How much will it cost to build your home? That is such a loaded question. It is a minefield for architects and contractors. Before I tackle that question, let me give you some insight into what is going on behind the scenes – when you ask that question.
Any architect is a business person 1st (unless they are part of a larger firm that has a dedicated business development person). And any business person is trying to secure new business. So the dilemma is straight truth and risk losing the potential client or subtly work up to the number with a range and potential scare the client later.
In the past, I would have taken the later. Do a lot of explaining and give a range to the client. Then as the design progresses I would educate the client during the process. However, that time would come, usually when the contractor is bidding the project when the whole truth was exposed and the price of the home is a shock to the homeowner. That was how I ran my business years ago. Not Anymore!
Now I usually shock the homeowner. Not on purpose – but to bring them down to earth. Home construction, especially in California, is expensive. There is no way around it. Planning restriction, building codes, design review & home owner’s associations all add time and expense before you even turn your 1st shovel of dirt.
The second thing that is scary is I don’t know how much your house is going to cost – when you ask me. I can’t. There are too many variables to consider before that price is close to being accurate. I can give you a range, but that is so dangerous for both the homeowner and me. Here is a quick example
John and Mary come to me to design their new home. We spend a couple of hours talking about the house, the site, the planning requirements, and building challenges. Near the end of the meeting, John asks – “So how much will it cost to build our home?” I explain the general square foot cost for our area and give them a range between “less dollars” and “more dollars”. They are happy because they heard and will remember forever that I said it will cost “less dollars” and I can tell them in the future that I told them that it would cost “more dollars”. Two different prices for the same house.
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So why give a range if it causes so many problems? Well, homeowners need to know what it will cost to build a home. I do generally know what is costs. But that price will vary from 10 to 25% in the beginning. Why so large? Because of all the variables that go into designing and building a home. Let me outline just a few of them.
The size of the house, the complexity of the design, the quality of the construction, the geography of the site and where the project is located. A house built or remodeled in the central valley of California will cost less per square foot than one remodeled in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Construction costs can be impacted by the economic cycle. Just like any industry, if builders are busy, their prices will be higher. If the industry is in a slump, prices will be more competitive. Contractors will be looking for work, and they will be flexible when pricing your project. The same goes for architects.
Your schedule can have an impact on the price, too. If you are remodeling your home and your contractor must conduct the project in phases so you can live in it during the renovation, it can increase the cost. If the crews must come in two or three times to accommodate your presence in the house, then the cost will be greater. But if you can move out of the house, even to a camper in your driveway, it may eliminate the need to “phase” the project.
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Asking how much will it cost to build your home is an important question. Just understand the accuracy of that estimate changes as you progress through the design phase. The best way to know the cost is having the contractor involved as early as you can in the design process.