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Keep Costs Low by Knowing What You Want

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As a builder, I am regularly asked what can be done to keep costs low for a particular home build.  One of the most basic ways to keep your costs down when creating your dream home is to know what you want before you start.  Changes can be extremely costly in both time and money.

Can You Give Me An Example?

A home builder just got off the phone with a customer.  They are about to finish framing the customer’s 2700 square foot ranch and they want to add a couple windows to the garden level basement and add a door from the laundry room to the master toilet area.  The builder informed the customer that changes at this stage are very costly both in time and money.  The response from the customer went like this… “I don’t see why it’s a big deal, I’m only talking about a couple windows and a door”.  The builder went through the reasons why it’s not a good idea to make big changes in the middle of the project including the following:

Time:  When building a new home, you order products well in advance of when you need them, including windows and doors.  Many of the best quality window manufacturers use just-in-time manufacturing which means they don’t warehouse windows…they make them just before they ship to your job site.  This lowers their cost of capital and lowers your cost to build.  The particular windows the customer wants will take four to six weeks to get…which means you can’t install siding until they are in and you shouldn’t be installing wiring, insulation and drywall without the house being weather tight.

Before construction begins, you submit a permit application to the city along with the plan you are building.  If you make changes, you need to make the building department aware of them.  This can take weeks depending on the particular municipality’s process to go back through plan review.  And technically, you shouldn’t make the change until they review it…just in case you are denied.

Money:  Of course you have the normal costs of making the change including the windows, flashing, and lumber.  Then add on top of that the rework involved for the carpenter.  Also, there is typically a plan review fee from the municipality and you will need to pay the architect to make changes to your plan.

The most expensive cost is the cost of delaying the project.  From a construction loan perspective, the average daily cost is between $75-100.  Then add in the cost of temporary housing and storage for your things and it gets really expensive.

If you live in a cold climate, you may also have temporary heating costs to deal with which can be as much as $20 per day.  On top of this, add on the management time of making the change. From calling all of the subcontractors about the schedule changes, to packaging and submitting the revised plans to the municipality, a change during construction can be quite time consuming. This “simple” change involves coordination and communication to over ten different vendors from the window supplier… to the company that installs the siding… to the building department, just to name a few.

You are building your dream and if the additional costs and time noted above are worth making the change, by all means you should make the change.  Just know what you are getting into before you jump into “simple changes” once construction has begun.  And if you want to keep costs down, spend the time upfront to identify all of the things you want in your new home at the design stage.

Author Bio: Michael Luckado has built, remodeled and repaired thousands of homes throughout the U.S. He co-founded and the Armchair Builder Blog to help people save money when building and remodeling their home.

Brandon Hall

Brandon Hall is the owner of America’s Best House Plans and has over 15 years of experience in the home design industry. He focuses his time on the day-to-day operations while also keeping up to date on industry news and working to perfect the customer service experience.

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