One of the most common questions we hear as home builders 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. Many choices are not offered to the homeowner. Made to Last builds custom homes. This means the design and finish are custom-tailored to you, the person who will live in and enjoy the brand new home.  But, it does not mean all custom homes are expensive. Every home is as unique as the clients who design it, and thus the cost is unique as well.

 

How Does Property Impact Cost Per Square Foot?

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 to remove to create space for your new home?
  • Is there is a lot of rock on your property? You may need to add room in your budget for blasting.
  • It is usually not easy to know where the bearing soil is under the surface.  Having to dig deeper will impact the cost of excavation and groundwork overall.
  • Subdivision lots are often cheaper to build on. Sewer, storm-water, and water services are usually provided for these lots.
  • A small subdivision lot could restrict the home design related to setbacks and height limitations. If there are existing homes on nearby lots, that can also make the building process more difficult as the workers have less room to work.
  • Smaller lots can mean having to truck away excavated soil, as the lots do not have the room to store it.
  • Is there an existing house to tear down and remove?
  • Generally, a sloped lot will cost more to build on than a flat lot. The design of your home will be tailored to the current and/or finished grade of the lot.

These are all factors that can cause the groundwork part of building your home to cost more. These increases cost in time, labour, and materials. They will all 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 footprint.
  • Larger homes cost less per square foot than smaller homes, as many of the costs are spread out.
  • Extra decking, particularly covered decking, will add cost to the home.
  • Homes with more or larger windows and doors often cost more. This is due to 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 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 mean a higher cost per square foot to build. A home of similar size, with fewer bathrooms, would cost less.
  • 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 will cost more to build than a basic design, as it increases wall surface area.
  • More intricacy in the design, like adding ceiling vaults, large walls of windows, or exterior wall jogs, decreases the energy efficiency of a home.  Not only are these more expensive features, they will add costs to improve other aspects of the home in order to meet BC Step Code requirements.
  • Made to Last often does not include the square footage of a garage in discussions of cost per square foot. But, 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. Made to Last prefers to understand a client’s desires and budget before establishing allowances.  Finishing items include:

  • Exterior items: roofing, windows, exterior doors & hardware, decking, deck railings, and siding materials.
  • Special exterior details: natural wood posts and 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.

At Made to Last, we can perform a preliminary product selection process with you as part of the home design.  This will save you costs and help keep you on budget.  However, for a custom home, there is no limit to the number of options you can consider.  For clients that want to consider more options and have more room in their budget, we recommend using an interior designer when choosing your finishes. An interior designer can help you source more unique products, create a cohesive overall design, and avoid making design decisions you start to reconsider later.

 

Overall Estimates for Cost Per Square Foot

The construction industry has seen large increases in costs since the COVID-19 pandemic.  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?
In 2021, Made to Last completed 6 custom homes, and they ranged in cost between $260 – $425 per square foot.  This included the full costs from permits to completion.  In 2022, we are seeing average costs between $290 – $450 per square foot.  A lower overall cost is possible, but difficult to achieve without significant compromises or regularly choosing the cheaper options with every decision.
In 2019, we recommended a starting budget of $250 per square foot.  We now recommend budgeting at least $300.
As part of our usual process, Made to Last can complete an exploratory meeting where we present a Pre-Design Estimate for your desired home, at no cost to the client.  Contact us today to book an exploratory meeting.  After that, we will then work with you to narrow down design and choices to help establish an accurate Estimate based on quotes and prices for the actual home that is designed.
We hope this helps you to have a better understanding of the cost to build a home in the Cowichan Valley and on Vancouver Island.  If you have any further questions, Contact Us.
 

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