5 Tips for Building a Custom Home on a Budget

Saving Money on a Custom Home Build

Consider becoming an Owner-Builder:

General Contracting (GC) is a skilled job that benefits from experience and industry connections. GCs leverage their power over subcontractors, permit inspectors and material suppliers to get better prices and services but it comes at a hefty price which can range from 10% - 25% of the total construction cost! You can become an owner-builder but it is a major responsibility so you want to come to the build armed with the tools and skills required to succeed:

a.) Construction Knowledge: Building inspectors and subcontractors will respect you and take you seriously if you come armed with extensive knowledge about home construction. You may get taken advantage of on cost, scope and schedule if they get a sense that you don't know what you're doing.
b.) Build Relationships: GCs benefit from years of working with subcontractors and benefit from the fact that they need to work amicably in order to secure future contracts together. In order to get the best subcontractors to come to your build with fair prices you need to try to build the same level of lasting relationships with subcontractors and building inspectors.

Choose Stock Home Plans over an Architect:

Professional architects are truly artists, but commissioning their work can come at a steep cost, typically ranging from 5% - 15% of the total construction cost. Conversely, purchasing stock house plans and having them modified almost always costs <$2,000 which is around half a percent of a typical build cost. The benefit of choosing a stock plan is that you can filter through thousands of home plans and find exactly what you want.

Don't skimp on the design:

Contractors are notorious for underbidding jobs with the intent to overcharge customers on change orders or additional scope. Since home construction can be a very complicated endeavor which often results in mistakes or omissions, it's vitally important to ensure that you construction documents (floorplans & specifications) are 100% ready to build without needing changes down the line. There are two main things to watch out for:

a.) Design Changes: It's takes home architects many years of training to be able to visualize how 2D plans will look in real life. Many homeowners don't have the benefit of the same experience. As a result, often times homeowners will end up making design changes as the home is framed because when they first walk the house they get see things that they don't like. That's why we offer video tours and 3D interactive tours for all of our plans so you can get a better sense of proportions and scale before your new house is framed and requires expensive rework. 

b.) Design Omissions: Occasionally, the home design or specifications will omit some key aspects that end up needing to be added in order to finish the house. Often times this is either early or late in the construction process (sitework and finishes respectively).

Choose an Efficient Floorplan:

Since the cost of a house relates pretty strongly to the square footage, and it costs about $150-200/SF to build, it's important to ensure that every single square foot adds value to your family's needs. When shopping for floor plans, look for wasted space and rooms that you don't absolutely need. Consider phasing the construction if, for instance, you know you will need additional bedrooms in 5 years but don't need them right now.

DIY Certain Finishes:

Generally, there's little that can be done DIY because a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) will not be issued by the local building department until all of the major aspects of the build are complete. But some, non safety related aspects can be delayed until after the CO:

a.) Interior Painting: Painting is a fairly easy skill to acquire and since most of the cost of hiring a professional painter (typically $10,000-20,000) is labor it's an easy way to trim the budget by substituting your own labor. We recommend watching some Youtube videos of professional painters to pick up some tips and methods before starting. 

b.) Landscaping: Similar to painting, landscaping can be labor heavy aspect of the the build that you can easily substitute your own labor for. You probably won't save a ton of money planting grass but you may save quite a bit by planting trees and garden beds DIY. Go to commercial greenhouses if you need to buy in bulk!

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