Love to spend millions, but only have $250,000

Sara40SueFebruary 4, 2013

Hello --

I didn't know how to title the Subject line, and I want you to know that I greatly appreciate all of the suggestions and help you all have offered to me.

It scares me to think that I might have a 20% overrun on costs, so I really need to try to get things tied down for the contract. I know some things can be done at a later date, if you have the preparations (electrical, gas and plumbing runs, etc.) done during the framing stage.

Can you all help me figure out some reasonably priced, high quality items that are musts right up front, and then stuff to plan in advance for but not implement until a later date?

Maybe this is asking too much . . ., but life will be much easier if I am prepared.

Again, I thank you for your patience,

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I know what you want to "knock out" as many "unknowns" as possible so you don't get any "surprises"!
If you can communicate what you asked here to your GC before you start you will be ahead of the game. I think, too, if you ask this question in the "search" box at the bottom of the page you may be able to bring up this topic. Personally, when DH and I built our house in '09 we didn't plan for alot of things to add on in the future. We did have the house wired for a generator which we still haven't purchased yet :)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Bridget Helm

here's my appliances - purchased 6 years ago. if u purchased today, they total a little over 4,000. they look great and work great and are way cheaper than Wolf, subzero, and Viking. I did HOURS of comparison shopping. use nexttag to get the best deals online

LG stainless fridge for around $1500.

I went with a KitchenAid Architect series gas slide in range for $1700.

I went with this Frigidaire dishwasher for $500.

GE microwave for $120.

you can find a hood for around $500.

get your faucets online too and you'll save a bundle

good luck!!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:17PM
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We knew all along that we would likely run out of money due to the size of our build. We used Craigslist (two cities fairly close) and found a great entry door $300, two soaking tubs less than $500, upstairs apt. entry used door $150. We got Lowes 10% off cards and bought 5k worth of lighting and electrical stuff, sinks, faucets, etc. Actually overran the 5k and only got 5% off some of the buy. We did laminate counters with granite island for which we stalked the remnant yards. We shopped very hard for our flooring online. My DH got solid bids on much of the material and found a vendor who would beat their prices. We got builder discount on our interior doors since we have built several homes before. We shopped hard for them, and beat the box store price by over $20 each. We have been extremely careful to take back items and use the refund minus a small fee to buy things we do need. I know some people don't mess with receipts and returns: we do. We also try hard to find people's bottom lines and got some good bids from several of our subcontractors. We sometimes do the prep work for them to help lower costs. We did all the pipes and connections for our rainwater collection system so that we only had to pay for the tank, filters, and pump. We did our own plumbing and electrical. We considered doing some of the HVAC work, but found a good bid in the nick of time. They did excellent work and provided good units, but they were not busy at the time and therefore took our job to keep everyone at work.

My grandmother always said that poor people have poor ways, not as a condemnation of the poor, but to say that without money to burn, people get creative and find ways to get by.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:34PM
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The very best way to avoid costly and surprising change orders during construction is to have your construction drawing and specifications fully complete. That means no allowances: all desired items are included in either the drawings and specifications so that the construction bid truly represents what the full cost will be.

That said, there are always unforseen circumstances due to weather, availability of subcontractors, changes in market prices of materials, etc., so a 10%-20% contingency fund is a prudent idea.

Of course, as the comments above suggest, there's a lot of decision-making and due diligence to be done before your construction drawings and specifications are completed. One of the best steps during this stage is to have some planned, detailed discussion with your designer and builder, if known, so that early decisions and selections are in the proper direction.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:11PM
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I concur with the LG appliances. All my appliances are stainless steel LG, except for my very RED washer and dryer and they all perform very well. I could have used any of the Subzero, Wolfe, and the high end lines, but the LG line suits my needs and I love them all. My red washer and dryer make my laundry room pop and they are one of things I get the most compliments on when people see my new house.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:37PM
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i think with some creativity, you can use inexpensive tile and still get a nice look.
also, there are so many style choices on lighting that you can spend less on your fixtures and still get the same look as more expensive options.
i also agree with everyone else about getting your plumbing fixtures online. It was so much cheaper than even local places' supposed contractor pricing for me.
another way to save is try to make sure all of your doors and windows and cabinets are standard sizes. Things start to get costly if you have to buy something custom-sized.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:36AM
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I'm in the planning stages, but I'm convinced that these are the keys to keeping things in budget:

- Do your homework up front, make good decisions and stick to them.
- Choose standard items: Standard-sized windows, standard range rather than separate cooktop/ovens, standard height ceilings, etc.
- Choose a simple design, eliminating excessive bump-outs, angles, etc. Of course, you want some things to make your house "yours", but think carefully about where you want your splurges -- and remember that everything can't be a splurge.
- Search for bargains such as another poster described.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:06AM
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MrsPete had great advice. For us, I picked out almost everything ahead of time. I bought a lot online - light fixtures, toilets, sinks, all faucets, tub fillers and showerheads. Even an Onzen soaking tub and a copper cupola the size of a SxS refrigerator. Yes, it's a tad scary to buy something sight unseen, but do your homework. I discovered GW researching dual fuel ranges - the people here that have built are a great resource.

When shopping online, buy during holiday weekend sales, find free shipping, and compare compare compare.

When looking at appliances, ask the salesman if they brand your choose is having a price increase (they know a month+ ahead of time). We saved several thousand by buying ahead and they stored.

I second the standard windows - our architect had spec'd windows that were very tall (almost the entire wall). It jumped pricing up to the "mansion series." By reducing the height by 6", they jumped down a grade and we saved a small fortune, and our windows are still huge.

Good luck with your build!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:01AM
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Epiarch Designs

As virgil mentioned, some of the biggest over runs are due to changes a long the way. Often times allowances are given and they are typically for builder grade coverages, which a lot of people have a hard time working with. I will probably be shunned for saying this, but stay away from high end appliances. Wolf, Viking, etc are a complete waste of money for anyone near or around your price range. There is a huge difference in costs here. Lighting is also a place many go over. A similar looking fixture can cost $50 here or $300 there. Watch craigslist, ebay, and other places. Find contractors that are willing to WORK with you. Discuss this ahead of time. Discuss owner provided products. Very few I talk with are not at least willing to be somewhat flexible. Just make sure you do not slow them up, have products there ahead of time.

Can you do any of the work yourself? Flooring, tile work and other finish work is extremely expensive to have installed and is honestly not that hard to do. Watch a few youtube videos and you can most likely pull of straight forward installs.

preselect cabinets, counters, windows, doors, electrical and plumbing layouts, look at fixtures and make YOUR OWN allowance. Making your budget based off of the items you would like to use is the safest way to stay on budget and know ahead of time if you can hit your 250k. Of course with any budget, you need to stick with it.

These are all things I recommend to all clients, and I certainly practice what I preach. I am in the middle of my build and we are currently under budget. Ahead of time, we preselected EVERYTHING, made my budget off of that, and then searched online/ebay/watched sales to purchase those or similar items below the original cost.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:21AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you want to spend 250K on a house, do about 2 years of research before breaking ground, or plan for a 150K one and jump in headlong. That gives you enough comfort in your knowledge level or your contingency to feel free to do some upgrades, as well as dealing with unexpected issues along the way.

What are the big "unexpected issues"? Dirtwork, utilities, and septic systems are the biggest potential headaches that you may not think about being "house" related. The more improved that the lot is when you buy it, the less chance of having any of those unexpected issues. But, the more expensive the lot will be. But, if you are wanting to keep costs under control, the more expensive lot with the known completed projects and recent perc test is a better buy than the one that "might" have a wetlands issue that will complicate the perc test for the septic and cause you to have to plan on extensive waterproofing for your basement.

It goes back to the most sound advice you will ever receive: erase the unknown. When you are able to spec all of your choices for a build, including the lot conditions, then there isn't going to be any nasty surprises on the horizon that will cause you to start looking for more bales of bills.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 12:28PM
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I agree with much of what has been said.

Buy what you can online and you will save serious $$$.
Faucets - and Lighting Direct saved us probably $3-5k and we got great products.

House plan - think about what things you need and want; choose a few things that will help your house 'pop' for 'you'.

For example, we choose a modern stacked stone fireplace that goes to the ceiling, an outdoor fireplace and a master closet the size of a room. However, our master closet still has wire shelves and not built ins. We used hardiplank on the sides and back but used a brick surround on the bottom.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:46PM
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You didn't give a location ... In Southern CA 250K won't go very far in building a house. We recently did an addition and updated many things in our 10 year old house. What I found expensive was the exterior hardscape (pavers, stucco walls/planters), landscape, irrigation and low-voltage lighting work.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:18PM
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I'd suggest that you put money towards upgrading
hvac system, insulation package & windows.

investing in more than code, which is the minimum
allowed by law, saves you in the long run.

better to invest it these no show, high impact
on comfort items than to have a showy uncomfortable
house with rising utility costs.

for energy star products.
water heaters & refrigerators run 24/7 so
more efficiency is necessary for these than
washer dryers that are demand use only.

things like recessed lights that don't pull in
attic temps ICAT (insulation contact air tight)
instead of IC save long term also. as the IC
cans de-rate R-value of insulation, and cost you
more in heating cooling costs, this upgrade
is a no brainer.

ceiling moldings & countertops eat up a budget.
these items can be easily upgraded later to
keep your budget in line.

best of luck.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Excellent information from all the posters. I have to echo the dirt work. We brought in multiple and still need another 5-7. Landscaping is another major expense. We are DIYers from way back. The plant material cost will be a significant cost along with hardscapes.

Don't forget all the potential exras - new bed linens, window treatments, towels and other bath accessories, rugs, etc It all adds up quickly.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 1:49AM
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Outstanding ideas! Thank you so much, I will try to get them all combined into one place before meeting with my General Contractor this weekend.

By the way, we are trying to make that $250,000 stretch in mid-Missouri (college town, less than 200,000 population).

Have an excellent day!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Bridget Helm

i second faucetdirect and lightingdirect. they were great when we built a little over 6 years ago.

i'm looking into a website called builddirect for the build that we are about to take on late this year. they have great prices on marble tiles in multiple sizes as well as blue slate tiles

you really CAN find nice wood floors for 5 dollars a square foot online. of course you wan't to see your wood floors in person. so find a good price on a few floors online that look like what you think you may want. then go to a big box store to see it in person. if you like it in person, get it online for the lower price.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Sarah40Sue, I think we're building in the same town.

There is less competition here, so you may find yourself going East or West to get some better deals on some things.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:00AM
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I am finding that an increasing number of my clients are using the internet to buy lighting and plumbing fixtures. I don't doubt there are bargains to be had but I want to warn you all that it is often not possible to determine if a fixture is approved for installation in your state or if it is a "knock-off copy of a popular fixture made with cheaper materials. When you see the same fixture on many websites with different brand names think twice about ordering it or using your credit card online.

Last week one of my clients bought a kitchen sink online before submitting it to the contractor for his approval (as required by the contract) and it turns out that it is foreign made and not approved for use in this state. So far she has not been able to contact the supplier to return it. Often the supplier is only a warehouse.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 3:26PM
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Sarah40Sue, I think we're building in the same town.

There is less competition here, so you may find yourself going East or West to get some better deals on some things.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:47PM
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Sarah40Sue, I think we're building in the same town.

There is less competition here, so you may find yourself going East or West to get some better deals on some things.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:48PM
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OK, not sure why that posted twice more out of the blue.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:51PM
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OK, not sure why that posted twice more out of the blue.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:52PM
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You can edit your post so there is no need to post a third time.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:24AM
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Listen to Renovator8. Not every brand is created equal (and I have to disagree with the praise over LG appliances). Also plumbing fixtures may look the same, but that cheap faucet may be filled with plastic. So just remember to really check out an item and don't get sucked into how much money you're saving.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:46AM
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We purchased all plumbing from the plumber, appliances from store fronts, lights from an electrical company, etc. Each vendor gave discounts that matched or beat online retailers. Another issue to consider is warranty.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Bridget Helm

There are some shady websites but the 2 mentioned here are pretty solid. At least I've heard all good things about them and my personal experience has been good - after living 7 years with the fixtures.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:00AM
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For your budget I recommend buying a house where the cost is known.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 11:51AM
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