Building and Remodeling Q&A with Matthew Young
Q: I am interested in Building/Remodeling my home. What is the first step?
A: This is really two separate questions. I will address building a home first and then remodeling. I would consider building a home anything that is ground up construction starting from scratch. If you are interested in building a home the first step is to decide if the property you have is going to allow you to build the home you want. This could mean tearing down the existing home on the lot or you could already own a vacant lot. If your current lot does not work, the next step would be to buy a lot, either a vacant lot or a lot with a tear down house on it. Once you have a lot selected the next step would be to interview architects and choose one to start designing your dream home. The decision to remodeling your existing home is not an easy decision. If you simply want to update bedrooms and bathrooms then remodeling is the way to go. If you want to add a second story or expand the house you have to start thinking how much you want to change. If you want taller ceilings and want to add a second story it might make sense to start thinking about starting fresh and building a new home. If you only want to enlarge a couple of rooms or open up the kitchen then remodeling is the best route. Before you choose one way or another meet with an architect and let them lay out some options for how they would improve your current floor plan.
Q: What is it going to cost to build or remodel?
A: This is one of the most important questions people ask and one of the hardest questions to answer. It is similar to asking how much does a car cost. It all depends the brand, options, and features. For example, on a recent house I built, batting insulation was about $2,500 and foam was about $10,000. On that particular house that is a difference between $0.60 per square foot and $2.40 per square foot. The best way to develop a budget is to have a home or remodeling plan in hand and know what you want in the house. Going back to the car example, if you told two dealerships that you wanted a Chevrolet Tahoe, one could bid you a base Tahoe with cloth seats and the other could bid a fully loaded 4x4 with heated and air conditioned leather seats, navigation, and rear entertainment systems. When getting bids make sure you have apple to apple comparisons and when you get numbers verify it against your taste. As an easy example, if you see an appliance budget for $6,000 and you know you want a 60" Viking with Dual convection ovens and the cost is $14,000 then you know the appliance package is under bid. Do this for as many budget items where you know what you want and for the other budget items ask what was bid.
Q: Why are the bids so different?
A: One of the most important things when asking what the cost per square foot is of a house is what number is being used for the house. On new construction one contractor could be talking about price per square foot to the foundation and one could be referring to price per square foot for air conditioned space. Remember, homes are sold based on air conditioned space not based on the foot print of the house. As an example, if I was building a house that was 5,500 sqft foot print and 4,200 sqft air conditioned space and I said I can build it for $180 a sqft that could mean $990,000 or $756,000. Said a different way, "say" the cost to build the house is $800,000 and one contractor bid the job using the foot print his bid would say $145 per sqft and the other contractor's would be $190 per sqft. So one explanation could be the difference in the square footage number they are using. Now that you know you are comparing apples to apples on the square footage the next question to ask is what materials are being bid. Is the bid for custom built cabinets with soft close hinges or is it for free standing bathroom fixtures found at a builder surplus store? What is the thickness of granite being bid? How high up the wall is tile going in the showers?