Let’s be clear: HGTV is WRONG.
Those fun shows that you see where there’s a similar storyline to each episode with a starting budget, a change order, and a final budget…all happening within a month or two? Not real. HGTV is in the entertainment business, not the construction business. If you can wrap your mind around that, you’re a step ahead of the game. Take those ridiculously low prices and keep them where they belong: on some producer’s storyboard.
In Michigan, the cost to build a custom home new construction starts at $400/SF. This includes higher end finishes – think James Hardie cladding and/or masonry, SubZero-Wolf appliances, luxury stone countertops, high quality flooring, and captivating architectural details.
Now, there are ways to lower your budget and even more ways to increase it (like, say, sneezing).
However, there are three building components that you absolutely cannot afford to downgrade.
1) your architect, 2) your utilities (HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing), and 3) your builder. These three components can result in extreme pain and cost overruns if you don’t choose them wisely in the beginning. Conversely, if you choose them carefully and for the right reasons, they will pay you dividends throughout the life of your home.
So, what are the right reasons to choose your architect, your utilities, and your builder? Here are a few tips:
Choose an architect that is familiar with your climate. A home built in California has different design criteria than one built in Michigan. For example: that stunning cantilevered great room overlooking a vineyard with floor to ceiling windows spanning 500 linear feet may be a slice of heaven in California. In Michigan? It’s really, really cold…it will end up being a $350k sunroom. Choose an architect that has a robust schematic design process where you can be afforded multiple options to consider and ample time to work out different concepts with early pricing takeoffs from your builder. Pop quiz: what does time equal? That’s right: money. Talented architects cost money. Talented architects are worth their weight in gold. They are leaders and their leadership will transform your project experience. They will spend the time to guide you through the design process and they will be your true advocate during the construction process. All architects are NOT made equal. Hire the good ones. Trust me: if you hire a low-bid architect, it won’t be long before you realize the value of the right architect was actually priceless.
You’ve got one shot at doing this so you have to do it right. You only see your HVAC, Electrical, and Plumbing installations for a short time before they get buried behind your walls. The ultimate goal is that you never have to see them again. The only way to accomplish that is by choosing quality equipment and rough components which have been properly sized, engineered, and installed. DO NOT cut corners on utilities. This is not to say you have to purchase the most expensive stuff. Your architect will advise you!
What’s more dangerous than hiring the wrong architect? Hiring the wrong builder. Builders are NOT a commodity, they’re an experience. Hire the good ones. What makes a good builder? Collaboration, communication, transparency, and craftsmanship. Your builder should be friendly. They should have strong examples of and references for their project management. Their pricing should be clear, easy to understand, and broken down by trade. Their prior work should be beautiful and on display. Do you know how to find a good builder? Ask your architect!