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How Much Does It Actually Cost To Build a Home?

When we first started toying with the idea of a tear down after the fire, the biggest question in our mind was, "Will we have enough money to rebuild from scratch?". That question led me to a whirlwind of research, picking people's brains and detailed planning. In fact, that detailed planning ultimately lead to the "Planning" portion of my business being born.

If you google "How much does it cost to build a house?" an automatic blurb will pop up with national averages and a bunch of other figures with a wide variety of factors. This is what is most important when considering this question, the sheer volume of extenuating factors will adjust the answer to this question dramatically. If someone asked you "How much does it cost to buy a car?" you would conjure up a detailed list of follow up questions to be able to properly answer their question, and it is the same with building a house.

First and foremost, find a great draftsman/architect to create a cohesive set of drawings as you will need this when you inquire about trade quotes and building permits. I was very lucky to find an amazing Draftsman who works at an Engineering firm, therefore he completes the drawings and has them stamped at his firm. Don't fret if the drawings aren't *exactly* as you want them to be, but instead think of it as a starting point. Most often the aesthetic changes you make along the way to your initial drawings don't have a large affect on the trade costs and don't require a building permit revision.

Version 1 - House Drawings

Once my initial assessment and inquiries were complete and I knew there would be no simple, straight forward answer to ease our financial worries, I started to look at it more granular. I found an amazing online resource from a renovation firm in the US that listed out literally every single step in building a home. I took that and made my own monster of a spreadsheet, detailing every trade, every task, every subtask and every step I could think of to be as diligent as possible in my estimate. I should also mention that I had no intention of hiring a General Contractor, who would do most of this for you in a normal world.

Why didn't we want to hire a GC? Well, first and foremost, this project was just too important to us to relinquish control that easily. Throughout the whole post-fire process I told people that it would be a much different situation had we chosen this path in life. We hadn't made the decision ourselves to build new - it was forced on us. Also, we were displaced, not by choice. So, with that - getting home as quickly as possible was the most important to us. Obviously, we never wanted to sacrifice quality but we what we knew was that we would not tolerate any delays and for us, that meant I would manage the build. I would ensure everyone working on our new home knew the urgency and understood that I would be firm and stand strong in the fact that no BS would be accepted. And, if you have ever worked with the trades before, you will know this is no easy feat. Many times I have heard of trades not showing up on the day they said they would, delaying for no "real" reason, etc. etc. This wouldn't be the case for us, because as I mentioned - this project was just too important for us, and our trades knew that.

Once I looked at the process with a granular set of binoculars, it started seeming more tangible to me and allowed me to focus on each trade at once. Checklists have always been my friend and they became immensely important during this process. First and foremost, I went on a search to find my main trades:

  • Framing Contractor

  • Mechanical Contractors: HVAC and Plumbing

  • Electrical Contractor

  • Exterior Contractor

Calm down, I know I'm missing quite a few (drywall, paint, flooring, etc.) - but these are the main folks you need in order to be successful in planning a home build, so start here. Like I said, granular.

If you don't have trades in mind that you want to use, reach out to family and friends. Look for trades who have been used by loved ones and who have provided good quality and service to those you trust. Another option is to go to Social Media and ask others in your area for recommendations. Make a list of some trades whose names pop up more than once and then do some research on your own - read reviews, go on their websites, view their work, call and chat with them. You'll find that a lot of trades are *not so great* at responding. Identify what qualities are important to you in trades and make sure they hit the mark. For us, trustworthy and responsive were on the top of that list. Almost all of our trades were folks we had used in the past or came highly recommended by others we trusted. And you know what? Throughout our build we did not once have a trade not show up when they were scheduled. I also didn't have any trades come in higher than what was initially quoted, unless their scope of work changed. Obviously, there were a few hiccups along the way but nothing like some of the horror stories you hear from others who have renovated or built.

Once you have your "major" trades covered, take a look at that planning document of steps and tasks and see what you don't have covered and make a new list of trades to be on the lookout for:

  • Windows & Exterior Doors (usually can be covered by your exterior contractor)

  • Insulation

  • Drywall (board, tape, mud, sand)

  • Paint

  • Flooring

  • Tile

  • Cabinetry

  • Trim & Doors

Overall, my "Master Rebuild Tracker" (as I called it) had just over 200 steps that I tracked for the construction of the rebuild. Starting with "Building Permit" and ending with "Final Inspection".

Bird's Eye View - "Master Rebuild Tracker"

So back to the question of the hour - How much does it actually cost to build a house? For us, that number came in just shy of $500K. Keep in mind, that didn't include foundation or septic (we were able to build on the existing foundation of the home as well as use the existing septic) but it did include demolition of the old house and all new furniture (for the whole house).

Did we come in on budget? Yes!

We had initially budgeted around $550k for the build. When I was planning and before we took the plunge and officially decided to rebuild, I estimated high on everything. I would get a quote from a trade or source out furnishings and I usually added a 5% - 10% contingency on each line item. It gave us peace of mind and allowed us to quietly cheer when line items came in "under budget". I have incorporated this practice into my business to this day and it is something that clients appreciate greatly.

Whether you have always dreamed of building new, or are struggling to find your right "forever home" in the market today, building new is a great option and not something that should scare you off of considering. With the proper planning, time management and stern resolve a successful build (or rebuild) is more than possible!



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