Quotes too high...what to do?

Robin GoodrichFebruary 20, 2013

Well, I am completely bummed out! We have been waiting for our builder to gather quotes and bid our house plan, and it turns out the quotes are all coming in way over budget. Apparently material costs have increased this year as well. Have any of you experienced this? Our dream plan is a 2500 sq ft ranch and I'm stuck...should we build the very basic version of the plan and upgrade things as we live in it or find another plan? I hate the "we'll change it later" idea because life happens and those things might not ever get done. However, we might not get a second chance to build so I would hate to settle for a floorplan that I don't like nearly as much. What would you do?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Save up money until you can comfortably afford the house or build a smaller house that is within budget OR buy an existing home (cheaper and less headaches). You also need to account for the fact that a large percentage of construction projects end up over budget, so plan accordingly.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It would be helpful to know these things:

Do you have a link to your floorplan? If so, post it here.
Tell us more about your future dream house- what kind of finishes did you want? Where did you splurge and where did you save? What is your lot like?

This will really help us to understand your situation :)

Sorry about the high bids! That must be stressful!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Robin Goodrich

It's an odd situation because the home is a gift to us so the budget is not ours to decide. We've been given a budget and have to stay within it. Of course, if I want to spend my money to get something upgraded, I can do that. The lot has been purchased. It's a great lot, very flat. We've had the septic permit approved. I've attached a link to the plan. We may still be able to build the plan but will have to remove all of the exterior characteristics that give the home its style and I'm sure interior allowances won't be much. We were trying to stay around $100 per sq ft. I'm sure there are two story plans we could end up being happy with that would be more affordable but I also don't want to let this plan go if I don't have to. But...have nicer countertops, cabinets, floors etc... or have the layout we really want?

Here is a link that might be useful: Cherry creek house plan

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, it's not a Ranch Style house, that's for sure and it would't be a $240,000 house even in Lower Slobbovia.

In my opinion, by omitting some of the overly dramatic eclectic design elements the house could be reduced in cost and look a lot better.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Wed, Feb 20, 13 at 21:55

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am just finishing a very simple build compared to your plan and good luck staying anywhere near $100 sf...building supplies have gone up a lot recently. If you want this house and it is a gift, why not put some of your own money into this house if you are set that this is "the one"?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This plan is large, complex and inherently expensive. There's no way that this will be a low-cost house. I don't know your locations or building costs, so $100/SF really doesn't have much meaning here.

There are certainly more economical designs than this one. Regardless of what you design and build, you will need a 10% or so contingency fund for unforeseen situations. So you should begin by calculating to have available only 90% of your planned construction budget available for building the house.

As to expenses, do you have all of the other building-related expenses undercontrol: fees and permits, utility stubs, perc/well expenses, soils tests, etc.?

Your putting it as "...have nicer countertops, cabinets, floors, etc...or have the layout we really want?" contrasts having "things" and fashionable "market features" vs. having a house that is designed for the way you live and your life style. Only you can solve the dilemma, based on your personal values.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That definitely looks like an expensive house to build! Odd angles, complicated roofline, 3 car garage . . . I would find a simpler plan.

And I agree about starting the house only when the bid is no more than 90 percent of the budget . . . most builds go over.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Robin Goodrich

Thanks for the thoughts! We'll just have to see the breakdown of price and find out what all has to be eliminated to fit it within our budget and go from there. I guess if we find out we'll only have a shell of a house within our budget, it'll be a good sign that we have to find a new plan.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I m currently building a fairly simple ranch home that is about 2500 sq. ft. on the main level and I will be happy if I end up at $125 a square foot. I went with a gable roof instead of a hip and it saved several thousand dollars and will actually fit the surroundings better anyway.
With an exterior like you want I wouldn't know where to trim on the cost without changing the style completely.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lennon Plan

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How much time do you have? Building is not rocket science. Do you have any experience with the building process? Since it sounds like you don't need a bank involved, have you thought of being and OB?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

$100 a sf is a basic rectangle with builder grade materials located some place like MS. I live there, so I know. If you want that plan you show, and you're in a higher cost of living---basically anywhere else, then you are going to have to come up with at least as much money as you are being given. It may not be quite double, but I'd bet it's close to $200 a square.

I don't think that whomever is "giving" you a home has any realistic clue as to how far 250K doesn't go on a custom build.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 10:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A bigger version of that house (10K sq.ft) is for sale in my town ... asking price over $7 mill, about $500/sq.ft without the lot, so your plan would be around $1.2 mill+ for the structure. Location can make a "slight" difference in these conversations!!!!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Robin Goodrich

Hollysprings...you're actually quite accurate as to the cost so far! Close to $200 per sq ft at this point!

I live in North Carolina. We had already looked at the plan with our builder and crossed off extra details from the exterior, planned to do a lot less stone than they show on the rendered photo, leave off the trellis, cut out the stone exterior chimney, leave off the back patio/fireplace etc... I think I'm just shocked because, when we met with the builder and looked at the plan, he made it sound like it was really possible so I actually thought it was! Silly me.

I've attached a picture of this layout side by side with a similar one, with a link below for more detail. We've been told the one on the right would be a lot cheaper to build. Besides the exterior details of the cherry creek (big overhangs, inset garage doors, expensive roof), the plan is very similar. I wondering if we can alter the plan on the left so we can get the actual layout of rooms but without the fancy exterior. We'll see!

Here is a link that might be useful: Maplewood plan

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

brooksms, I can definitely sympathize with you. We sent out preliminary bids for our approximately 2200 sq ft one-story home last fall. Prices came back higher than what we "thought" was going to be our budget. The key word being "thought." :-) We had even spec'd almost every line item, too. The bids didn't even include cabinetry for the whole house (my husband is making all cabinets) or appliances (we are purchasing all of these). We still came in at $135/sq ft. We had wanted to come in around $125/sq ft or under for our budget.

We ended up going through each sub's bid and seeing if there was anything we could cut /be wiling to give up or see if what was bid was what we had spec'd. We did find some errors along the way - some to our advantage, some not.

Bottom line, we made a few changes to the house plan (some outside costs got cut, beams in the gables went bye bye and the sunroom got cut), decided to purchase some items out of pocket, decided to change our flooring in the bedrooms to carpet vs hardwood, AND decided to up our budget. However, we did decide we wanted to keep the finishes we had originally picked out. We are retired, so this will be our last home.

We ended up purchasing all of our own lighting and ceiling fans, door hardware (inside and out), all faucets, all appliances, and supplying all cabinets ourselves in addition to husband doing all the stain work for wood throughout the home. We still ended up around $120/sq ft. Our son-in-law's family own a construction company and he did our bidding. After we went through our bids, he took it to another builder in the area to see if his cost would be comparable to what we spec'd. The builder said with the finishes we wanted, his cost would be a lot higher. Of course, we will be doing all the bidding again as soon as we sell our present home (going on the market next month). We'll see what happens when those bids come in. I hope we don't have to do much re-adjusting, but we'll see.

I do love the looks of the home you selected. But be prepared that if budget is going to be your number one priority, you might have to look at other house plans. If what you want is your number one priority, you will probably have to adjust your budget. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Sophie Wheeler

The second home will not get you your budget number either. I'm being serious when I say a giant box. As in look at something in a two story Colonial or Federal style. It's easier and cheaper to add the space up than spread out on a single floor. It lessens the foundation work and roof. On both pans, all of the foundation jogs and just the width of the home alone require a of of expensive structural components.

Your location has a higher COL than mine, and you are going to really struggle to make your number without DRASTICALLY changing your requirements AND plan. Both. You also could contribute some labor to the process if you are skilled enough. But, if you aren't skilled or are slow, that will only slow the process down and cost you more in the long run.

Your gift giver needs to revise their gift. Or you need to match it with your own funds. Or, buy something existing. 250K can probably buy something pretty nice that's already built.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

Small is beautiful....not only will you save on construction costs and building materials, but you will have less to heat, less to cool, less to furnish, less to maintain, less to insure and less to pay taxes on. So the cost saving is ongoing throughout the life of the building, not just at construction.

And I think these folks are being shy with their cost over run estimates...we figured we'd go over by around 30% and planned on it. Despite the housing crash, materials costs were skyrocketing at the time we were building so that alone affected our costs let alone choices we made and situations we ran into....

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We are having to hold off until prices come down (in SC just below Charlotte NC). We thought we had all our "bases covered". And we could sign a contract, then, Hurricane Sandy hit, prices doubled on OSB and lumber is up 20+%. We are waiting a few months and hoping our contractors next lock in price for materials lowers. It is frustrating as we had been back and forth many times and the rising costs seem to just out price us. Our plan is to get new quotes in March. Good luck with your changes and forward movement.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The Maplewood plan is very similar to our plan and I am hoping to finish at $125 a sq ft but probably won't. Our home will have geothermal and quite a few upgrades so you might be able to get closer to $100.00 a sf but I think you will need trim some more to reach that figure.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We are building a box, a very simple, 2 story box, and we're paying quite a bit more than $100 s.f.

When we started talking numbers (we've got a set price contract for most of the build) we got to a certain point and it became clear we needed to cut square footage to keep costs where we needed them to be.

It's hard to let go of dreams, but we're building in reality.

I think you may need a simpler plan-- I don't know how you put a roof on that shape without it being expensive.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

But...have nicer countertops, cabinets, floors etc... or have the layout we really want?


countertops, cabinets, floors upgrade later.
do things like stained concrete floors.

nice that the house is a gift.
pony up some $$ for better insulation package
better than minimum hvac system.

best of luck

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hurricane Katrina also caused materials pricing to rise drastically in a very short window of time--but then the prices came back down. So the advice above may be a good idea--wait. It would also give you time to save some extra funds to put into the project yourself.

Cherry Creek is a very nice plan. If it's the plan (layout) you like and it works for your family, you may be able to build it for a little over $100sqft. But all the expensive detailing will be absent. IMO, alot of the detailing in the finished house in the photos was overkill. Vinyl siding and standard architectural shingles, maybe a little faux stone accent, laminate countertops, carpet in bedrooms & study & maybe even family room, basic faucets, basic cabinetry, basic laminate or cultured marble counters in the baths, etc. When I say basic, I don't mean no character, but it won't be a showplace either. For example, you can find very reasonably priced vanities with some detailing for the same or slightly higher cost than a basic box vanity with no character. It will require you to shop around.

I'd also greatly consider ditching the 3rd car garage and just leave it at a 2 car. Believe it or not, but pulling the bathroom on the right even with the front bedroom wall and pushing the bedroom on the back even with family room wall may bring your pricing down as it uncomplicates some of the roofline & you've eliminated corners. The extra square footage you gain may be less expensive than the building the original.

Another thought is to push the entire right side of the house back--make the back bedroom line up with the family room, the front bedroom line up with the dining room & the bathroom, alter the hallway into the bedrooms wing to come right off the right side of the family room and it would just 'T' into each bedroom. That would eliminate corners, simplify the roof line, and reduce square footage.

Removing the nook and pulling that section of the house back in even with the family room, flip the toilet in the master bath to where the linen tower is and put your master entry alcove where the toilet closet is currently (I'd redo the master bath setup regardless), delete the sitting area off the master will again eliminate corners and simplify the roof line. All these things lower cost significantly. these are the types of changes that could bring the house into the affordable range. Changing finishes can help too, but typically simplifying structure gives you more bang for the buck.

I can't believe I'm even suggesting this, but Schumacher Homes has a similar plan built in Greensboro, NC out by the airport just off I-40 (you can see the house from the highway). Their pricing starts at $186,900 without a basement according to their website for 2428 sq ft on this similar plan (click link below to see it). It may be worth a shot--they will build from your design or you can modify one of theirs. I would start very basic and then decide what you upgrade based on the pricing given vs identifying upgrades right off the bat.

I know of another builder in the same area that runs in the $135sq ft range typically. If you're interested, email me through my username link and I'll send it to you.

Hope this helps! I know its alot of food for thought. Good luck to you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Schumacher Homes Beverly IIA Plan

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

he made it sound like it was really possible so I actually thought it was! Silly me.

Welcome to building! He wanted your business. Are you sure you have the right builder? Here is my story (cut/pasted from another thread):

We owned our lot, worked with an architect on our plans, then found our builder. We own commercial real estate, so asked our subs (we trust and have do work for us for 30+ years) who they would recommend. Then we called our local Association of Home Builder's and asked DH cousin for a couple of names.

We had meetings with two local builders. The first we had walked through houses he was building and liked the quality. He was 150K over what we thought it should be (we build our own commercial buildings so have a clue about costs). They had a large office, staff, etc. = high overhead. The second builder was the one with the best word-of-mouth references from our subs. Did not hear one negative word about him before, during or after. He works out of his home, and it's just him = no overhead.

We got the exact same house, finishes, etc. I would use him again in a heartbeat. As a small company, he only works on one house at a time (was finishing up one, then started ours. At end of our build, he was starting ground work on next house.) He was there almost every single day. We were very involved. He watched out for our bottom dollar and we did not go over budget. He charged 10% and there were no change orders/fees during construction... that said, very little was changed during construction (only a wall in the bathroom). A major change (room addition, for example) would have added to his fee.

Any friends or acquaintances (schools, church, work, etc) that have built within the last few years that you could ask about their builds? Any plumbing or electrical company you use on a regular basis to ask? Subs are quick to tell you who is good to work for/with and who they would stay away from.


You can come in on budget - we did. But it is hard work. The more you have picked out before you start, the better off you are. I ordered a lot of things online, during weekend sales that also offered free shipping. A good builder will help you stay on budget.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:08AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Robin Goodrich

Thank you all for being so helpful! We are eager to build but not desperate, so we could definitely wait until material prices go down. Also, mydreamhome, those are all great ideas! I am definitely going to bring all of this up to our builder and brainstorm.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ditto what allison0704 said about smaller builders who don't have alot of overhead. That's the story with the other builder I said you can email me about. His ~$135 sqft includes a significant amount of upgrades (i.e. granite in kitchens and baths, hardwood throughout, stone accents, upgraded faucets in kitchen and baths, tray ceiling in master, fireplace with custom mantle, wainscoting in dining room, etc) Likewise, if you downgrade those finishes, the cost will come down too :-)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Glad it helped.

Your link shows cedar shake roof. Changing to asphalt would save. Can still do a 3 dimensional shingle for better looking roof.

Doing prefab wood burning fireplaces would save a significant amount over mason installed.

Vaulted ceilings and tray ceilings obviously are more than flat. 8 foot flat would be less than 9' or more but I personally would want 9'

There is not cost savings for real vs faux stone.

Do stone on front and sides but not back. Or just on front to save more.

Laminate has come a long way so maybe for secondary bathrooms. Or even kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What are you multiplying the $100 sq ft by? The Cherry Creek house plan is 2495 sq ft plus 856 sq ft of garage, 516 sq ft of porch and 264 sq ft of patio. Many people focus on the heated square footage and forget the unheated square footage.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Beth Parsons

That angled garage, while very nice looking, is going to be a major expense. We just built a house designed by Garrell Associates that has an angled family room, lots of corners, complicated roofline, etc and my framing labor costs were almost double over what the framer normally charged my builder. Plus, we used a LOT more lumber and had more waste from the angled cuts. In the end, we went over budget by about 17%, most of which went to framing labor and lumber costs.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Beth Parsons

Double post

This post was edited by parsonse on Fri, Feb 22, 13 at 0:17

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Depending on where you live you can act as your own contractor and build the house yourself through subcontractors--thus saving the 20 to 25 percent the builder is going to make in profit. Also realize that demand for housing construction has gone up this past year by almost 30%. This means that builders have the luxury to pick and chose their projects and raise their profits accordingly. the national average to build a home is about $125 a sq foot. Contract the work yourself and you could pay only $75 to $90 a sq ft. The best place to find licensed contractors who will give you a decent price is the Fire department. 90% of all fire fighters moonlight as contractors.

Here is a link that might be useful: Brightleaf Designs

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

brightleaf: you are welcome to contribute to the forums, but rules prohibit posting links to your business. We take that rule pretty seriously around these parts. :-) You had best delete all your links or risk being reported to the moderators and banned from the boards.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Robin Goodrich

Building it ourselves (with the help of friends/family who have experience) seems pretty tempting at this point. If we make changes to the plan like you all have suggested to bring the price down, remove all of the stone etc... and do it ourselves, it may be possible. The builder seems to think we should build our second choice two story plan and leave the upstairs unfinished for now, but I'm not feeling like I want to give up on our original plan so quickly.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I live in NC too, and with our cost of living you should be able to build a pretty nice house for 250,000 -- but I wouldn't expect you could build that first house for anywhere near that price. It's dripping in expensive add-ons. I find it overdone, but that's personal opinon.

The second house is better, but it is still going to be overbudget. You're still looking at fancy ceilings, etc. I think it'll be cheaper than the first house, but still not within your budget.

I think you have two options:

1. Increase the budget with some money of your own.
2. Find a new, more simple houseplan.

If you start with one of these houses, and you start chopping off this and that item, you're going to lose the overall character that you were looking for in the first place.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 9:58AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
What would you do differently if you were building your house again?
I saw this thread dated from a few years ago on the...
Darla Grossman
Windows question
How is this look achieved? Are these casement windows? What...
Powder room layout, what do you think?
We are in the back-and-forth with the architect, and...
Revised Floor Plan - Please Critique
We're building our first house this Spring and are...
It's March 2015: How is your build progressing?
Zorro-anyone can start one. :) Link to It's February...
Sponsored Products
Barn 12" High Motion Sensor Solar LED Outdoor Wall Light
$99.00 | Lamps Plus
Home Decorators Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Home Decorators Collection Rugs
Home Depot
Metropolitan 3-pc. Outdoor Sofa Set in White Finish, Patio Furniture
T Trak Echo Pendant
Three Birds Classic Teak Arm Chair - CL25
$519.98 | Hayneedle
Dolcezza Oil Rubbed Bronze One Light Mini Pendant
$162.80 | Bellacor
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™