Where to scale back on dream home?

mattypiesMay 23, 2014

I am in negotiation phase with my builder for my forever dream home. It has come in @ $60,000 over my budget. This include my absolute wish list. My husband and I are not overly handy.

The home will be on a lake and I am feeling that we should probably complete the outside to our dream level, including things like stone and bents. Where would you scale back if you really had to? What could you easily add down the road?

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Do you have landscape, hardscape, home theater systems etc., external elevation materials, basement finished partial or full?
I would focus on these areas. It would be hard to tell unless you provide the specifics.

Is there a complete price break-up , use that as your guiding tool.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:50AM
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I have also heard from our builder that with most custom builders there is a 10% markup added to each item quoted.
We will be in a similar stage soon, let us know how you proceed.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:05AM
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Sophie Wheeler

The budget is the first thing to go. Especially if you aren't handy. Up your budget. Then ditch the luxury finishes that you could hire done later. Put in cheap carpet everywhere. Wood is easy to add later. Put in laminate counters. Stone is easily added later. Do smaller square footage that will be less to heat and clean for the life of the home. Home offices are overdone. Master baths larger than secondary bedrooms are wasted space. Lots of opportunity to cut wasted space in an average home plan.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:09AM
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Post your plan here I'm sure you will get suggestions. I agree with Holly on home offices and master baths. Make them functional and nice but not lavish.

What are bents?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 9:18AM
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Yes, some plans and or elevations would help. Also some financial perspective - are your $60k over budget on a million dollar build? Or a $100k build?

At this point to you have any budget for cost overruns? Site work in particular has a tendency to have hidden surprises.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 10:06AM
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We had the same issue - about 80k over budget. We are still tweaking our plan, but so far we eliminated a dining room and slightly increased the breakfast room so that it could fit a large enough table to seat 8. We also decreased the size of the game room.

We made the kids bathroom more economical with a fiberglass tub. When the girls get older they can help pick out tile to update the look.

My husband is on the handy side (not me! ha!), so he is going to do most of landscaping. We're only going to have a sub do the irrigation system.

Good luck and let us know what changes you make! I'm sure we'll need some more pointers too!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 11:37AM
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I will attach a link to a very similar home. The square footage is only 1587 so not huge. The engineered slab is priced at $22,000 because of the lake property.

The build is priced at $518,000. This does not include any landscaping at all nor does it include the price of land. The house will have a full walkout to the lake but we have already decided that the basement will not be finished.

Our builder has pricing packages of bronze, silver and gold. This is priced at the gold level. I have already opted out of granite and want white shaker cabinets but I don't want to scrimp on cabinets and drawers.

The upgrades in the gold package are things like trim, doors, fixtures, tile showers, faucets, handles, vanities. Carpet in the bedrooms, tile in bathrooms and hardwood throughout main living area. I know these are things I can change down the road but I have already given up painted pine ceilings and interiors bents at a $30,000 savings. This is a luxury home and I can't figure how things like trim and fixtures and counter tops will impact the final outcome.

I could save $40,000 by selecting the silver package. Carpet and linoleum, cheaper doors, fixtures, trim etc.

Exterior stone veneer around the entire 1/3 of the house is quoted at $22,000. I would like the stone fireplace, exterior chimney and bottom stone to match. Is it best to do stone now or is this somewhere I could save money?

Thanks for all the feedback.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Where are you building? That quote seems crazy high for such a small house!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 1:58PM
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I thought I had seen this house before, so I found your previous thread (linked below).

First question - if you've decided to not finish the basement, where will your son sleep?

The build is about $325 per sf, plus land plus foundation. Can the neighborhood support the price? You say you will never sell or move. But sometimes life happens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mattypies thread with plan

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 2:21PM
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It's not in a neighborhood! On a northern lake and the area will definitely support the price. My sons room will be finished downstairs but he will have to wait on the rest :(.

What is a reasonable price per square foot? That price does include the walkout (walls, 13 windows, doors). Just not finished interior. I agree that it seems ridiculous

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 4:40PM
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$200 per sq ft will buy you a very nice custom home in the Midwest.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 4:47PM
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robo (z6a)

I'm wondering if there is another stick builder you could get approximate prices from? It seems high even for your area unless there are major issues like building on an island or something.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 10:43PM
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I would prioritize, starting with what you really want and feel you must have in your dream house...then what you can replace later without too much expense.

You'll probably end up cutting things eventually, depending on budget constraints, but for now...I would keep some character to the house. The outside features can really give the house character and may be difficult to replace, down the road. As Holly said, interior changes (such as counter tops and adding trim, built-ins etc.) might be something to wait on now and add later.

Depending on your landscape and ease of access to exterior features, you may want those done first. And don't forget that porches and decks are going to be great for the lake! :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 10:53PM
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I would not work with a builder that made me choose between different levels. You should be able to make individual choices. Such as good quality cabinets but lower cost laminate counters.

How many other builders have you talked to?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:18AM
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Does the land have a builder tie-in? If so, he's got you over a barrel. In that price range per square foot you should be able to make fully custom choices, IMHO. Not this levels stuff. This builder is making a lot of money, and intends to, if he has you over a barrel.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:42AM
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Light fixtures are easy to change later. Those at $10 each will illuminate as well as those at $300 each. A little saving here, a little there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Everett Dirksen

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 4:31PM
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These numbers just don't work out: It's a small house, so you probably can't cut out any square footage. I don't like the idea of "planned obsolescence", meaning build something with the idea of throwing it away and replacing it. I would consider leaving off a portion of the house to build later (i.e., add a garage later, finish the basement later), but I personally would not install carpet or countertops with the intention of throwing them into the dumpster in 4-5 years. That'll cost more in the long run.

I also would not toss out the budget. There's no joy in living in a house that you can't afford -- no one wants to be house poor.

Whatever's budgeted, you know it's going to end up costing more. And by the time you buy the lakefront property and finish the basement, you're going to have a million dollar house.


- Get bids from other builders to see if the price can be brought down.
- Save and wait 'til you have more in down payment so you can afford what you really want.
- Build in a less expensive, non-water location; if you save on land, you'll have more money for the house.
- The house link you attached shows a luxury house finished to a high degree: Vaulted ceilings with fancy timber arches, huge, beautiful windows. You could cut out some of these finishes, but personally I think that would be eliminating the things that drew you to the house. If it comes to that, I'd go with a different plant altogether.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 6:07PM
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That price is insane for that size house!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 7:14PM
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A custom builder with packages is odd, this is not custom.

$300 is the price I'm looking at, but it is a three story home at the beach, this creates expensive problems.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 8:45PM
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I think the location is playing a huge part here. "Northern Ontario" (from the other thread) is a vast area, most of it inaccessible by car. This build could be within the limits of a small city (North Bay? Kenora?), or it could be a 3 hour boat trip from the closest town with a name.

And that could also be limiting the options.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 12:54AM
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I realize this isn't a helpful answer and it's already been suggested - but this builder needs competition in a bad way. If you are not already required to use this builder, get bids from others if at all possible. As someone before stated, the "levels" concept is not your friend. You should be able, at that price point, to choose some finishes that are less expensive and some that are more expensive to suite your taste and budget.

If you are required to use this builder for some reason, I would recommend you pull up your bootstraps and start negotiating with him to see what HE can do to help you stay on budget without sacrificing build quality. Be assertive, be firm, and be fair - but lobby for what you want. Maybe you can convince him to do away with the "levels" for your build. Tell him to include landscaping. I'm not sure if it was you or the builder who designated it as a "luxury home" but in my area, the gold level you mentioned would barely scratch the surface of the "luxury home" definition. If the builder is advertising this as a "luxury home", and if you are paying "luxury home" pricing per square foot, he should provide it. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 3:04AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Scrap the dream. Go with reality. Buy something existing for less money and live there for enough time to save more money for the project.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 8:24AM
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I just spent some time reading on your builders site.
First, you're building in an area within hailing distance of Sudbury since that's where your builder is? Which puts you in the vicinity of the North Channel? Gorgeous gorgeous country up there!
So you're remote but you are not in the back of beyond. Transport costs will be somewhat higher, and you're quoting Canadian pricing. Certainly, if you were on the Michigan side of Lake Huron up there you'd be paying less than 1/2, but you're not so that's a non-starter.
In going through your builders website it looks as if you are not tied into packages. They may have bundled packages to make the process easier for folks who don't want to do all the work of choosing each and every thing, but according to their website you can choose any and all of your finishes and you can use their plans or yours. They are not the developers, so you are also not tied to them in order to build on your land, so If there are other builders you like you could certainly get other quotes.

My first inclination, if you really like what they're building up there, is to make an appt with them and sit down with your budget with them and negotiate. It's not a large home, so I would think that cutting out sq footage is not an option.
Have you been in the model that you're considering? The pics make the space look HUGE, but it's got to be camera angles, because in a 1500 sq ft home you can't have a great room that is 20x30.
Everyone's priorities are different, but if it were me, I'd compromise on some materials to keep the overall feel and dimensions of the place. That painted paneled ceiling is something you can't go back in and do later, and it's waht makes that room. Whereas Carpet is a lot less expensive than hardwoods - especially considering that you have to add rugs to hardwood floors. Where you are carpet has the advantage of being warmer on the feet too.
As someone who is building now, I can tell you that finishes, faucets, countertop materials etc certainly can make a huge difference in your budget. 3 part crown moulding is more than 3x's the cost of 1 pc crown. Here a Perrin & Rohl faucet is $1250, a Mirabelle faucet for the kitchen sink is $250.

Sit down with your builder and go through the options line by line. Find out what you can supply. It looks like you have the option of supplying a lot. You can buy overstocks and closeouts on lighting, fixtures, cabinet hardware, etc. and supply it to them to put in and probably save a bundle. (but you may have to cross the border to get some of it shipped to you).
Carol who is on this board as Ontario(something) is doing a complete renovation on a home near Toronto and I believe she's going across the border for some of her materials.

Good luck. I Hope you keep up posted on your build as you get into it.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 8:26AM
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The price quoted was mistakenly the price with tax, 13% in Ontario. I love the idea of the package levels. Here's how i look at it; most builders quote on builder grade everything and you upgrade based on your selections. I want my quote to be fairly exact, not much in the upgrade department. His levels explicitly describe what custom level you are interested in. However, if you choose a faucet that is less than the one in the package your are credited the difference. No different than if you upgrade the builder level faucet you pay more. By quoting at the gold level the chance of price overruns on the kitchen for example are negligible. I do not want to go into this build unrealistically. I can get the paper quote to look any way I want but that is not very realistic.

That said, I had a walk through of a home built to his silver level package yesterday and it was stunning! It was so great to see the trim, counters, doors etc in action and they were all beautiful. I think if I went with this package I would only need to upgrade the floors. We have also decided to exclude the painted pine ceiling. I am at approx $240 per square foot right now.

We have talked with 2 other builders and their quotes are very similar but without the experience building this type of home. The builder is great and more than willing to work with me on this.

The land is quite accessible and is no negotiable. We have lived here for 17 years and family for 20 before that. I would never build this type of house unless it was on the lake. It fits our property so beautifully!

I really appreciate the suggestions of scaling back on counter tops, fixtures etc. it really prompted me to look at a home with these things and I love it. I think I spent a little too much time viewing all the stunning quartz kitchens on garden web and I thought I needed one too!

I am getting closer to a realistic budget and I appreciate the help.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Some of the replies are so not helpful. "Scram the dream". I can afford it I am choosing a budget. I never said I couldn't get financed. I said it is over budget. I am not financing this I am paying for it. Some of the assumptions are ridiculous. I will not be house poor.

Just an FYI. The house linked is not exactly the house, just similar. We are not using that builder nor are we near Sudbury. But the compare i regular home in a neighborhood here that is cookie cutter costs approx $300 the $350 thousand.

My builder is working with me on negotiations. I never once said he was unreasonable or hard to work with. That was the initial bid I asked for with every bell and whistle. We are working through it line by line. I simply wanted to know what things people felt they would scale back on and I received some great thoughts.

Mlweaving's post was helpful. Some others not so much.

To reemphasize. We own the land. Paid for. Own it. Not moving.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 10:42AM
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Mattypies - no need to get all defensive. Your original post pretty much only said your were $60k over budget, and that you and DH were not handy. With no other information, people were left to make assumptions which turned out to be wrong. If you had given us all the information from your last 2 posts in your original post, maybe you would have gotten more helpful replies. So you need to take responsibility for the bulk of the unhelpful replies. Give us crap for information, you're going to get crap for replies.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 1:06PM
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Mattypies - I'm with Pixie Lou.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 2:06PM
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Double post

This post was edited by mattypies on Sun, May 25, 14 at 15:17

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 2:49PM
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But pixie Lou your post was helpful.

Might I suggest that questions are asked before making assumption. I am new to this whole experience, i am not aware that packages are not the norm or that people can be house poor.

The scrap your dream comment and over $60,000 did offend me and I know I shouldn't get offended by what someone says on the internet! My bad.

I have learned so much already and even more since I posted this thread. The suggestions did point me in the right direction. I think maybe I am working backwards to the way most people attack a project like this.

I have gotten great feed back on my plan and now on dialing back the budget.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 3:15PM
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You presented yourself as a person trying to build a house she couldn't afford -- and you received advice appropriate for the information provided. No one here is a mind reader. Instead of being thin-skinned, why not correct the misconceptions and move on with your questions?

By the way, I do understand where you're coming from now, and I'm actually in a similar situation: I have cash with which to build my house, and I could afford to build an overblown house that would be expensive to build and expensive to maintain; however, that's not what I want: I want to build a modest house under 2000 sf that'll be easy/cheap to maintain and will allow us to age-in-place comfortably. I am building because I want certain luxury details that aren't typically found in 2000 sf houses. I already own the land, and although I can afford to pay, I expect good value for the dollar and want to maintain my money for my many other priorities: My children and future grandchildren, travel, and hobbies. Therefore, I want to keep the build around 200K, which is realistic in my low cost of living area.

See how a little explanation makes a person's real situation more clear?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 9:13AM
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and moving on....

keep your $$ in things you don't see that
make the home comfortable & affordable to
live in ...now & in the future.

invest in better than code.
insulation package
air seal of house, mastic seal of ductwork
efficient hvac system
energy star mechanicals that consume energy 24/7
like water heater & refrig freezers.

late you can add fancier countertops, floors
and crown moldings.

things like insulation, ductwork, even hvac install
will never be as easy to upgrade now ... in the building process.
invest in load calcs for hvac system
size the unit, design & size ductwork..
invest in comfort & affordability.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 9:54AM
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Sophie Wheeler

I suggest you address your commuication skills. Builders aren't mind readers any more than anyone in this forum. That's a critical skill that will be well tested during your project. If yoyu think you've over explained a situation, you're amost at the point of sharing enough information.

Also address your over sensitivity. Building a home is a difficult emotional experience even for the smoothest build. Being able to keep things from becoming overwrought will make things easier for all concerned. Compound those two issues together and the entire experience is likely to be a miserable one for you. Learn to take a deep breath, take a walk, and sleep on it if you have to. Whatever it takes for you to settle yourself and communicate calmly. If you can't manage to do that, then have someone else be the designated contact point and decision maker on the build and you shift to another role that is less directly involved.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 9:55AM
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I think your build sounds like it will be great for you, and the land will make it even more so. Context and tone can be lost and misinterpreted on the web.
I would not be afraid to do laminate counters, as it is easy to upgrade later. Crown molding also easier to do later. We are even doing vinyl floors in the main living areas right now, and then putting in wood floors in a year or two when our budget recovers. Although, if you are happy with the silver package finishes, it sounds like this builder is now within your price range? If so, have fun and enjoy the process.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 10:45PM
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