In the 33 years we’ve been building custom homes in Boerne, Garden Ridge and elsewhere in the Texas Hill Country, we can’t recall a single time when a homeowner came to us and said, “Build me a home, and I don’t care what it costs.” That’s just not the way it works. We generally build homes that cost between $400,000 and $5 million. While that’s quite a wide range, the cost is always a factor, regardless of the amount a client is spending. But is there such a thing as a standard cost for a custom home?
When you’re talking about building a home, the words “standard” and “custom” are pretty much mutually exclusive. It’s virtually impossible to have standardized prices across the board when the things that affect the costs (land, design, size, materials, and labor) are so dramatically different. Some homeowners try to lock in on a “cost-per-square-foot” in order to get a better idea of what they can expect to spend. But once again, that figure depends on what kind of materials, design, and labor are involved in creating those “square feet.”
How can you get a handle on what you should spend for a home? It begins with establishing a budget that’s realistic for you. What can you really afford to spend without causing yourself undue stress? If what you can truly afford is toward the $400,000 range, you don’t want to have a builder or architect create plans for a $2 million home. Conversely, if what you want is a $3 million home (and you can afford that kind of expense), you don’t want to budget for a $500,000 home that may leave you disappointed.
Let’s look at just a few of the major factors that will affect your costs. This is where you may have to make some compromises. I’m not talking about sacrificing quality, but you may have to forego some things in order to stay within your budget.
- Property: The size and location of your lot have a huge impact on the price. Custom homes tend to be found on custom lots. Some individuals like lots of land around their home for the view or the privacy. More land costs more money. And more remote lots can also require more money to make them accessible or buildable.
- Design: This may sound a bit obvious, but more complex designs cost more than simple designs. Square and rectangular shapes are easier to build than unusual shapes. And it’s not just building a different-shaped wall that costs more. Unusually shaped walls may require unusually shaped windows. That costs more. Of course, the size of the home you build matters as well. It simply takes more time (labor) and materials to build a 10,000 square foot home than it does to build a 4,000 square foot home.
- Materials: The materials you specify for your home can also make a significant difference in the price. Some homeowners in the area like to use local materials to capture the essence of their surroundings. Others enjoy the look and feel of recycled or repurposed woods. Still, others appreciate the beauty of exotic woods used throughout the house. You have to decide if your budget can handle those kinds of expenses. By the way, that can be a bit tricky, because sometimes what appears to be a small, incremental increase can have a big impact on your price. For instance, you might really like a particular kind of exotic hardwood flooring that costs $5 a square foot more than a conventional floor. That $5 doesn’t seem like much, but if you plan to cover 1,500 square feet of floor, you’re looking at an increase of $7,500! That’s just one example of how scope creep can blow your budget out of the water.
Those are just a few areas where customizing your home can dramatically impact the price you pay—and why it’s virtually impossible to talk about “standard” pricing when you’re building a custom home. That’s also why it’s so important to have a realistic budget and then bring both the designer/architect and the builder into the process as early as possible so that you end up with a realistic cost and budget based on what you want.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get an idea of what homes in an area are going for. Sites such as Zillow.com can help you determine a range of prices in the area where you’re considering building. For instance, you can check here to see what current homes in Boerne, TX are listed at. Be aware, however, that you’ll run across a wide range of homes—and none of them will be designed to your exact specifications.
Those specific features that you want to build into your home, by the way, may well affect the specific price you’ll pay. It’s one reason to be wary of “ballpark” estimates when setting your budget. Trying to establish a standard cost for a custom home is pretty much impossible. If you’re trying to establish a range for comparable houses, you may be in luck, but standard and custom are two completely different things.
Adapted and updated from the original March 21, 2016, post