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Residential Construction Costs: An Update Heading into 2020!

money sign ring

After carefully watching potential clues earlier this year that indicated a building boom slow-down, we soon realized there was no slow-down happening ! Unfortunately, (or fortunately – depending on your perspective!) building costs have continued to creep upwards. Here’s our annual analysis of rough costs in the home improvement world.

In this blog, we’ll lay out the numbers we’re using for preliminary budgeting these days. Please keep in mind that these are very generalized. We’re happy to chat with you directly about your particulars as you get started on your design goals. Having been a design build contractor for many years, we continue to stay on top of current pricing; now that we’re no longer building ourselves, we communicate regularly about costs with the terrific contractors that build our clients’ projects.

whole house remodel in progress
Total transformation in progress.
lake house remodel nearing completion
Nearing completion!

Some Basic General Construction Cost Guidance

Costs of building a new home can run from $280/sq ft. for a bare bones, not-much-in-the-way-of-finishes simple structure; to $350k for something the likes of which you see in our portfolio; to $400/sf and (way)up for a house that’s very customized (think glossy magazine homes)…. And of course you can spend more as desires and budget allow!

But be warned: square foot (sf) costs can be very misleading. There are two very important variables in considering SF costs:

1)    Amount of square feet in the scope of work: the larger the project, the lower the SF cost tends to be. The high cost of expensive space (think kitchens, bathrooms) can be offset by simple space (think bedrooms, dining /living rooms). If you have a very small home, you still have the cost of kitchen and bathrooms, but not as much simple space, so your SF cost will be higher for that project. This is why 1,000sf DADUs are so terribly expensive.  

2)    The type of contractor you elect to work with: builders come in a range of types and sizes, with very different cost implications. The very large custom residential contractors have offices, support staff, project engineers, and construction managers, which come with larger overhead costs than smaller companies. These firms specialize in building large, sophisticated projects, and often advise $400/sf as a starting point. A mid-size company will have fewer support/management people – perhaps running 3-5 jobs at a time – and less overhead. These companies are now averaging $350/sf for new construction. And at the other end, there is what we call the “tailgate contractor” – a builder who works on the job with another carpenter or two, and manages his day out of his truck.  This builder type has little or no overhead, and sf costs may start as low as $280/sf for new work or major remodels. You might think you’ll immediately head towards the least expensive contractor!…but be aware there is more to consider than just cost when selecting a builder. See our blog on Choosing the Right Contractor for more on this topic!

kitchen remodel under construction
Under construction!

lake-house-remodel-cta-design completed kitchen
Completed kitchen!

We also look at costs a different way to see the numbers through a different lens:  “component pricing”.  This breaks out the spaces into room types as follows:

  • Additions:  plan on about $275-300/sf. for the structure only, not including bathrooms or kitchens within.
  • Kitchens: $80 – 200k for a small to mid-sized to-the-studs remodel, including new sheetrock and lighting.
  • Baths: $30 – 80k depending on the size and how many fixtures.
  • Living areas/bedrooms/non-plumbed remodels: if new windows and trim, perhaps refinishing floors, and some new lighting: this cost might be between $30 – 60k/room.
  • Finishing an unfinished basement: figure about $175 – 200/sf. This would include insulating walls, a bathroom, windows, upgrading stairs, etc.
Second story addition nearing completion!

How much does a 2nd story addition cost?

When adding a second story to a 1-story older house, a lot of upgrading usually needs to be done to the original house to enable the extra load of the new upper floor. And often there is remodeling work on the main floor to provide a new staircase. With these added elements, the cost for a Master suite (including bathroom and walk-in closet) usually ends up starting around $300k, and can be higher if there is a lot of remodeling planned for the existing house. Of course this cost also depends on the size of the addition; if there are additional bedrooms and a second bathroom, that adds more square footage, so plan for more cost.

dadu in construction
DADU under construction

completed dadu interior
Completed DADU

How much does a DADU cost?

Current code restricts new DADU’s to a maximum of 1,000sf. Building a DADU that size is usually a minimum of $300k, and often more around $400k +. The cost is high per sf because the structure contains all the expensive-to-build spaces, like kitchen & bathroom, within a very small total square footage.

These are very rough numbers to plan your budget with. Other costs must be considered:

  • Sales Tax on construction (10.1% in Seattle)
  • Design fees (we bill hourly for architectural services) Plan on between 8-15% of planned construction cost. Design fees vary from firm to firm, and depend on project type and size.
  • Permit fees.
  • Large appliances (owners receive the best pricing when they buy their package of appliances from a dealer).
  • Elements of construction not readily apparent as you start thinking about the scope: siding patching and painting, hardscaping/landscaping etc.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of the costs involved. It’s expensive, but every single one of our clients has told us that when all was said and done, their remodel was totally worth the cost and effort, and has enriched their lives.  It’s a thrill to hear, and why we love what we do!

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