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Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

Posted by olivesmom (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 4, 13 at 23:45

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?

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Exterior Materials and Specifications 

FOUNDATION

Steel Reinforced 2’ Foundation Wall

6” x 12” Footings

EXTERIOR SIDING

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

EXTERIOR DOORS

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

WINDOWS

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

Vinyl Windows

Screens are included-client installs them

FRAMING

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.

ROOF SYSTEM

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

RAIN GUTTERS

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

CONCRETE GARAGE

4” Garage Floor Slab

EXTERIOR PLUMBING

Two Frost-Free Hose Bibs

EXTERIOR LIGHTING

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
HEATING

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

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

VENTILATION 

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.

CABINETS 

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

FLOOR COVERINGS AND HARD SURFACES -Upgrades available

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

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

Voids Around Windows/Doors Filled With Foam Insulation

GARAGE

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.

WOODWORK

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.

DRYWALL

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

FINISHING HARDWARE

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.

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Thanks!

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


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

olivesmom--

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

Permits
Surveys
Engineering
Clearing
Water tap fees
Sewer Tap fees or Septic system install
Landscaping
Driveway or walkways
Refrigerator
Stove/Oven
Construction Interest
Temp Power
Dumpster
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
Fireplace
Ceiling Fans
Tile Shower
Etc.....

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


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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!


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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?******


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

Just "doing a lot" to the kitchen and baths can be $50,000.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

Olivesmom,
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.

hth


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

"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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

HollySprings,

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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.


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RE: Inexpensive "build on your lot" builders?

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 cabs...how 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.


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