Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

olivesmomApril 4, 2013

I've been researching local builders online and came across several inexpensive "build on your lot" type builders. Some of them even advertise something like $38 per square foot- which seems completely crazy for western Washington.

I'm not saying we are going this route, just curious. I know they are not building high end homes that's obvious. But are they total garbage? There's one in particular, True Built Homes, that lists features that seem nicer than my current, low- end tract house.

The floorplans leave something to be desired, all of their ramblers kind of remind me of manufactured homes. All are pretty simple and boxy which clearly cut costs. Also, the interior finishes are very basic for the most part. Of course upgrades are available, I have no idea how much they charge- whether they gouge you with them like most production builders seem to do.

Structurally though, are they leagues below what a custom builder would offer? I know the windows are probably the cheapest vinyl and the roofing is very basic asphalt shingles, but the other "guts"? Here is what they list on their website as standard features, can anyone tell me if it sounds like total junk or just modest construction?


Exterior Materials and Specifications


Steel Reinforced 2’ Foundation Wall

6” x 12” Footings


Whole house Cement Horizontal Lap Siding. Our standard siding is our competitions upgrade. (Brand is dependent on regional availability)

Board and Bat Siding on Gables


Fiberglass Insulated 6-Panel Entry Doors with glass. Others use metal, and while nice, the front door often dents during construction..

Man Doors and any other exterior doors as upgrades to metal


Front of home windows are boxed wrapped, side and rear flush with siding.

Vinyl Windows

Screens are included-client installs them


2”x 6” HF (Hemlock Fir) Exterior Stud Walls At 16” o.c.

7/16” Structural Exterior Grade Panel Sheathing

Owens Corning Wrap or comparable wraps

2”x 4” HF Interior Stud Walls At 16” o.c.

23/32” OSB (Orientated Strand board) Edge Gold Floor Decking

Engineered Wood I-Beam Floor Truss System at 19-1/4” o.c.


Engineered Roof Trusses Spaced 24” o.c. with a 4/12 Pitch 30 year architectural roofing, Ridge Vent

Gable Ends Overhang 12”, Tail Ends Overhang 16” 2” x 4” Out-lookers At Gable Ends For Strength

7/16” OSB Roof Sheathing Stapled To Trusses


White Seamless Aluminum With Downspouts-Eastern Washington and Idaho gutters are offered as an option


4” Garage Floor Slab


Two Frost-Free Hose Bibs


Per Code, a light at exterior doors

2-Canned lights in porches (if called for in plan). Some of our competitors charge as extra.

Interior Materials and Specifications

Beginning March 26th, all homes larger than 1400 sq. ft, will now come with Electric Furnace package (TBH chosen brand) If you prefer Natural Gas, please $450 additional in your budget.


Electrical Rough-In To Code

200-Amp Service With Main Disconnect

Two Telephone Outlets

Two Cat 5 Outlets

Two Cable TV Outlets

Microwave Outlet. Others charge as much as $175.00

Decorator Light Fixture Package Satin Finish-3 choices standard. Others charge as much as $1,000 for our standard.

Ceiling Lights and Outlets Per Code

Smoke Detectors Per Code

GFI’s In Kitchen, Baths, Garage, and Two Exterior Outlets

Recessed Lights in kitchen and covered porch if part of plan (typically 5-6)

Garage to code


Kitchen, Utility, and Bathroom Fans Venting To Exterior

Attic Space Has Vent Blocks/Bird Blocks Installed In Eaves At Every Truss Space. No Code Require for caulk.


Kitchen and Bath Cabinets Brand: Merillat available in 5 finishes. Birch Cabs

Master Bathroom-36” cabinets; Guest baths 30’’ vanities Kitchen 36’’

Tile Backsplash In Kitchen and Bath(s) Others use wood, and offer an upgrade to tile.

Hardwood Self Edge included


Vinyl Areas ��" Kitchen, Baths, and Utility (TBH Chosen Vendor)

Carpet Areas ��" Living Room, Family Room, Dining Room, Bedrooms, Halls and Entry (TBH Chosen Brand)

8 lb. carpet pad. Others offer 6lb standard and an upgrade to an 8lb pad.

Formica ��" All Counters Formica Laminate Matte High Def Finish Self-Edge( Bull Nose Available upon request as upgrade)

PLUMBING-Upgrades available-one sink per bathroom. Double vanities available upon request

Plumbing Rough-In and Finished

Per Plan: Moen, true ceramic inserts. We refuse to use plastic faucets and you should too.

Kitchen Sink��" 8” Deep stainless steel or white. You will pay up to $250 from our competitors as an upgrade.

Toilets TBH Choice

Hybrid Water Heater TBH chosen brand (50 Gallon Electric) For Natural or Propane additional gas piping and venting cost will be incurred.

All Pex Water Lines

ABS Plastic Waste and Vents

Inside Main Water Shut Off


Insulation To Code: R-49 Ceiling R-21 Exterior Walls R-30/38 Floor

Voids Around Windows/Doors Filled With Foam Insulation


Non-insulated metal Garage door. Add glass for $375

Garage Electrical-Our standard garage wiring come with 2 outlets AND a freezer outlet. Expect to pay as upgrade from others.

Garage door opener included. It will be an upgrade from our competition as much as $450.

Man Door with exterior light standard. Others charge for man door, up to $950.


Trim: 2 1/4 Colonial Style Solid Wood Stained to match cabinets. We give you real wood, not photo finish. An upgrade worth several hundreds of dollars.

Doors: Hollow panel Pre-Painted White or acceptable Sherwin Williams Color in either 2/4/5/6 panel. This upgrade alone is worth a $1,000 or more dollars.


½” Drywall and Texture Complete With Orange Peel Finish

PVA Primer (polyvinyl acetate also know as “white glue”) at Exterior Walls

Garage Firewalls Hung and Taped To Code


Mirrors Per Plan

Schulte, Powder Coated Steel with Lifetime Warranty; As per plans; All hanging shelves are Open slide

Round or Lever Doorknobs Satin Finish Kwickset

Towel Bars, Shower Rod, Toilet Paper Holder TBH Selection

PLAN CHANGES Completely customizable. Redrawing fee applies

At True Built Home, we started with a simply philosophy. Don’t charge for things that the client will almost always order to begin with. While our competition advertises prices too good to be true, they are often too good to be true. You will likely have to add $20,000 to their standard home to be remotely close to our standard home. After you do the math, you’ll have saved nearly that much on the house when done. That’s why True Built Home is A Great Way To A Great Home.



Here is a link that might be useful: True Built Home's website

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When something seems to good to be true it usually is!!!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:39AM
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I worked for an "On your lot builder" for 15 years. They have been in business for over 35 years and have satisfied customers.

With that said, the $38.00/ft price is what is considered a baseline price.

This price does not include "budget" items such as

Water tap fees
Sewer Tap fees or Septic system install
Driveway or walkways
Construction Interest
Temp Power
Porta potty

It will include:
Standard cabinets
Formica countertops
Cheap Carpet
Cheap vinyl for wet areas
builders grade dishwasher
builders grade range hood (no duct)
Vinyl siding
3" base molding

Upgrades that are NOT included:
Window trim Molding
Crown Molding
Ceiling Fans
Tile Shower

You basically get the lowest base house available. Anything "EXTRA" is charged at a considerable price as this is where the profit is made.

It's not a bad thing, but if you want a more custom home or even semi custom, then an "On your lot builder" may not be for you.

Hope this helps

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 9:35AM
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What is your budget? Our western wa builder is charging $135 square foot. DH is doing the floors, tile and painting and we are doing an Ikea kitchen but the rest of the finishes are nice (we did a huge upgrade with hardi shingle over the whole house in that price too). They use a panelization system which saves time and money too. Where are you in western wa? They have offices in Redmond and Bremerton.

I would not go with a company like this unless you want headache after headache of realizing that the finishes you want are way out of your budget.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Remember their profit comes on anything they can get you as an "extra" or upgrade" which would be anything above bare bones minimum. And these items will definitely come priced accordingly!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 12:26PM
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Sweet.Revie: We don't have a set budget at this time. It's more like how much do we want to spend and how much will we get approved for. Ideally we'd like to keep it under 600K including land, but if we can spend less maybe that would be the route to take. Unfortunately DH has no DIY capabilities, or interest. It's a shame because he comes from a logging family and his own father built several of their homes himself, but not DH.

Clean freak: are you from Washington state? Did you work for hiline homes? I think (but don't quote me, I may have it mixed up) that the True Built Homes guy used to work with or be part owner with Hiline, but they all (guess it was several guys) decided to part ways and do their own thing. When comparing the various BOYL builder it does seem like True Built gives you the most. For example, cement fiber siding is standard. I know both the interior and exterior finishes would need to be highly upgraded; but the walls, surbfloor, roof trusts, will that be the same quality you'd see in a more expensive custom home?

If we did go this route we would do an upgraded roof, possibly windows, exterior trim stuff (stone and colums), interior flooring, window & door casing, adding fireplaces, and doing a lot to the kitchen and bath, not to mention probably going with a different (but still somewhat simple) floorplan. Not sure where we'd be after doing all of that. Let's just say that all of that adds up to $50,000 (I have no idea if that's in the ballpark), well they offer a 2,500 sq ft rambler for $130,000. So with the 50K in upgrades it is looking to be 180K plus the lot and excavating, utilities, permits. It still seems cheaper than what production builders are offering plus this home would have many upgrades over a standard tract house. Maybe my estimates are all wrong though.

****What I'm trying to determine is if their construction is inferior and if they will still be a value once we add in numerous upgrades. Anyone know?******

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Sophie Wheeler

It doesn't do any good to add 50K worth of upgrades if they are only 5K worth of upgrades in the real world. 50K wouldn't even begin to touch the upgrades needed to such a home to get it to even a middle grade home. If you want a builder grade home, and want to DIY the upgrades after you close, then it's probably not a bad deal. But, if you want a home with great bones and good finishes, then they are NOT going to be cost effective for what you end up with once you add in those upgrades.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Consider whether you're a stickler for good execution and for the house as a whole to work well. The Chinese menu approach does not equal "custom", so if you go this route do so with the understanding that not only might it not be cost effective but it might end up as a loose collection rather than a tight design where everything makes sense. Beyond that, beware if these features and upgrades are in the contract as simply a list of generic items, without including the standards for a job well-done. Not having complete specifications will leave the standards up to interpretation, and more likely you will want higher standards. For example, for interior painting--the surface to receive paint shall meet certain standards for dryness and cleanliness; that the paint film shall lack cloudiness, spotting, laps, brush marks, roller tracking, runs, sags, or other imperfections. And similarly for everything else that goes into a house. Anything not meeting the standards must be corrected by the contractor. And the specifications would have the standards for correction of defective work, including when repair is not satisfactory and something must be replaced. Such a builder as you're describing may balk at operating from complete specifications.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Holly: Can you explain "It doesn't do any good to add 50K worth of upgrades if they are only 5K worth of upgrades in the real world."?

Are you saying that because you think the builder will overcharge for upgrades? I've emailed the builder for a more thorough upgrade pricing list, but for now on their website the list some of the upgrades:

Change roof pitch from 4/12 to 6/12 $2,650 (house 2300 sq ft and up)
Adding between glass grids to windows $70 each (this seems like a rip off)
Additional recessed can lights (6 included) $85 each
Add exterior French door in place of window or slider $1350
Stone veneer wrap $35-40 per sq ft
Direct vent FP on exterior wall (incl. framing, Sheetrock, tile) $1700
Two sided FP $3500
Gas rough-in For BBQ, dryer, etc. $350 ea

Those are just some of their listed upgrades, others like flooring and countertops require a more specific selection for pricing. Other than the window grid thing, they don't seem high to me but then again I don't have much experience with this.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 4:40PM
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Just "doing a lot" to the kitchen and baths can be $50,000.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 4:41PM
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dadereni: Are you saying that most custom builder have such specific standards spelled out? It seems like that would be virtually impossible, then again I have no experience here.

This post was edited by olivesmom on Fri, Apr 5, 13 at 17:07

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 4:44PM
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to answer your question, I am familiar with 2 Washington on your lot builders. One turns out a reasonable product; one is obviously cheap. I think, you need to go look at real homes that were built by the company you are interested in to really know.
Neither of the 2 I am familiar with do you get to truly select your finishes. You get to choose "upgraded carpet" in maybe 5 or 6 color choices, or regular carpet. You don't get to pick your choice of carpet, for example.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 6:20PM
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Those are not what would normally be considered an "upgrade". Those are basic products they are charging you for. Upgrade would type of roofing, window brands, better cabinets and flooring, tile, etc

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 7:26PM
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millworkman: I don't know if I agree, it's not as if they are advertising themselves as luxury builders or anything. I guess I'm comparing them to my production builder tract house, and with the exception of one fireplace and a whopping 4 sq ft of cultured stone veneer, the build on your lot builder seems to be the same if not better in terms of "standard" offerings. The "upgrades" seem to be on par both in terms of choices and price when compared to the production builder that built our current home. Also, they do offer upgrades in terms of nicer flooring, countertops, plumbing fixtures, ect. They just don't list a specific price as it depends on the selection of course.

Anyway, I'm not trying to be argumentative about it. I'm just curious to find out if they offer inferior construction.

Kirkhall: I will try to check them out in person, not sure if they have model homes or what. I do know that both true built and hiline have offices not too far from where I'm at. I wonder which company you think produces a cheap home.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 7:45PM
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I'm sorry, but do you really expect to be told that your 38/ sq foot builder provides the same product as an expensive custom builder? Of course they do not.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:06PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Heck, my friend spent $30 a square foot for a garage, and that was 15 years ago. No bathroom or kitchenette in it either. Just a lot of ceiling height, wall thickness, and decent insulation and HVAC.

For the "upgrade charade", take the vinyl flooring offered. Say you want tile. They probably use 49 cent a square foot vinyl as standard and $1 a square foot tile as an upgrade. Cheap for each. But, do you just pay the 50 cent price difference between the two? Nope. They'll "list" the price of the tile at $2 a square foot, and then charge you an additional upgrade fee of $150. Plus the price of the labor goes up, and the price of the materials needed for laying the flooring and the floor prep goes up (all normal).

So, now your 300 square feet of tile that you think will cost you "only" $150, actually ends up costing you (300 x their "material cost difference" of $1.50 + $150 change order fee + $7 sf installation (over inflated) + $300 setting materials (over inflated) + their 20% builder's percentage= $3600 to change your mind from cheap vinyl to cheap ceramic. In the real world, not only could you get a really nice porcelain or natural stone for $3600, you could probably add in some deco features or just enjoy paying $2300 less for your inexpensive ceramic tile. But, only if you have a builder who is fair and honest and only charges you the actual cost plus his percentage and gives you an actual credit for the unused material that was in the original bid. Along with the change order fee.

That is why cost plus is a popular way of structuring a contract. You pick exactly what you want, and the builder's percent goes on top of that. You aren't limited to 5 ugly beige choices and 5 more only slightly unugly beige upgrade choices. You could pick any tile from anywhere on the planet if that's what you want. Even $50 a square Blue Bahia granite tiles if that's what you wanted and you could find a source for them.

You don't even want to get into the kitchen deals. Most builders of this nature allot maybe 3K for cabinets and $500 for job site done laminate counters. You'd end up paying 60K for something that would have real world costs of 10K by the time these guys were through with you. National average expenditures for a kitchen remodel are 40K. And you haven't even bought the 2x4s and windows and electrical wire that a new build will need. Do you really think that in a 130K home that one third of that money is going to a kitchen?

You think your home is a low end tract home, just wait until you actually see one of these. There is no such thing as a free lunch. You don't get away with building that low and end up with something other than builder grade. Or, if you do "upgrade" all of a sudden you've paid 600K for a 200K home.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Hiline buit my B and SIL's house in C. Washington. Now, they've diversified and are called something else in C. Washington, with the same floorplans as Hiline. Though there aren't "model" homes per se, you can see if they will provide you references. My SIL has had several interested people to the house (esp the first year, when there weren't so many kids) to see the construction/build quality.

She also heard, anecdotally from the inspector (county building inspector, maybe L&I inspector? not sure--"the inspector") that their house was of better build quality than another building in the area.

That all said, there was a LOT of work they had to do for that inexpensive price (grading, septic, painting, etc). And, there were some very obvious over-upcharges for basic things... you want white doors and trim? At that time, it was a HUGE charge and my B figured out he could replace all the doors and trim himself later down the road, if they really hated the basic, for less... (They've just kept the basic).

And, while they are "semi-custom", they are not custom. And, you really can't stray far from their basic plans, if at all. My SIL did change some things because hers was one of their first builds in our area, the area rep did them. Some of her changes became the standard, others they don't even offer anymore.

So... would be happy to chat offline about that too.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:56PM
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icedC: Well, to get specific the builder I'm looking at is more in the range of $52 a sq ft, and that doesn't include land prep or any painting as well as any patio/driveway paving.

And anyway, that's what I'm asking. What, besides finishes will be different? Are they going to hire sloppy, incompetent workers? Are they using inferior construction methods or materials? When I walk into a high end home in my area I notice nicer windows, flooring, kitchens, etc. But the walls have the same organge peel as my tract house. And the plumbing seems to work the same, so what is the difference?

Holly: you must have had a bad experience with builders and their "upgrades" or at the very least heard horror stories. When I think back to the upgrades we paid for in our current home I recall it being about $10,000 and it included the following: travertine BS in the kitchen, GE profile appliances, upgraded carpet & pad, one additional room of laminate flooring, ceramic tile counters and tub/shower surround in the master bath, a blower for the fireplace, a NG hookup for the grill and a 220v hookup on the patio for a hot tub. Sure, it would have been cheaper to do some of those things without involving the builder, but I don't think it was so bad.

When I return from vacation at the end of the month I plan on stopping by one of these builders to find out what exactly it might cost. If the upgrades we desire seem exorbant I wonder about just upgrading the major things (windows, insulation, etc) and just going with the standard stuff. Then after inspection having flooring contractors and whomever replace the cosmetic things. Not sure if it would be any more cost effective that way.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 9:12PM
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They build with the least expensive material they can purchase that will meet code, not exceed it at all. Construction will be buy a large crew many new or fairly unskilled workers and the construction will be barely to code, not a chance of an extra nail or joist hanger. The subs (if not employees) will have given them the lowest price imaginable in order to get the work, they will be looking to make money by doing volume which means time is money.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 7:53AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I retired from the industry. I've seen all of the tricks. These types of builds are the worst at giving you those limited "options" at "suggested retail value" that no one ever pays. Anything you DO want is charged to you at that "full retail value" and you don't get credit for the piddling amount of the original crappy choice.

Or, another analogy is the car lot advertising $ 8000 trucks. There is only one at that price, and it doesn't have an automatic transmission, or power steering, or radio, or a carpeted inteior, or floormats. With trucks, you don't even get a rear bumper. Not even a DOT required bumper! When you tell the salesman that you can't drive a stick and want something with AC, all of a sudden you are going to be paying for all of the other standard features that they consider "upgrades". And you're buying a 21,000 truck by the time you add in those floormats and the bumper and a radio. You haven't even gotten leather seats or a more powerful engine! Then, after you're resigned to paying 21K because you actually need all of those basics that are termed upgrades, you go to sign, and you're signing for 27K because all of the taxes and tags and non optional dealer undercoating and prep fees are on top of the price of the car, and that wasn't really a bottom line price at all. And NO ONE EVER buys the 8K car! It ends up being wholesaled at some point and ends up as a parts runner or construction labor hauler.

$38 a square foot is total BS for anything that isn't mobile home level. Better plan on putting a 1 in front of that if you want to have real world building costs.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 9:12AM
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"Some of them even advertise something like $38 per square foot"

Look for low allowances on everything, ad large charges for changes (including blowing through the allowances).

One of the ones in northern Virginia advertised a spec house at around $250,000.

Omitting the cost of the land it was on.

If the builder is as sleazy as his RE person (not much of a stretch) they are both bad news all the way around.

When you clearly demonstrate you are sleazy, it sort of splatters on whomever you are working for.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:01PM
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I suspect your truck-upgrade analogy is the truth, and we can all relate to it.

Or, to give another one, a theme park near us once offered free passes on your birthday. Great! The birthday boy's ticket is free . . . but the other four members of the family must pay $50 each. Then you have to pay $10 to park the car, and you're going to pay about $12/each for lunch in the park. Don't neglect a couple drinks and popcorn or ice cream cones throughout the day, a souvenier photograph, some arcade games. You pay $15 for a bottle of sunscreen because you forgot to bring it from home. By the time you're done -- even if you said no when the kids asked for tee-shirts, that "free birthday trip" cost the family over $250.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:48PM
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Wanted to mention that, while $38/sf is absurd, responsible builders around here can build very nice houses for $90-100/sf. I've been in several ranging from $150k to $300k, and have been impressed by the attention to detail and features. There is a difference between the builders employing bait and switch (the one posted above offers granite upgrades for a $75/sf as a STARTING POINT) and builders who build inexpensive houses using volume and economy of scale. My house is costing about $93/sf. Included in that price is about $30k of upgrades, none of which were necessary but all of which were priced very reasonably. I could have bought the house exactly as advertised and still have had a very decent house. And as I've said before, the builders I've talked to had no problems at all making significant changes to the plans. So while you should definitely avoid someone who says they can build a $38/sf house (I agree that you could barely get garage space for that), don't assume that builders with stock plans and below-average prices are shady.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 9:57AM
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Olive, I think it would be worth looking into. Since you already have experience in building a tract house, you would probably would be able to recognize the quality or lack thereof.

I would also like to know up front how upgraded the upgrades really are. I wouldn't wait until well into the build to find out my lighting upgrades were not what I wanted. Then I would price those thing out independently and find out the going rate. I do think the stone veneer is high. We can get a pallet of real stone that covers 150 sq. ft. For $210 delivered. I won't be paying anywhere near $35/sq ft for installation. At that price, it might be worth learning dyi!

Other things to check would be the quality of the kitchen thick the shelves are, the type of material they are, etc., gauge of kitchen sink. In other words, get a line by line total. But with your budget, I don't think you need to go that route.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:39AM
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This is an old thread but I wanted to reactivate it because I came across it when trying to research Hiline, one of the on the lot builders you guys are talking about. They offer a super cheap per square foot price. When we add in all the things that we need to cover (excavation, drainage, exterior electrical, painting, etc) our all in cost per square foot (excluding the property price) is about $85. This is a really good price compared to the two builders we talked to. It seems like the materials Hiline is using are pretty good. Before we decided to build with them I called some recent customers of theirs and the feedback was pretty good. So we are moving forward with Hiline. Because there is so little current info on at least this on-the-lot builder I'm blogging about the process so others will know where the surprises are. The link is below

Here is a link that might be useful: My HiLine Home Blog

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 3:12PM
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After upgrading from cabinets made of glued sawdust and windows make of plastic it won't be such a cheap house. Why not start where you want to end up?

7/16 OSB roof sheathing meets the building code but it is a poor substrate for nails.n And an attic full of trusses is a waste of covered space.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 5:33PM
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I can't speak to the details of Renovator8 in terms of the attic full of trusses because I don't really know what that means but the cabinets and windows that are supposed to be going into our house actually seem nice. Hiline is a vertical company so I think they make their own cabinets which is why they are cheaper. I have touched and seen them and they seem as good a quality as the cabinets in my 1970's custom home. And the windows are Jeld-wen installed by Jeld-wen technicians so they have the full Jeld-wen warranty.

I do think that given the amazing price that the materials somewhere won't be as nice, I'm just not sure where yet. It's not the obvious things.

Well that's not totally true. The flooring and countertops are vinyl. That's definitely not as nice as slate/wood and granite but it really doesn't look that bad. I'm willing to stick with that for now and then upgrade it myself down the road if I end up not liking it. but it's a known factor. I haven't figured out where the surprises will be yet.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 8:02PM
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I haven't figured out where the surprises will be yet.

One place will be in the energy efficiency of the home. The insulation, air tightness, HVAC systems etc. Focusing on just the things you see does not give you the complete story.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2014 at 8:37PM
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I think it depends on where you live too. Our builder is semi-custom, and while we've had some frustrations with them, all of the upgrades so far have been quite reasonable. So much that we did more upgrades with them than we thought we would, and if we'd stayed at the base grade, it still would have been a decent house. $55 a square foot which includes driveway, standard excavation, lot clean up, all that. Even septic. Really research to make sure you know all the pros and cons. One major con for us we didn't realize is even though we had a lot of choices, we had to use their vender. I was unhappy with their cabinet vender and was unable to go elsewhere. On the other hand, they came out to our lot and quoted us $1500 for additional grading/tree removal. It ended up being significantly more work, with over 40 pine trees needing to be removed and major grading. Because they had quoted us the $1500, they didn't charge us the extra cost, which was over $6000. We had "allowance" in the contract, so they could have. With significant upgrades, including window, insulation, and HVAC improvements, we are about $75 a square ft. Which is total under roof.

I always get confused whether it should be under air or under roof, since once you go to sell, doesn't the square footage price change to under air only?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 12:21PM
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This thread appears to have died but I posted a few posts back about buying a Hiline home. Someone said I'd fine a surprise in the energy efficiency of the home. My home will be completed next week and part of the inspection process is measuring the moisture control and energy efficiency and my home easily passed both requirements. In fact the moisture control measurement was 10 points below where it needed to be (I'm forgetting the exact numbers now) but this was doubly impressive because it was tested in the middle of winter during a rain storm.

For me, so far, the surprise has been how much work it is to essentially be the contractor on your own home. I thought there would be more handholding then there was since I'm just a regular joe and don't know anything about permits and city ordinances. Or at least I didn't, I do now! :)

For us, in the end, it will be worth it. We saved $50K by essentially being our own project manager for everything outside of the house. I did enjoy learning some of the stuff I did. I definitely feel more connected to my community as I know everyone in the permit office.

Our final costs for building the house will be about $104/sq ft. That includes Hiline's costs, the excavation, property line surveying port-a-potty services, flooring upgrades, temp utility services, all permits, water and sewer hookups (that was a big expense), Getting power installed to our property from the city, concrete driveway/patios/walkways/porches, paint (we painted ourselves), appliances for the kitchen, landscaping and flooring upgrades.

The cost per square foot did not include any loan, appraisal, title company fees, refinance fees for the final loan (we started on a build loan), taxes or our land.

For more details on my experience you can go here:

Or feel free to ping me for more details.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2015 at 9:38PM
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We are nearing completion of our ≤800 sq.ft. cabin/cottage, aka The Cabbage. We have several journeyman builders and finish carpenters in the family, but no licensed contractors, so after a great deal of research, we contracted with Adair Homes to build the structure, with plans to utilize our family resources for achieving the home we want and to double-check quality along the way. Our research told us that this company builds a solid, well-constructed home, but that their finishes tend to be a bit tacky. Unlike many of the on-your-lot floorplans, ours is a very simple, open plan with plentiful windows that suits us well. Instead of paying ridiculous amounts for their upgrades, we will add bamboo floors, a woodstove, craftsman-style (not fake builder grade pseudo-craftsman) window and door casements, multi-light glass front door, 5 panel interior doors and clawfoot tub scored off of Craigslist, hand-laid slate tile backsplash and hearth pad, and other details that fit into our budget thanks to the family rate and my tenaciousness at scouring the Restore, Craigslist and other such reources.

Construction to-date has met with the approval of our harshest critics, several of whom were shocked by the quality. I don't love having vinyl windows, but they are Jeld-wen prairie style that are very nice quality.

The downsize is that which comes with building any very small home -- site prep and most permits cost just as much for a small house as for a McMansion, so price per square foot suffers a bit. This is our choice of house size, and it is on our beautiful ≤4 acres backing up to forest wilderness.

We live onsite in an ancient mobile home, so I am able to keep a close eye on all details and am not afraid to demand correction where needed. Because Adair works with a number of subcontractors, I've made a point of talking with all of the workers so that they know us as people, not some unknown quantity. We've also kept a steady supply of homemade chocolate chip cookies, which have made us quite popular amongst the trades.

I've had arguments with our construction supervisor, as I think he is used to young homeowners who simply do as they are told and take his word for everything, but we have worked through the issues to a solid working relationship. They did screw up by putting the meter on the house instead of the existing pole, necessitating additional trenching to avoid PUD charges, but the rest has been good.

We were determined to get the house we want for the price we could afford, and we are getting it. While we have resources not everyone has, I am satisfied with the workmanship and administrative oversight provided. These companies have channged quite a bit in recent years to survive. For others considering a OYL builder, I would say do your research, compare real costs at every stage, and consider not having them do upgrades.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2015 at 6:48AM
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