|Estimating Construction Costs|
Estimating Construction Costs:
I hear clients, real-estate agents and contractors talk all the time about housing construction cost by quoting a per square foot number. My clients ask me all the time “how much do you think it will cost us to build this house”? My reply is always the same, I simply illustrate a point by asking them a question in return, “How much does it cost to buy a car” I then explain that there are too many variables in a construction project to guess at a number to answer their question and I emphasis that is all it would be is a guess. Averaging costs by the square foot is only good for a very loose ball park figure and should never be used to plan a construction project.
I have wanted to do a brief on the subject of estimating construction cost for some time now. It is a very complex topic and one of the most important in the whole construction process whether you are building a 1,500 sq. ft. or a 10,000 sq. ft. home. In my time as an architectural designer and as a home builder I have seen and tried many different methods of estimating costs and have come to the conclusion that there is really only one sure way and that is the hard way. If you build houses for a living and do several projects a year the job can get easier providing you do a near perfect job of tracking your construction costs. This provides a data base that can yield a reasonably safe per square foot cost to build providing all of the homes were similar in style and design criteria. If you do not build houses for a living or if you only do a couple of projects a year you really have no choice but to do the tried and proven line by line cost by cost process. There are many tools today to make the process easier and more organized like Excel or QuickBooks and getting at the actual costs and numbers has become easier with the use of the Internet and the many available online databases like Home Depots. But overall the process is the same and as mentioned it is to beak the house down and create a list format line by line estimate of both materials and labor.
The first step in the process is to decide how you are going to get the house built. Are you going to hand the whole project over to a General Contractor or are you going to act as the G.C. and manage the project yourself. If you are going to have a G.C. build the house then all you need to do is have a well drawn set of house plans in which all of the specifications and fixtures are on paper so that they know what type of products you will expect and thus what to bid on. The more details and item specific the better your cost estimates will be and the closer the bottom lines will be when comparing one Builders quote to another. Do not get lazy on the plan development. Take whatever time is required to make the necessary item by item decisions during the design process and then compile all of the information in a clear and concise manner combined into a professional bid package. You are going to have to do the shopping and choosing anyway so just take the time and do it right. Your reward will be a much better picture of the costs to build and a very close to on budget build out.