The first thing most people think about when building a new home is the cost. You may have seen a cost per square foot calculator of some sort on a few house plan broker sites and home designer websites showing you the averages of building a particular home in the south, north, east, and west coast. Unfortunately, the cost per square foot method (CPSFM) tends to mislead unaware homebuyers. When calculating square foot cost of say a 2,000 square foot home, you are able to compare the numbers on home builders who use this method to quote you a price to build. As you will find, the estimates can be very different.
Here are several reasons why the CPSFM is ineffective:
(1) Home styles – A country house plan with wood siding and a traditional house plan with brick at the same square footage would not cost the same to build.
(2) Home type – One story house plans and two story house plans of the same square footage would not cost the same to build.
(3) Specifications – This is the true tale of why the CPSFM is unreliable. Take a 2,400 square foot house plan for example. Two different home owners, one who wants an all brick home with stainless steel appliances and plumbing fixtures, hardwood and marble floors, custom cabinets, and granite counter tops. The other homeowner would prefer only a brick front and siding on the sides and rear, the economy line appliances, chrome plumbing fixtures, carpet flooring, stock cabinets, and laminate counter tops. The difference in price would be several thousands of dollars.
As a rule, you should not rely on the CPSFM. The most effective way to narrow down the cost of building a home is to have your builder prepare a bid with a complete estimate done based on take-offs. Take-offs is a process by which homebuilders would disassemble a house plan (1 set of house plans such as a study set) and calculate the cost of seperate components of the entire home. Seperate components includes every item used in building the home. Some examples are lumber, concrete, masonry, windows, doors, appliances, drywall, finishes, mechanical and electrical systems. There is much more but these are a few of the items that would be included in a take-off.
Performing a take-off estimate is a lengthy task that can take a week or two depending on the builder. Some builders do it the old fashion way using a calculator, pencil, and paper. However, more builders are using computer software designed for take-off calculations in order to cut there bidding time in half, improve price accuracy, and present you with an easy to read cost breakdown of building your home.