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How Much Will This House Cost?

One of the first questions that I am always asked at a consultation about designing a new home is, “How much do you think this custom house will cost us?” At an initial consultation, there is no floor plan, no set square footage, no style perfectly pinned down, and sometimes there are not even pictures showing an example of the desired quality of materials to help me answer this question. However, there is still a way to guess with some accuracy how much your new home will cost.

There are three factors that are inextricably linked together in the building of a custom home: cost, quality, and size.


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Chances are, you know at least one of these magic factors. You may have a firm budget dictating cost. Perhaps you have saved dozens of photos of your dream kitchen and bathroom designs; this will tell me what quality you are expecting which I interpret as a cost per square foot. Or maybe you have a list of all the rooms and spaces you want in your new home design; from this list, I can estimate a very rough idea of the square footage of your future home.


Let’s look at an example of starting with a known cost. Many people start a new home design with a visit to bank where they will receive a pre-approved amount for a home loan. Let us pretend that the pre-approval amount is $400,000.00 When determined to stay within the loan-determined budget, you will see from the diagram below that you have two basic options: a larger size home with low quality, or a smaller home with high quality. From this point, it is best to talk with your designer about your vision. Is there are particular design style you have your heart set on? Some lend themselves to higher quality building and other can be well disguised lower quality. Have you always dreamed of secret passages, or climate controlled wine cellars? These items will tell your designer that he or she needs to design with conservative size in order to allow room in the budget for the custom features of your home.


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Size. The size of the home is most often the dictating factor of a new home design project when the family requires a large number of minimum spaces. For example, a home with more than 4 children, a home with in-laws needing separate kitchen facilities, or a family in which both spouses work from home and need private office space. These situations necessitate much more square footage than a typical compact 2,000 square foot home. If this is your case, we will want to determine the quality of the home along side the spaces. Bring photos or send links to images you’ve seen online, so that we can keep these spaces within the realm of reality. If we determine that you will need somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet and that you are expecting a quality of $200 per square foot, you can expect the home to cost between $700,000 and $800,000.


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When quality is the fixed component of the design puzzle, then the cost per square foot can be estimated. When you are absolutely decided, for example, on a home made with exposed heavy timbers, massive stone hearths, completely unique cabinetry, and you have already fallen in love with an Italian marble that must be cut to order in Carrera, then you must know you are looking at a minimum cost of $300 per square foot. To keep the home design within a reasonable price, it is a good idea to ask your designer for some size and cost scenarios. For example,I might suggest we keep the home under 4,000 square feet because the location will have a difficult time supporting any value over $1,000,000. This will mean that we should aim for a little over 3,000 square feet. Or we might decided that budget doesn’t matter (lucky you) and only focus on designing spaces that will feature the beautiful materials or high craftsmanship that you desire to see in your dream home. If, however, you have a strict budget and do not want to compromise on quality, your home will be restricted to a very small size. But do not worry. At Studio Boise, we love to make quality spaces that are designed intelligently for maximum use.

(For a better understanding of square footage costs and the quality they deliver, see Studio Boise’s blog on Quality: Cost Per Square Foot.  Coming soon.)


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No matter your restrictions, cost, quality, size, or all three, choosing to come to a designer for a truly custom space is the best way to find a combination that best fits your needs, style, and wallet.

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