The Square Foot Price Quoted Seemed Great, What Happened?

Building my new home was a nightmare!

We all have friends this happened to.

In almost 50 years of designing and building new custom homes, I have been asked one particular question literally thousands of times. “How much per square foot do you charge to build a house ?” Whenever I get this question, I know instantly that this person does not understand the basic process of custom home building, and unless he is very lucky, he is going to experience a disaster.

Cost per square foot is a means of comparing basic construction cost data. It is an average cost for an area- a basic rule of thumb for comparisons. For example, you might say the average cost of a new home in California is this per square foot, while the average cost of a new home in Florida is that per square foot. This data is meaningful if you are comparing housing costs between the two states, but meaningless if you are trying to establish the cost of building your new home. It is merely the result of dividing the total cost by the square feet of area. It may be heated area, or total area under roof. This alone accounts for a large variation, but other factors can cause even greater variations and distortions in price. Price per square foot says nothing about what is included in the home. Does the home include a single car carport, or a 3 car enclosed garage? Is it built of brick veneer, stucco on masonry, or vinyl siding on wood frame? Then there is the issue of site work. How much clearing is required on the lot-how much fill-will the soil conditions require extensive work to assure sufficient bearing capacity for the foundation? Does it include lot cost, financing costs, permit and impact fees ( if required )? All these items ( though only a partial list ) can cause a huge variation in the overall cost, and we haven’t even mentioned the interior features.

Consider a home with 2000 SF of heated area. It may have 2 full baths, or 3 full baths. Kitchen cabinets may vary from a minimum of $2000.00 to infinity. A cabinet allowance for an upscale home of this size would be at least $15000.00 or more. Appliances could be provided for less than $1000.00, or they could easily run $20000.00 or more. These items would change the costs substantially, but not affect the square footage at all. Then we come to wall finishes, finish flooring, ceramic tile, trim and millwork, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures. The list is almost endless. These items do not affect square footage at all, but dramatically affect overall costs, and cost per square foot.

The only way to accurately approximate costs for a new home is to consult a designer/builder active in the area in which you plan to build. Look at homes and plans he has built recently in the area, carefully comparing features that are included in the price. Have him visit the proposed site to determine the effect site conditions will have on the price. Then you will have a meaningful approximation of costs, and can make an informed decision on how to proceed.

Call Mike Cogdill, at 813-486-9099 to discuss your custom home budgeting.



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