Prospective clients often have notions of what houses cost per square foot in their area. Quite often their notion from yesteryear is lower than this year’s reality.
The cost of building a house has so many variables that I speak in ranges until my clients’ houses and their amenities are defined. For example, an $8,000 fireplace and surround can contribute $4.00 per square foot to the overall costs of a 2000 square foot house; an interior sprinkler system required in many locations can add $6.00 per square foot; a garage $20.00 per square foot.
Using ranges at the outset is not a flimflam approach. Many of my clients come to me on the rebound from a tragic experience with an architect in which their budgets have been exceeded by as much as 100%, a fact that was not known until the house was all planned.
My livelihood depends strongly on my ability to predict price accurately. If I underestimate the cost significantly and my clients cannot build their homes, I have worked for months for no gain. It’s as simple as that.
What to expect: new home construction costs in Seattle, Southampton, and elsewhere
Cumming, a leading project management and cost consulting firm publishes a quarterly report on construction costs of the full spectrum of construction types including single family home construction. The study gives a range of costs for major metropolitan markets.
Cumming’s figures do not include land cost, site preparation (septic, well, utilities, and excavation), professional fees, permits, taxes, and other soft costs. The report states that as one moves outward from the city costs may decline.
A sampling of the 2019 cost per square foot for single family detached homes of medium quality, according to Cumming:
Each year the Craftsman Book Company publishes the National Building Cost Manual, a several hundred-page report on home building costs in 600 American markets. Every phase of construction, from foundations to finished flooring is surveyed in every market.
The method is quite sophisticated. Homes are classified by:
6 well defined specification quality levels;
6 levels of complexity of the design (the number of corners and individual building masses), and;
26 square footage increments from 700 to 5,000 square feet.
Thousands of hours go into data collection and evaluation for this annual national building cost manual. These are not forecasts but actual history from the prior year.
A national average is calculated for all of the categories, and then a percentage of variance from the national average is presented for the 600 markets.
For example, a custom designed semi-luxury home of 1000 square feet with 6 corners cost $287.38 per square foot in 2018, while a 2,600 semi-luxury home with six corners cost $231.68 per square foot. (The larger homes cost 25% less per square foot since large homes have similar cost centers — kitchen, bathrooms, mechanical systems — as smaller homes — but more empty space).
Super-efficient; 2400 square feet; three stories stacked, and built into a hillside. 7 corners
Craftsman is careful to note that the cost of porches, decks, garages, heating and cooling equipment, fireplaces and finishes of a higher quality than the classification are not included in this average (nor is site preparation). When adding $65,000 for these items (not including permits or site preparation), we arrive at the national average.
Finally, the publication lists the variance from the national average for 600 US and Canadian markets. A few examples:
|Category 2/Semi-luxury/6 Corners||Variance from National Average||Cost/SF @ 1000SF||Cost/SF @ 2600SF|
|Long Island, NY||+30%||$458.74||$333.68|
|White Plains, NY||+14%||$402.28||$292.61|
|San Francisco, CA||+27%||$448.16||$325.98|
|Santa Rosa, CA||+5%||$372.54||$269.51|
National Averages adjusted to include a two car garage, a 150 square foot deck, HVAC system, design and engineering fees.
These figures are not hard and fast, but they are real and serve to establish a framework for beginning to think about costs and plan appropriately.
How Lindal Establishes Cost
The Cumming and Craftsman reports are historical. But what my clients want me to do is to predict cost so that they don't discover a year from now that the house we have created together costs twice their budget.
I moved to Seattle a dozen years ago to author a strategic plan with Lindal's management team. We set certain objectives with regard to custom designing and pricing the Lindal product:
Provide clients with personalized designs and price them in the shortest amount of time early in the process, not at the end.
Create those preliminary designs quickly by relying on the building system that has been refined for seventy-five years. Rely on the standard components and assembly details and use out-of-system components only when needed.
Provide those custom preliminary plans at the lowest possible price to clients so that we can define the design and the price with very little money at risk.
Know the price of every one of the tens of thousands of parts that go into each Lindal home. Make certain that every Lindal system component and every option is built into the pricing system.
Relying on in-system parts and well-defined assembly details enables us to reduce the time and cost of producing the plans and pricing.
The work product of each iteration is a well dimensioned set of plans, a printed Lindal specification, important quantities to simplify builder pricing, and a guaranteed price for the material package. These materials facilitate quick and accurate builder estimates very early in the process.
The process includes two additional iterations of plan and pricing giving clients the opportunity to refine the design …and the price if necessary.
Lindal and its independent dealers do not generate income from this process. There is no income unless we successfully manage this process and the client builds their Lindal.
Today Lindal produces preliminary plans, 3D modeling, and prices in roughly three weeks! In as little as six weeks you will have a well-conceived design, a firm Lindal price and specification and an accurate builder estimate. No other company can provide that level of predictability in such an efficient manner.
We design and produce custom Lindal homes that are completed in Seattle for $230 to $350 per square foot and on Long Island for $325 to $430 per square foot, including professional design and engineering services, and a lifetime structural warranty, not included in the Cumming and Craftsman studies.
Depending on the interior finishes you select, Lindal homes often transcend from “semi-luxury to ”luxury,” and in either case our costs are highly competitive with homes in the Cumming and Craftsman studies. Lindal and Warmmodern Living clients benefit from our systems approach to provide a better value than more traditional approaches.
Not as efficient: an 1800 square one- level home with 18 corners