Blueprint of home remodel

12 costs not included in online cost to build estimates

Imagine falling in love with a home plan you find online. You look at the “Average Cost to Build Estimate” which the company quotes to build the plan in your area. You’re relieved that it’s within your budget, so you purchase the plan. Then sticker shock sets in when you receive an estimate from a local builder. You may go back to him with computer printout in hand, insisting that “this is what it should cost,” and you may not want to hear the explanation when he says it’s not, because your heart is set on that plan at that estimated cost.

Unfortunately, if you dig deeper into many online building estimates, you’ll discover that there are many things they omit in these baseline estimates, because they have no way of accurately calculating the costs. Those important details will significantly increase your building costs. Most plan estimates include the basic frame of the structure and not many interior details, but it goes far beyond that. Here are some costs commonly omitted from all but the best online estimates:

  1. Licensed Professionals: Most Cost to Build Estimates do not include costs for a general contractor to plan, build and manage the project from conception to completion, nor do they include the cost of structural engineering approvals to conform with local building code requirements.
  2. Insurance and legalities. Worker’s Compensation and General Liability insurance as well as building or zoning permits aren’t mentioned.
  3. Site issues. Clearing of the site, excavation costs, additional soil and/or gravel needed for the foundation, waterproofing, termite treatments, and the labor all of that entails are not included.
  4. Foundation alterations. Many plans are drawn to be built on a slab rather than on a crawl space, which is more expensive. Plans may be altered before you purchase them to accommodate a crawl space or other preferred changes (at an additional cost).
  5. Material Selections that are necessities. Roofing selections, handrails, wood or iron pickets and woodworking on stairs, fireplace connections and components, ceiling fans, ample recessed lighting, door hardware and hardware for cabinets, security alarm systems and accessory lighting, not to mention details like crown molding, baseboards, casings and additional molding are not included.
  6. Interior Design. Assistance with all interior and exterior material and product selections, finishes and colors, as well as space and furniture planning. These elements make a home come together beautifully yet add to the project’s cost.
  7. Appliances. Depending on your wish list, these could range from inexpensive basics to luxuries like warming drawers and professional ranges.
  8. Utilities. This includes construction necessities – such as a Porta-Jon, dumpster and temporary electric service pole – as well as what you need for the completed home – sewer lines, septic systems, water line installation, wells, electric, cable, internal structural wiring, etc.
  9. Heavy construction equipment. You’ll need a crane or forklift rental for roof trusses or other heavy materials.
  10. Exterior concrete and landscape. Driveways, walkways, patios, topsoil or backfill for the yard, seed or sod, irrigation and drainage systems, final landscaping and the labor to complete all of it are necessities.
  11. Taxes and fees. Local sales tax on all the materials purchased and/or shipping costs for them can add up quickly.
  12. Clean up.  Don’t forget removing the debris from both the house and yard throughout construction and the important final cleaning of interior and exterior- windows, flooring, etc. before move in!

Which leads to our final point: these estimates often include a very basic allowance that is far below the level most people select. Delve into the descriptions and you’ll see that quotes often include laminate countertops, vinyl floors in kitchens, baths and laundry rooms, and very basic carpeting and flooring, and builder grade lighting and plumbing fixtures (if any). Exterior selections like brick, vinyl, wood, HardiePlank, paint, etc. also can vary widely in price. These are the items that can add up quickly and become budget busters – but they are also the vital touches that make a house your home. So before you set your heart on a plan based on a cost to build that you see online, check with a professional, licensed, qualified builder to get a true feel for what it really will cost to build in your area.

There are many great plans available online, but be certain to do your homework so you have a realistic expectation of the Cost to Build the home you will love and value for years to come.

By Gary Palmer
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