How much per Sq. Foot? How about a ballpark quote?

Custom Home Building – Part I

These questions get asked to custom home builders with regularity.  I contend that it would be analogous to asking a new car salesman how much does that new car cost per pound? For instance you can purchase a new basic Toyota Camry for $7.09 per pound or a fully loaded model for $10.95 per pound. Both cars have 4 doors, 5 seats, sound systems, A/C and provide excellent transportation but obviously at 55% more per pound the loaded version has significant differences.

The same can be said when pricing a new custom home.  Many factors can vary widely that effect a square footage price. Kitchens and baths have the most visible price variances with appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry and other finishes leading the way. Equally varied are things not so apparent such as energy efficiency via upgraded HVAC equipment and high performance insulation packages.  Architectural details also vary widely such as ceiling heights, curved walls, ceiling treatments, and structural requirements depending upon the plan. When most per sq. ft. prices are given it is based on living area only which does not factor in items such as a small 3 car garage vs. an oversize 4 car or a home with multiple large covered outdoor living areas vs. a small covered entry and rear porch.  These areas can be significant costs to the home but are not factored in to the living area equation.

Furthermore what all is to be included in the sq. ft. price for the new custom home. A bare bones approach that only includes the “sticks and bricks” costs of the home without plans, permits, engineering, soil reports, lot preparation, driveways, sidewalks, block walls with gates, underground utilities, sewer or septic and/or other utility systems, permits or fees, ample decorative finish budgets, etc., etc. These items also vary widely depending upon which area the home is being built in as well as the particular building site. You can see why it can get very misleading to give a ballpark sq. footage value without first determining if it is a little league ball park or Yankee Stadium.

Zillow recently put together the list of the most expensive homes for sale in each state.  The highest priced home is located in Beverly Hills and is listed at $3,679 per sq. ft and the second highest is in E. Hampton New York and comes in at $13,952 per sq. ft. Does that make the $195 mil Beverly Hills house a better deal than the $140 mil E. Hampton house?

Just for grins the next time you are shopping for a new car, ask the salesman how much per pound? Please let me know the response you get. In part II will try to make sense of all this and see if it is possible to get an apples to apples comparison.