Our clients have many questions about the home building process. One of the most common is “What does it cost per square foot to build a home?”

With many builders, such as those developing spec homes, you are dealing with fixed plans, and many choices are not offered to or made by the homeowner. Made to Last builds custom homes. This doesn’t necessarily mean the home is expensive, but rather that the design and finish are custom-tailored to the homeowner.  Every home is as unique as the clients who design it, and therefore the cost is unique as well.

To provide a more detailed answer to this question, we have compiled a list of the most common factors that influence the cost of building a custom home in the Cowichan Valley.

How Does Property Impact Cost to Build?

Where you choose to build your home can have a major impact on the cost of construction.  As a design-build company, we can help you in selecting a lot that will be suitable to your needs.

If you have already purchased a lot, or you have a lot in mind, here are a few things to consider when planning your budget:

  • Are there trees that need to be removed in order to create space for your new home?
  • If there is a lot of rock on your property, you may need to add room in your budget for blasting.
  • We may need to dig deeper in order to hit bearing soil if it is not near the surface.
  • Small subdivision lots are often cheaper to build on because sewer, storm-water, and water services are usually provided.  However, a small building lot with homes already surrounding it often means having to truck away excavated soil and bringing back new soil to backfill around the home when completed.
  • Is there an existing house that needs to be torn down and removed?
  • Generally, a sloped lot will cost more to build on than a flat lot. The design of your home needs to be tailored to the current and/or finished grade of the lot.

These are all factors that can cause the groundwork portion of building your home to cost more. These increases cost in time, labour, and materials, and will increase the cost per square foot to build your home.

How Does Design Impact Cost to Build?

Selecting an experienced builder before beginning the design process can save you money. They can offer you advice during the design process on what features will be more costly. Your builder can also help keep you within budget.

Some examples of where the home design can impact cost per square foot:

  • A multi-level home will cost less per square foot than a rancher, as it has a smaller overall footprint.
  • Larger homes cost less per square foot than smaller homes, as many of the costs are spread out.
  • Extra decking, particularly if it is covered, will add cost to the home.
  • Homes with more or larger windows and doors often cost more because of engineering challenges. Windows and doors themselves might not cost more than the siding and drywall they replace (unless they are quite large or higher end); however, an engineer must be used to specify how to create the seismic strength in the home that we require on Vancouver Island.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms are the two most expensive rooms in a home. Multiple bathrooms in the floor plan of your home will indicate a higher cost per square foot to build than a home of similar size, but with fewer bathrooms.
  • Homes with a more intricate roof layout will cost more than a simple design (potentially a 500% increase). More jogs in the exterior of the house, and valleys & ridges on the roof, will cost more to build than a basic design.
  • Made to Last often does not include the square footage of a garage in discussions of cost per square foot, but obviously, the presence or size of a garage impacts the overall cost.

How Do Finishing Choices Impact Cost Per Square Foot?

A client’s finishing choices can easily make up 50% of a home’s cost.  Many builders give very small allowances for finishing costs in their estimates, but Made to Last prefers to understand a client’s desires and budget prior to establishing allowances.  Finishing items include:

  • Exterior items: roofing, windows, exterior doors & hardware, decking, deck railings, and siding materials.
  • Special exterior details: natural wood posts & beams, wood soffits, gutter guards, and unique downspouts.
  • Driveways and sidewalks.
  • Plumbing and electrical fixtures, as well as electrical layout (how many lights, switches, and plugs).
  • Heating and cooling choices, including potential fireplaces.
  • Appliances
  • Interior items: flooring, cabinetry, countertops, interior doors & hardware, interior paint (including quality of paint, level of finish, and amount of colours),
  • Interior trim details: baseboards, window trim, and stairwell railing choices.
  • Closet materials, bathroom holders, mirrors, and fireplace mantles.

For a custom home, there really is no limit to the number of options you can consider.  At Made to Last, we recommend using an interior designer when choosing your finishes. While there is an initial investment to hire one, interior designers can help you narrow down choices, stay on budget, and avoid making design decisions you start to reconsider later.

Overall Estimates for Cost Per Square Foot

Overall, most Made to Last Custom Homes fall within $220-300+ per square foot.  Lower is possible, but difficult to achieve without significant compromises or regularly choosing the cheaper options with every decision.  Usually, a starting budget of $250 per square foot is recommended.  We then work with the client to narrow down design and choices to help establish an accurate Estimate based on quotes and prices for the actual home that has been designed.

In addition to the factors that influence the cost to build listed above, something else to consider is the current lumber costs. Read more in our article, Why Are Lumber Prices Increasing?

We hope this helps you to have a better understanding of the cost to build a home in the Cowichan Valley.  If you have any further questions, let us know!

Like this article? Read Why and How to Choose a Custom Home Builder.

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