It all starts with land

hapnorMay 8, 2013

We are in the infancy of the building stages and it has started with buying a 10 acre parcel of land outright. In the past, we have always bought resale houses and now when we are living in a tract home (we got to pick out our selections in a conference room); we are at a disadvantage when it comes to having all if not most of the control when designing and building a home.

So we went ‘interneting’ and looked for house plans to give us an idea of what we like. We found what we think is a good plan for us. Us meaning couple who are planning to have a family in the near future, one person works from home full time. All family lives thousands of miles away and will visit from time to time. We wanted to have a first floor guest room for that. An outdoor living space is a must and we would like to have a pool built when the home is being built.

Below is the home plan we like. Any comments or critiques? Also, is it a good idea or not to have the pool built at the same time as home construction?

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This is a very expensive home -- lots of jogs around the perimeter, angles and curves, large square footage -- as a young couple about to start a family, is this realistic for you?

It's also going to require a great deal of upkeep -- again, with the addition of a new baby, is that realistic?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:23AM
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This is a nice and appealing (albeit stock) design, with character reminiscent of some of the old upstate New York estates. Unfortunately, like so many stock plans it loses authenticity when it ignores all of the gabled roof forms and throws a bulky hip roof over the major portion of the house. This is always the kind of thing that happens with a preoccupation with the development of the floor plan at the expense of the exterior massing and historical elements.

For two people, this house is simply mega overkill! Two people could easily spend their entire life happily on the first floor only. Not only is the house huge, but it is very--VERY--costly to build with all of the various ramblings here and there. Did I mention the curvilinear stair expense?

If construction budget is not an issue and if weekly housecleaning and organization are going to be provided by others this should be an interesting house in which to live, and to see how much of it is actually used on a daily basis by each of the two occupants.

As to the swimming pool, if you are going to use it regularly, why not build it at the same time as the house? By the way, to properly build this house with the quality and detailing suggested by the illustrations will take at least 12 months. Anything else is construction by chain-saw!

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:30AM
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Hi MrsPete,
Thanks for your reply.
It would be under 4000 square feet. We are thinking anywhere from $140 to $165 per square foot depending on how crazy we could go with materials. We are in 3500 square feet now and it is very manageable.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:34AM
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I find it difficult to believe that this house and garage are going to be under 4,000 gross SF. If that's what the stock plan material says, it likely does not include the garage and overhead bonus space in the "habitable or conditioned space" area calculation.

That said, it's your project, life style and budget. If it works for you, go for it! The old motto, "Do what works for you" is still a good one.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:03AM
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We have to start somewhere. I want to get my feet wet before going to an architect. Research research research.

I do see that squares are easier and cheaper than angles and circles, but what fun is a box?

The rounded protuberance could be designed square and thus the staircase could be adjusted.

The upstairs optional rooms could be just roughed in and thus a lower build cost.

We don’t have to use all stone thus a lower build cost.

I see concessions and compromise in most any situation.

I do appreciate the responses so far they seem to come from experience.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:07AM
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$140 to $165???? More like $240-$265. People aren't kidding when they say this is an EXPENSIVE home to build.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:35AM
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I agree that it will probably be far more than $140 to $165. I live in a much lower cost-of-living area and am building a far simpler house -- our budget is coming it in at about $120 per square foot.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 10:08AM
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What are some things you are seeing that will inflate the cost of the build? Is it strictly the footprint that will increase framing and labor costs? Materials used is such a sliding scale.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Yes, I would like some of the posters to chime in more specifically about the construction costs of this home. Price by square footage is the worst method for estimating home construction.

I also believe the cost of building a home like this will greatly vary depending on location. I could see this house being built (maybe without the pool) in Ohio for around $165-$170 a sq ft (which includes upgrades).

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:10AM
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I agree that everyone needs to start with a design plan from somewhere. Framing this house (engineered trusses) will be very costly and will be one of your largest expenses. Having just completed construction on our new custom home, I also don't think you will be able to stay under $200 per sq. ft without major downsizing and modifications. That garage alone will cost you 100k and the pool/patio another 60-100k. Yes the footprint is very large and will inflate the cost significantly. It is far cheaper to build up than out. You can also keep costs down by going with less expensive materials but labor will still remain rather consistent. On top of that, plan to spend another 15% (at least) out of pocket for overages. This is inevitable. Good luck with the house!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:14AM
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This will be well over $200 sq ft to build in most areas. You are naive to think otherwise. You have a lot of jogs to the exterior perimeter, curves, multiple/complicated roofline, angled garage, integrated patio and pool area. No way can you get this done for $165.

You also may not be allowed to leave areas unfinished or "framed only". Your municipality, local rules and regs will dictate that to you. At minimum, any areas left unfinished will require fire doors, and maybe even a "locked" exterior type door, if they let you do it at all.

You have much more research to do. I suggest, before you get specific comments on this plan (or any plan you think you will build), you actually find out if you can build it. Take it to your builder and ask for a good ball-park. Then add 30%.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:22AM
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It's a complicated house to build-- that's why it's going to be expensive-- it will take more time to build. And if you could get down to the price range you're looking at the materials would be all builder grade. It's not a question of stepping down from marble to ceramic tile.

FWIW, I think the layout is more appropriate for a couple with older teens who is thinking ahead to an empty nest than for a young couple anticipating a family. Having little kids' bedrooms so far from the master is not ideal, IMO.

The circular tower and stone are a big part of the charm of this design, IMO. If you remove them, do you really like the rest of the floor plan and elevation all that much?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:28AM
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I completely agree that "you have to start somewhere", and research, research, research should be Step One.

However, I have to chime in with those who say that this is not a 4000 sf house. It may be 4000 sf of heated space, but all that unheated space costs to build too! I also agree that this is a complicated build, and even if you choose modestly priced materials, it's going to cost you upward of $200 per sf. Depending upon where you live, this house could easily be over a million.

You asked what specifics would make this house expensive. Four things stand out as MOST expensive in this build:

- The complicated exterior shape. You say that a box is no fun, and I don't think many people want literally a four-sided house . . . but there are degrees in between. This house seems to have bump-outs just for the sake of bump-outs.

- The roofline that would be required to house this floorplan would be very complicated, and a complicated roof is an expensive roof.

- The curved staircase. They say that anything in a build that's round is in the shape of a dollar sign for a good reason. Curves in anything -- cabinets, stairs, etc. require the skills of a master craftsman, and they don't work cheaply. This is, of course, a centerpiece of the house's character, but I can easily imagine it costing more than my first little starter house.

- The square footage is large. A bonus room, a media room, a game room, a compuer room, and an office as "extras" beyond the basic rooms. Do you have plans for each of these? While square footage alone does not determine cost, this house is about 3-4 Xs the size of the average American house, and that's not going to be cheap. Remember, it's not just building it: It's also insuring it, maintaining it, and paying the taxes. Square footage keeps on costing.

Note, too, that plans typically do not include "bonus rooms" and "optional rooms" in the square footage. So, my question is, Just what's included in the projected 4000 square feet?

Those four are the above-and-beyond big ticket items, but these things will also drive the cost up well beyond that of an average house:

- The exterior space in this house is expansive: A breezeway, a lanai, three covered porches, an inground pool and spa with surrounding decking. That's about half as much space as the interior of the house. Exterior space tends to run 1/4-1/2 as much as interior space -- a simple deck being low-end, a covered porch running high end.

- Stone exterior. This is an expensive, luxury item. You say you're willing to use moderate materials, but the materials are what makes this house appealing. If you cut them out, you're changing the character.

- Angled walls, such as the ones in the breakfast nook and the master suite, are expensive.

- The room sizes are not designed with standard building materials in mind. Most materials come in sizes divisible by 4'. Look at your living room: It's 20-2 . . . so the workers will use five sheets of plywood or sheet rock . . . then cut another sheet for the sake of two inches. Expensive!

- The plumbing is spread from one end of the house to the other. Plumbing is expensive, and it's much less expensive to plan a house that keeps it located in one central location (i.e., the kitchen and the master bath "share a wall", and the upstairs bath is directly above them). This keeps your costs down AND it minimizes the possibility of of leaks and expensive repairs in the future.

- French doors are more expensive than you'd expect.

- The bank of windows in a box bay in the dining room will be expensive.

- The oversized garage will be expensive, though given that it's not directly connected to the house, the angle won't cost as much as it would've if it were attached.

- Two baths upstairs for two bedrooms is an expensive item. A typical bath (and these do not appear to be fancy) averages 30K. And you're looking at two of these for children who don't yet exist.

Before you plan to rough-in the upstairs rooms and finish them later, do ask your lender if that's going to be acceptable. Usually lenders will not loan on a half-finished house, but omitting these rooms would not really mean a half-finished house. More like a house with space for expansion. However, unless you're going to DIY it later, it won't be for a lower cost.

You're guessing $140-165 per square foot. That'd mean $560,000-660,000. No way. This house, even with the land already paid, will probably be twice that amount.

Also, is your land build-ready? That is, do you have a driveway, electricity, and water ON the property? I'm investigating those things right now, and they are surprisingly expensive -- especially if you don't plan to build on the edge of your property.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:43PM
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Let's reverse this:

What makes that house plan IDEAL for you? Besides that it is not a 'box'?

How does it fulfill your current and future needs?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 1:02PM
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Excellent question, LazyGardens!

I know that we messed around with this and that plan . . . and they had their plusses and minuses, but when we drew

- our ideal living room
- our ideal kitchen and dining room
- our ideal mater bedroom

In short, all the things that comprise our ideal first-floor (because we're building a retirement house).

Then we thought about our land, and we placed the garage to the North, the least desirable location.

We then placed the living room, which we wanted to have nice light and windows on two sides, to the East and South.

And the kitchen /dining and master bedroom slipped in nicely with only a few alterations. With the major items in place, we had no trouble slipping in a necessary back hallway, a pantry/laundry, and a foyer.

And we found that we had "our house". Just what we'd wanted, and things fit in nicely.

But, yes, the key -- for us -- was asking what we really wanted in each main space.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 1:53PM
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Here are things that are ideal:
-a home office as one person works out of a home office
-guest floor main level (older parents)
-outdoor living that is incorporated into the home design (patio and pool)
-U shaped kitchen with rectangular center island
-breakfast room and dining room

We live in 3500 square feet for the two of us now and it feels right for living and working.

We have searched for plans that incorporate these items and it seems that the one we started with is most ideal.

Thanks everyone for your input.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 2:24PM
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$30,000 for a small kids bathroom? Really? That seems awfully steep to me. My brother just renovated his entire house with 3 full tiled and decked out bathrooms, a lovely kitchen, all hardwood floors and a ton of built ins/millwork for less than $50,000. In California! It turned out beautifully. And he did not DIY. I'm not saying the OP didn't post an expensive house... but I don't think its the 2 kids baths that are the big issue. Unless they have all girls or all boys they will be really glad to have 2 kids baths, believe me. ;)

Also: Why would the angled garage be so costly? If its not attached to the house its just a big box, right? $100k unfinished? Again. That would be much higher than the 3 car garage estimates I'm getting around here... even adding 30%. In fact that would be close to the entire framing budget for our 4000 sf house. Plus if its detached aren't the code requirements a little bit lower? You can always finish out a garage later... I don't think it would change the bank appraisal all that much one way or the other. Unless the attached breezeway carpentry would be the issue? I'm genuinely curious because of all the experience on the board.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Some of the experienced folks are saying this is a large, complex and expensive house to build (without considering the necessary site improvements and desired landscaping development.

Some of the less experienced folks are saying they don't think so and asking why the house should be so expensive.

The OP is saying they already live in a large house and the proposed larger plan feels right for them.

Take your pick. It's really about that simple. Not a whole lot more that can be added, except to repeat what has already been said.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:06PM
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I'm curious about the cost guesses too.

My reading of the comments about the garage was that one might be talking in the range of $100K because the picture does not merely show a box in which to park 3 cars, but a highly detailed building -- 10 windows (some of them arched), a porch, stairs and a bonus room (would that be conditioned?), with stone on the siding and a metal roof. If you take that all away and just build a box in which to park 3 cars, would this plan still be appealing?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:21PM
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Two quick comments...

My house I am building right now is a big square, so easy with the square comments ;p

Second. That is a gorgeous home and plan, if you do end up building it, I hope you blog so I can follow.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:34PM
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@virgilcarter I see what you are saying, and I don't doubt this is an expensive house to build. Can't there be a middle ground? I don't mean to hijack this thread... but your advice in so many other threads has been so helpful! Have you seen any other plans (as a starting point) that might be a good example of this style but easier to build?

The OP is also saying they would be willing to make some modifications to make it less costly. Yes they want a large home. How could they make this home (or any home with a first floor master and guest) more affordable to build? Is it simply changing the dimensions of each room and arranging the plumbing? Squaring up the bump outs? Only adding 1 shed dormer to the top of the garage to make later expansion easier? Is it really the foundation sf? All these little things add up and not all designers or architects consider costs in the way a builder would. So there might be more to add perhaps?

Oh, and I think one great thing about this plan is that the downstairs powder room is also the guest bath. The laundry area seems awfully small for a 4000 sf home though... that would drive me nuts.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:36PM
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I also would love to see a house like plan hapnor selected!

amtrucker22, you're not alone -- my house is going to be a rectangle and my garage will be a box in which to park 2 cars.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 3:46PM
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You guys are all great! Thank you.

No offense intended with the boxes are boring comment!

This is another one we liked. Is this example more efficient to build (more boxy)?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 4:42PM
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Building costs--and what you include in building costs--varies considerably. But I can't imagine anywhere that the design first posted is not a high-end house. (See MrsPete's enumeration.) Assuming you don't try to cheap out all the finishes. In which case, it will look absurd. In my neck of the backwoods, you'd be paying $280+++ per sf. (By law, builders and real estate salespeople here do not include the garage in the sf. calculation.)

One time I got stuck with an unsold 4,400 sf (plus finished basement) spec home. When I first moved in, the 50-foot long two-storey lobby made me feel like I was the only inhabitant of a hotel. (Think Jack Nicholson in The Shining.) But I adjusted. My next move was to a one-bedroom walkup apartment, which eventually felt like home too!

This post was edited by worthy on Wed, May 8, 13 at 17:43

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 4:44PM
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So Im going to add my $.02...

What I have learned from this website:
This is a great resource for good information and BAD information.
Everyone has their own opinion and lives in different parts of the US. While I agree that this is a very complex build, I wouldnt listen to many people when it comes to $ amounts. I live in Texas where things are cheap. Tract homes are built at $60/ft (not what they are sold for). You can have a very nice house with hand scraped hardwoods, custom cabinets, nice granite, etc for $100-105/ft. I think that it is realistic to build this house for $140-150/ft in this area but again, this is my OPINION based on where I live, not guessing where others may live.
People on this site who build tend to have expensive taste. Lots of people with $10k Viking/Wolf ranges, SubZero built in fridges, etc. They also spend $50k on a kitchen remodel. Two small and decent upstairs bathrooms someone above said $30k...that is insane in my opinion. We remodeled my fiance's parents upstairs bath (DIY) for $1200.

If you like it, just ask a builder to see what their estimated costs are. Just dont forget, to add at least 10% to their quote because overages always seem to happen.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:41PM
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I read the 30K /bathroom figure in a book. Was it one of the Not So Big House books? It wasn't yesterday, and I'm really not sure. The author said 30K is a ballpark figure and commented that a bathroom is approximately the same cost as a mid-priced car. Keep in mind that means building the bathroom and bringing in plumbing as well as just doing tile, etc.

Of course there's a middle ground for houses! However, I'd argue that THIS HOUSE doesn't have a middle ground. It's a design that either must be built with high-end materials . . . or else it must be a very different house.

The second plan is much less expensive to build: Less square footage, straight lines, consolidates most of the plumbing in one area, and a simple footprint. Still a large house, but it'd cost much less than the first house.

I'd make a couple comments on the second floorplan -- I have comments on everything:

- I'd flip-flop the whole master suite; I mean flip it front-to-back. Bring the closet to the front of the house, which would allow the master bedroom to have direct access to the backyard /pool.

- I think some of the windows are small in proportion to the rooms. For example, one piddly little window over the kitchen sink will look tiny in that large kitchen; it'd be nothing to make it a double window, but it'd net a big payoff. All rooms are more pleasant when they have windows on two walls; it'd be easy to do this to at least the downstairs guest bedroom -- maybe the upstairs bedrooms, but I'm not sure about the roofline, so I'm not sure about that.

- I'd probably do away with the vaulted ceilings in the study and the master bedroom. I could find other places I'd rather spend the money.

- Does the work-at-home spouse ever need to see clients? If so, it'd be easy to make an exterior door for the study.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Im not trying to bash anyones opinion as I have received some GREAT advice here. Being that we are all in different parts of the US, I found quotes amazing. While the book may have said it, I still stand by my opinion we cannot generalize prices. I recently saw a post in the kitchens area with a person who was quoted over $200/ft on coutertops. In Texas it would be $50-70/ft.

I know a local builder here in Texas and he says a concrete pad (post tensioned) and engineered is $5ish per square foot. PVC and Pex tubing is not very expensive to do rough plumbing.

I agree that nice finishes would complement the house but not a necessity.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 9:27PM
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I think Texas is EXTREMELY cheap to build in... Just saying.
I am not in Texas, and not in California, and not in Mass.
I did a gut remodel with a lot of my own work and own GCing and I was able to keep it under 70k for 500sq ft. It was an amazing feat and I was told it was not possible. The structure already existed. I had to work to keep the prices down.

So, TX is inexpensive, and you should be so happy to be able to build huge and live huge and not spend a fortune... As or me, I get to love my 2000sq ft house in suburbia that "costs way too much".

I stand by that the original house would be multi-million to build (not own) in many parts of the country, and the OP didn't say where they are.

The second house would be less expensive to build, for the reasons said by Mrs.Pete.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 10:39PM
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Where IS the OP in the country? That makes a HUGE difference.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:35PM
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We are in central North Carolina.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 7:32AM
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North Carolina is more expensive to build then TX and OH (two of the cheaper states to build custom homes in). Furthermore, when I make that comment I am talking about building in suburbs around the major cities in those states. I am not sure what it would cost in more rural areas in those states.

However, NC will be cheaper to build then the Northeast, Far west, and Northwest areas of the country.

I believe NC and FL are closer in building cost based on my own research and experience. With the FL comparison, I am comparing costs in both central and north FL to NC. South FL and the Miami area are a different animal in regards to building cost.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Two comments-- Seems a shame to waste the wonderful turret rooms on a staircase. I'd put the stairs elsewhere and have two lovely round rooms to play with (I've always loved turrets, my wife told me I absolutely couldn't put one on our craftsman style house.)

In MA, keeping things as simple as we could, scrounging materials, and doing much of the interior finish work myself we came in at something over $300/sf. A house with a turret, stone facade, and the slate roof to go with it could easily run $500+/sf. I can't imagine that the building costs vary that much by region

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 11:39AM
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Costs are always local.

But wherever the first-posted house is built, it's at the high end.

Though the detail is not in the pic, were this home built in my area, the turret and the roofs over the garage and left of the entry would be in copper. Figure $17K+. All homes in my area--as in most northern locales, are built with full basements. My quotes are accurate for where I am; it's what I do: build, reno and evaluate values for mortgage purposes.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 1:37PM
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Just for a little fun here are some Texas prices:

I ran across the builder a while back while going to model homes. While most of there houses are boxes they have some houses with turrets. The "Franklin" has a turret with staircase. Base price is $269,990 (this includes a small, but standard lot) for 3,085sqft. Add in $30k in upgrades and you are at $100/ft.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 9:10PM
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I agree w/ 8mpg! This is a great website for both good and bad info... I'm currently building a Garrell Associates home (Nantahala) and we're building for under $100sq/ft. And we're not sacrificing the look of the house to be at that price. It all depends on what the OP wants, and his location!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 11:55PM
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You'll really need to take your idea of a plan to some builders in your local area and see if it is realistic for your budget.

(And, I am jealous of all of you who can build top of the line finished beautiful, large houses for under $100/sq including land. My "land" (lot) is valued more than your finished 4000sq ft houses).

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 12:22PM
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Hi hapnor,
I know for us, the book Designing Your Dream Home by Susan Lang has been really helpful for detailing what we want in a home and how we will use it.
I think it makes it much easier to communicate your wishes to an architect when you have started by thinking through all of your wants/needs vs looking through the thousands of floor plans trying to find the best one.
Best of luck!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 12:57PM
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I'm in eastern Tennessee. Not too terribly far from you, but not sure how much different costs would be. In my area, $165/sq ft (plus cost of land) could feasibly get you a nice house with higher end finishes- nice hardwood, granite, etc., -but not top of the line (SubZero, Wolf) appliances, more unusual granites or marbles, etc. That also wouldn't include a pool and landscaping.

I have to agree with others, though, that I don't think you could do the first house for $165/sq ft, it costs are comparable to my area. On many houses, a range of materials could be used (think vinyl vs. Hardi vs. wood siding, for example) and everything might still turn out OK. But this house demands expensive materials. In my opinion, anything less would look silly. Cultured stone is a no-go, for example.

With that said, if you haven't built a house before or have some other frame of reference for what things cost in new construction, I know it can be tough to accept what people are telling you if it doesn't match up with what you're thinking- I've been there. Somebody would tell me how expensive my house would be to build, and I would think along the lines of "My cousin Joe Bob built his house for $55/sq ft...I can definitely build a lovely huge house with everything I want for double that...surely for triple that price." Nope.

Some of us are wrong- you can either build if for that price or not. You need to find a reputable, experienced builder that builds the type of house you're interested in and talk to them about costs. I've found that those with experience in the construction field (experienced in building similar homes to the one you want to build) can pretty quickly look at a plan and give you a fairly accurate ballpark of what it would cost to build. Then you'll at least know if you're remotely in the price range you'd like to be at before you spend more time and resources on a plan.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 10:43PM
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