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Square Foot Costs – New Construction Versus Remodeling

We had an inquiry recently about square foot costs

“As a homeowner trying to make some very important decisions about what to do with our housing situation, we just feel so lost and overwhelmed at the same time. Many of our decisions have to do with costs and what we can afford.

We are considering a remodel of our house, but, we are also looking into the possibility of building a new house. Is there a difference in the cost (per sq/ft) between the two options?”

Our answer:

“This is a seemingly straightforward question, but unfortunately, the answer is not so straightforward. In remodeling versus new construction, a sq.ft. to sq.ft. comparison doesn’t really work and there are numerous reasons for this. When we have clients faced with similar situations, we work with them to determine what is best for them.

In a remodel for instance, some areas will have higher costs since they will be more affected, while some areas have lesser costs. And there’s the axiom that kitchens cost more than bedrooms. So a square foot price for a remodel will have different values for different work, depending on what is being remodeled.

Sometimes with an existing property, it may be best to have some remodeling and then an addition or two. If there’s an addition involved, that’s another pricing.

The size of the addition or remodel will affect its price too, as there is an economy of scale — more work costs less per square foot. The quality of the finishes will also affect the price — for example, granite costs more than plastic laminate, clear fir trim costs more than painted trim, etc.

When building new, a new house, sometimes one can not build on the same “footprint” as the old structure because zoning laws have changed and now they will get less space than what they expected, or they will have to set back further from the view or property line. Or perhaps it’s an environmentally sensitive area and new construction is limited.

There are many things that affect such decisions, whether to build new or remodel, and many things that affect the overall cost. A simple square foot price where one size fits all can be quite misleading.”


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