Talking about average home building costs is about like talking about the average snowflake, or perhaps the average amount of snowfall in the United States. If you live in Alaska the snow is much deeper, and if you live in California the prices of homes are much higher.
Average California home prices are about $130 per square foot, compared to the Southeastern and Midwestern States, where home building costs are between $75 and $90 per square foot. Some of this is due to a different standard of homebuilding, which includes earthquake resistant durability, and more luxuries, but most of it is due to the high cost of skilled construction labor in California. The Northern Atlantic States and Hawaii are also disproportionately expensive places to build a home.
While cost is important, and we all have to be price conscious, it isn’t worth botching the entire project just to cut corners. More importantly it is best to be aware of what is going on at the jobsite. I highly recommend that buyers dictate every detail of materials, rather than getting caught up in packages and sales techniques practiced by some of the nationally known builders.
There are a lot of variations in prices between types of builders, and in some cases the adage that you get what you pay for applies. Other times though it’s more a matter of how savvy their client base is. There are differences between real quality, and perceived quality. Advertising, sales technique, and higher prices have nothing to do with quality but everything to do with perceived quality. Some builders of course do not live up to their advertising, and some builders who do not advertise extensively are quite good.
Value in a home means durability, energy efficiency, quality materials and superior craftsmanship. It would be understandable if a home cost more because it had 14 inch thick insulated concrete walls, with an R-value of 54, and a guaranteed lifetime of 300 years. Of course that home is worth more, and it will pay for itself in energy savings. It also makes sense that real marble or granite countertops and high quality, custom made cabinets, cost more than budget cabinets and countertops from a home improvement store. Oddly though, the thick concrete walls do not make as great a difference in the price, as the cabinets do in many cases, so weigh what is really important when asking for value in an upgrade.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to construction. Be sure to read our website and download our 98 page free book to start your research on home building. Read even more extensively on materials, carpentry and building techniques, and pay special attention to R-values and energy efficiency. Avoid being led astray by ambiguous sales talk. Ask for specifics. Don’t be content knowing your home will qualify as an energy star home, find out what sort of insulation will be used, and how thickly it will be applied. Find out about the total thickness of walls, and what sort of windows will be used. Know your R-values.
You can ask your builder to build a shell only for you, and perhaps handle the plumbing and wiring as well, but leave the dry wall, paint and floor coverings to you. Home owners can save a bundle by doing their own paint and dry wall. While some home builders would not consider doing this, many would.
Packages and sales gimmicks can be misleading. Instead of being led by a salesman, define what you want from the builder, and stick to the basics. Avoid flashy sales gimmicks and excessive conversation about carpet upgrades. Average home building costs, need not apply to you if you shop wisely, do some of the work yourself, and choose the right builder.