What is the cost per square foot for quality custom construction these days?

On average we see cost per square foot range from about $150 – $300 for new homes. Since the very nature of custom construction is unique and variable it can be difficult to establish an average range of cost per square foot. The cost is directly related to the “level of finish” you choose for your home. Therefore you are directly in control of the cost and can make choices to maintain a budget and still get quality construction.

How do I get an accurate estimate of my new home or remodel?

The best way to get accurate pricing is to have your project well defined. A complete plan and specifications will give a solid basis for good pricing since the products to be priced are known and selected. This leaves little room for “guessing” or unrealistic allowances that can skew an overall estimate significantly. If you plan to have competitive bids for your project, be sure the bidders follow the specifications exactly. This will eliminate any “corner cutting” in an effort to produce a lower bid.

What factors will drive up the cost of my new home or remodel?

Certain parts of home construction cost more than other parts. Kitchens and baths are more expensive to build than bedrooms or closets. Likewise, certain elements and finishes of the home will tend to drive up cost significantly. In custom construction it is almost standard to use higher grade floorings, roofing, countertops, carpets, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, and a whole host of exterior low maintenance products. In estimating the overall cost of your home, be aware of the selections that will add quickly to the cost.

The overall design of the home will factor into the average cost as well. A two-story box with a simple gable roof will cost less than a home with many jogs in the exterior and multiple roof lines. The careful combination of all these factors in the design phase will produce a balanced, pleasing, affordable design.

Another factor that can potentially drive up the cost of your new home is making changes to the plan, design, or finish selections during construction. Making finish selections or design detail decisions while construction is underway opens the door for many unexpected changes that can have a ripple affect throughout the whole project. Therefore you as the owner can avoid expensive changes by making choices and decisions during the design phase.

Is it wise for me to get multiple bids before I choose a builder?

The choice to get multiple bids on your project is completely up to you. For some this is just a standard procedure to hopefully get the best deal. Overall, competitive bidding must be carefully balanced to get a good price, good value, and good quality. In custom home construction the best price will not necessarily be the best quality. Reviewing and comparing bids can be confusing if you are not familiar with building products or building methods. Everyone wants a quality built home, so they must trust the builder to use good materials and construction practices. Therefore selecting a builder becomes more a choice of trust rather than cheapest price. Find someone you can trust and has a good reputation in the area. Visit the homes they have built and talk to the owners. This is the best way to find both value and quality.

How do I compare bids on an “apples to apples” basis?

The best way to get comparable bids priced on an even basis is to have your project well defined. A good plan and specification package will define the elements of your home in a way that can be clearly priced. This leaves no room for guessing or unrealistic allowances to skew an bid either up or down.

What are change orders?

A change order is formal documentation requesting a change to a construction project already in process. The change order is issued when a customer makes a change that revises the scope of work and the cost of the work ordered by the contract. The change order should outline what the change is, how it changes the contract amount, and how it affects the construction schedule if applicable. Once a change order is processed by the builder, it must be approved by both the owner and builder before the change takes place.

While change orders can slow construction progress, they are an important tool to track schedule revisions and budget changes. They also provide a clear way for an owner to communicate and execute changes to the project – which helps avoid expensive mistakes and misunderstandings.

Do I need to hire an Architect?

The choice of what design services to hire is completely up to you. There is no requirement in the State of Washington that a home be designed by an architect. If you have seen and liked a particular architect’s work it would be a great idea to meet with him and talk about your design. Architects are highly skilled in the design profession and can offer much advice and guidance on developing a particular design theme if you are not even sure where to start or what you want in a home design.

How much will a custom home design cost?

This is largely dependant on the size and complexity of the home and what type of design/development services you hire. Architect fees typically range from 8-12% of the cost of the construction.  Here at Yonkman Construction we can typically develop a new home design, produce all of the technical drawings, and complete the specification package for around 1% to 2% of the total cost of the construction project. Again, complexity plays a big factor in the cost of the design. In remodel design the cost can vary greatly due to the highly customized work involved in drafting up existing structures and showing proposed changes.

How do I get a custom home design suitable for permit and construction?

All new home construction will require a building permit from the appropriate county or city building department. For the permit process a complete plan of the proposed construction with specific details is required. With the new building codes and energy code requirements it can be fairly difficult to develop this working blueprint on your own. If you are working with an architect or designer to develop a home design, the final result should be a blueprint suitable for permit and construction. At Yonkman Construction we offer a full design / build service and can produce the required plans for your project.

How long does it take to design a custom home?

The design process can take several months to complete. It all depends upon who you hired to do your design work and the size / scope of the project. It can also depend on the quality of the design and completeness of the plan. Average designs that we develop in house can take 3-4 months and can even go as long as 6-8 months. Most of that time is used by the client deciding what they really want and settle on the perfect layout or exterior design. Since developing a custom home design is creating specialized space for you to enjoy, we strongly encourage clients not to rush through the design phase. The actual drafting of the final plans is a relatively small percentage of the time investment once the layout and features of the home are decided upon.

Will structural engineering be required for my design?

Basic structural engineering by a licensed engineer is not required by the building code. In some specific cases, the building code will require engineering if the design varies from the basic design parameters set forth by the code. On all of our new home designs we typically do hire a structural engineer to review the plans and produce structural calculations. Due to the wide range of building design in custom homes, we feel this will ensure a quality structure.

What are custom home “specifications”?

There are hundreds of choices to make when building a new home. As the owner makes selections for their project, this information must be recorded. This record becomes the specifications for the project. Most often it is the responsibility of the architect or designer to compile the specifications of a project since they are working with you to make these choices and recommend products and finishes. Since it is nearly impossible to get all of the owner’s choices and selections written into a construction blueprint, the specification manual becomes an orderly way to compile the smaller details of the project. The specifications become a supplemental manual to the blueprints. It is also easier to update the specifications rather than the plan when selections change.

In custom home construction, detailed specifications are very important. They become the guide during construction to ensure that every detail an owner requested is included in the project. We typically produce a specification package for every new home design that we produce. Our specification manuals can sometimes be 40-50 pages of information detailing every part of the project. We feel that this attention to detail is essential to the quality standard that sets us apart.

Specifications are a very important part of the decision of who you hire for design. Since it typically is the architect or designer’s job to produce detailed specifications for the projects they design, find out what they will provide. How complete will the specification package be? It is inefficient for a builder to have a blueprint that lacks good specifications since he is spending much time figuring out all of the finishes, products, and fixtures for the home as it is being built. This inefficiency is greatly reduced when the home specifications have been determined and approved by the owner prior to construction.

One other benefit in having specifications comes in the estimating phase of the project. If products, fixtures, finishes, flooring, doors, windows, siding, etc. are all selected it becomes much easier to price out the project accurately.

Can I buy a “ready-made” plan rather than start a design from scratch?

The answer is yes. There are thousands of plans available through websites, books, and magazines that are “stock” plans developed by architects and designers. They can be purchased at a reduced rate since the design / drafting cost is recovered through selling multiple copies. The difficulty comes when you want to make a change to a stock plan or update it to local building codes. These things can sometimes be done by the plan seller, but it usually is an extra charge to the basic plan fee. Overall, the decision to buy stock plans must be balanced by the value of the produce you get. How complete are the plans? Do they include specifications? How many plan copies will I get? Is this really the design / layout I want?

We believe that custom home construction is all about individuality and creative design. Utilizing our design services, you will have the flexibility to express your ideas completely and update and revise your plan as your ideas develop.

What is a Feasibility Study?

A Feasibility Study is an evaluation of the suitability of your proposed building site for residential construction. The purpose of the feasibility study is to provide you with a comprehensive report that will give you the assurance you need to build on your site. Knowing the site issues before you build can save you money and disappointment down the road. In some cases it may be worthwhile to complete a site feasibility study before you purchase a building site. That way, no unforeseen site issues will hinder your building dreams. Major issues a Feasibility Study looks at:

  • Power Availability
  • Septic / Sewer Issues
  • Well / City Water
  • Easements
  • Restrictions and Covenants
  • Zoning
  • Clearing Cost
  • Property Access
  • Required Permits
  • Mitigation / Impact Fees

Basic “High Cost” issues to be aware of:

  • Distance to Nearest Power Source
  • Distance to Sewer Connection
  • Distance to Water Connection
  • Sloping Topography
  • Drainage and “Perkability”

Will I need a Feasibility Study?

The decision to obtain a Feasibility Study for your property is a personal choice.  There is no requirement to obtain one.

You should note however, that your Purchase and Sales Agreement has a Feasibility Contingency Clause.  This contingency clause puts the responsibility on the Buyers shoulders to verify that the property can be platted, developed, and/ or built on.

The Feasibility Contingency allows you time to research site issues and feel comfortable with your findings.

Some of the many items you should verify are:

  • Specific building requirements, including setbacks, height limits and restrictions on where your home may be constructed.
  • Building Permit availability – what will the County or City ordinances require?
  • Is your property in a development with its own specific Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions?
  • Are there any growth mitigation or impact fees that must be paid?
  • Are the property lines clear and the property corners located?
  • Is my property located in a Critical Area (wetlands, shorelines, endangered species habitat, flood hazard area, noise zone, and others)?
  • These are some of the many issues that the buyer should investigate before closing on the purchase of unimproved real estate property.

What to do:

You may feel overwhelmed with the research required to answer these feasibility questions.  Don’t worry, we can help. At your request we can perform a full site review and issue you a feasibility study that will cover all pertinent building issues.  Our professional and experienced staff can review your site and offer sound advice on how to deal with any potential building site challenges.?? The Site Feasibility report will give you the confidence to purchase property and build your dream home, knowing you have made a fully informed decision.