Recently, I did a poll on my Instagram asking what topics you all would like for me to discuss and while I received a lot of valuable feedback, the topic I heard the most was “budget.” Building a new home is a monumental time for most families. Something we plan for for many years, scraping up money and budgeting tightly, ensuring we have enough money to build the home of our dreams. But how do you know how much you need? How do you get the maximum house for your money? How do you know where to splurge and where to save? While many of the tips my husband and I utilized will not be applicable to everyone, I will share three of things we did to build our dream home at almost 50% cost of what the value will be once we are finished. Choosing our floorplan wisely, subbing out jobs ourselves and prioritizing our wishes, we were able to build a gorgeous, completely custom home for a fraction of the going rate.
1. Choose Your Floorplan Wisely
Choosing your floorplan wisely will play a significant role in your budget. Learn to love the box! Sticking to a simple rectangle is the ultimate way to cut down on spending. If you want to add some dimension, add more rectangles! Also, go up versus out. Concrete or wood cost for your foundation will go down significantly if you have a smaller footprint. If you look at the aerial view of our home, you will see it is essentially four rectangles put together. While we did keep one bump out off the front porch and choose to add an additional rectangle so we could vault our living room, for the rest of the house, we sat down with our architect and had him shave off any additional ‘bump-outs’. What sacrifices did that mean? Well, instead of having a large, fancy laundry room off the back of the house with nice large windows, my laundry room is tucked into a little corner off the dining room. My ideal location? Not quite! However, it was one compromise I made to be able to afford our home. I will get into that a little more when I discuss prioritizing our wishes below. It also meant our master bathroom shower is not nearly as spacious as I would have liked. I would have loved to add a small bump out to give us some additional space for our shower, but I knew the cost was just not worth it! Additionally, every time your roofline bumps out is just one additional area for water to penetrate your home. Keeping your roofline as simple as possible not only keeps your costs down but also minimizes the risk of water intrusion. When our engineer first saw our roofline, he thought there was a mistake! My husband received a phone call, “This roof is so simple, are you sure it is correct?” “Absolutely!” my husband exclaimed. We intentionally had the architect simplify our roof to minimize cost and keep it as secure as possible! Choosing a simple, open layout also minimizes your cost. Hallways or areas that connect rooms are really wasted space. You want to minimize travel distances which will reduce your overall square footage. Once again, we sat down with our architect and eradicated as many “leftover spaces” as possible and the few that were left; we turned them into usable spaces: closets, homework station, or play loft. We have very little unused space in our home. In fact, the five-foot area between the dining room and living room is the only one I can think of! Percentage-wise, our lumber package was the single most expensive portion of our build. Choosing a well thought out, simplified floor plan that exactly meets your family’s needs ensures you will maximize your space while keeping your framing package cost as low as possible.
2. Hire Your Own Subs
Now this is one of those tips that may not work for everyone. First of all, not every builder will allow you this luxury. Secondly, not everyone has the time or ability to find the best price on subs. We are in a very fortunate position to really be able to maximize this one. Because my husband was born and raised in the area, he has a lot of connections. Additionally, he is in the construction industry so some of these subs he uses on a daily basis. Also, we have several friends who have built their own homes in recent years, so we were able to get their recommendations on who they thought were the best people to use. So if you are reading this thinking, “this tip will not help me at all, I don’t have any of those things going for me.” I totally understand and do not mean to discourage you! Maybe it can motivate you to start asking friends and family to see who they may know. You never know what kind of connections you can make! For the rest of you, here is how we did it! We used as many subs as we could that we already knew and for the rest, we asked questions! We called those friends who had recently built and asked who they used. We found as many connections as we could and priced each of them out to find the best price and service we could. Does that mean we just went for the cheapest one? Absolutely not! We highly value quality and are willing to pay what a service is worth to have it done right! However, we don’t want to overpay just to overpay. A few examples, we blindly walked into a roofing supply store trying to price out a metal roof. When the gentleman called us a few days later to give us a price, the first words out of his mouth were “what was your budget again?” If you hear these words, go running! Any company that bases their price off your budget versus actual cost is not going to give you the best price! Never give them your budget! Ask for their best price and compare it to your budget yourself. He then proceeded to give Daniel a price and when Daniel reminded him he was a contractor, he immediately took 25% off his price, meaning there was plenty of wiggle room. However, at this point, we no longer trusted him and knew he was not the supply company for us. We asked around and ended up finding a contractor who supplied the metal and installed it for less than the guy was trying to sell us just the material for! Another example is our drywall. We went directly to the drywall contractor and only paid $21 a board for level 5 smooth walls, plus we paid for materials. They did a fantastic job, and since we were dealing directly with their boss, we weren’t just sitting around wondering when they were going to show up. These are only two examples, but hopefully, they show you the importance of asking around and trying to make connections with your own subs. Do not be afraid to push back and if you can, offer cash! Most subs are happy to do it for less if you can pay them in cash.
3. Prioritize Your Wishes
While I’m certain if budget were not a limit, we would all love to build a dreamy, elaborate home with gables galore. When building on a budget, it is important to prioritize what is most important to you! For me, it was a large butler’s pantry with a window where I could keep all kitchen goods neatly organized and a big, open kitchen with a massive window over the sink where I could watch my children playing while I worked. For Daniel, it was a large garage where he had plenty of room to park his large truck and give him room to work. Both of us wanted the vaulted ceiling in the living room, a home office separated from the rest of the home, and an open floor plan. I already discussed two of the ‘sacrifices’ we made to keep our home in the simplified floor plan: a smaller laundry room without windows and a smaller master shower. I had planned on sacrificing a dedicated school room, but due to an architectural issue with our garage, we ended up having to extend it 4′ meaning our bonus room over the garage became massive! So we portioned off an 8’x18′ space, and that became my school room, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make to keep our footprint the size we needed. So before you begin your building process, make a list of your non-negotiables and your wishes. Then as you work through your budget, see how many will work and how many will need to be cut. Laying out exactly what is a priority for you will help the thing you have to cut feel like less of a sacrifice because you will know that they were cut to allow you to have your biggest wishes! I can easily overlook my small laundry room when I walk into my amazing pantry!
Building a home can be such a stressful, yet exciting time! Properly planning in advance can make it a much easier process! Choosing a cost-effective floorplan, hiring your own subs and prioritizing your wishes can help you build a home that maximizes your budget and allows you to build the home of your dreams.