had done his homework and knew some fundamentals of construction because he asked this contractor some very basic questions and he was unable to give a straight answer. The retrofit expert was cracking under the pressure, but there are so many inexperienced contractors quoting insanely low prices that I am afraid some property owners will fall for the trap. Watch out for these hustlers, stay away from snake oil salesmen.


Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Just last week I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Structural Engineer (SE) and she mentioned that one of her family members owned a soft-story apartment building; a contractor had given her a quote of $25,000 for retrofit construction and said it would only take 2 ½ months. As a contractor, this really set off some major red flags. It takes a lot of expert tradesmen to seismically retrofit a building, a Master Carpenter and Cement Mason alone earn $50 per hour and that doesn’t even include the cost of insurance. Let’s do some basic math, the average month has about 20 working days, and let’s suppose that the average retrofit project will take 50 days of construction to complete. With a cost of $25,000 ($25k / 50 Days= $500 per day), you’ll only have about $500 dollars worth of labor and materials? This isn’t realistic, carpenters and masons charge about $50 per hour, and with all the payroll and insurance load. It will take a 3-4 man crew of skilled labor to properly perform seismic retrofit work. That is 3 man crew x 8 hour day = $1,200 in labor per day. Now you have to consider the cost of the materials, and trust me when I say that U.S. Steele is not cheap. Sp this contractor either made up the cost or made up the time it would take to do this job. But either way, the client was not being given accurate information about what it would take to retrofit the property.

Red Flags to Avoid

If you want to avoid hiring an inexperienced or shady contractor, you can keep an eye out for some of these red flags.

  • Avoid contractors with long license numbers like 1028057000, they are newcomers.

  • If you can’t find a physical address anywhere on their website.

  • Ask for references, if they don’t have any, run.

  • Google them and Yelp them, if you can’t find any information on them it’s a bad sign.

Look for Reviews


Always ask for references.

It is always a good idea to ask for references. The most reputable contractors will actually give you a set of past customers you can contact to see if they had a good experience. If for some reason your contractor refuses to give you any references, you can search for reviews on the internet. Make sure to check out Yelp, Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau to see what past customers are saying. A reliable contractor will have a ton of good reviews, so if your contractor has more than 4 stars online you should be good.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn everything there is to know about soft-story retrofits you'll want to check out our most in-depth article What is a Soft-Story Retrofit? Everything You Need to Know About Retrofits on our new website. There, you'll be able to access all of our retrofit blog articles, case studies, our retrofit gallery, short videos, and enjoy free access to our full-length soft-story webinars. Our team has developed all this content for property owners like you. It is your destination to learn all about the retrofit process. Bay Cities Construction and Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is here to help answer any questions you may have about your retrofit project. Our team has the experience to Engineer & Build a Cost-Effective Retrofit Solution for your property. Get started today by visiting our website at to schedule a free assessment.

About Us

For over 15 years Soft-Story Retrofit Pros has helped hundreds of homeowners with their projects. When you hireRetrofit Pros you don’t just hire a contractor, you hire an entire team of Pros. With several years of experience, our team has the expertise to help you Design, Engineer, and Build Your Retrofit Solution. We also represent you City Representation when submitting your plans and ensuring they are approved, and we handle all the Permit Processing so you never miss a day of work. If you think Retrofit Pros is the right team for you, contact us today. We have the experience, knowledge, and know how to help you save time & money on your seismic retrofit.

Ready to take the next step? We’re certain that Soft-Story Retrofit Pros is the best general contractor for your project, you can Schedule an Appointment by clicking HERE. We offer a complimentary One-hour consultation & assessment, so you can meet our team and we can discuss your Soft Story Retrofit project. If you have been disappointed by other contractors, it's time to call one of the best seismic retrofitters in Los Angeles.