How much will my house cost? This is an excellent question, unless you are asking someone who has no idea what kind of house you want. Yet this is a common question that people will ask a home builder. The question asked by the super majority of people who plan to build a home is this question, “How much do you charge per square foot?” What’s fascinating about this question is that the person asking it has not told the builder anything about what kind of home he wants. Here’s how I put this question in perspective.
1. Imagine going to Costco and pausing at the front door where you show the entry clerk your membership card, and ask the clerk this question, “How much will my groceries cost me today?”
2. Or imagine going to your favorite restaurant and as soon as the waitress or maitre d’ comes to your table with the menu, you ask, “How much will our check be tonight?”
3. Or suppose you have an annual checkup with your doctor, and immediately upon entering the doctor’s office you ask the receptionist, “How much will the good doctor be billing me today?”
Of course, the answers to all of these questions starts out, “That depends . . .” It depends on what groceries you buy, what you order off the menu, and what health needs your body has.
So why would a person’s very first question to a Sequim home builder or a Port Angeles home builder be, “How much will my home cost per square foot?”
The average person wants to believe that he/she can find a home builder who will build their home for less than anyone else, a lot less. After doing some research and talking to a few general contractors, it will be apparent that there is a huge difference between the highest bidder and the lowest bidder. Here’s where the average person makes a massive mistake.
They assume the lower bidder is telling them everything they need to know about cost and that the quality of materials used will be the same as the higher bidder. They also assume the lower bidder will not surprise them by increasing the cost throughout the construction process. There are a thousand games contractors can play, so integrity and absolute honesty on the part of a builder are critical, but understand a builder with integrity and honesty is the exception, not the rule.
Right now I’m aware of another victim homeowner who hired the lowest bidder, and what a nightmare it is. They are so stressed out, and they are so far over budget already, they are worried about having enough money to complete their home. How would you like to retire and find yourself in the biggest nightmare of your life? This is a story that keeps repeating itself again and again every month (or every day) in Washington. Like sheep to the slaughter, consumers keep hiring these home builders masquerading as honest contractors. Clients have been telling me for years, “He seemed so nice.
What is the answer? The answer is doing your due diligence to find and hire a builder who is absolutely honest, and who prepares a detailed specifications manual so you can compare apples-to-apples with competing contractors. But if you’re not an expert on these subjects, and no one is unless they’ve been a builder or built many homes and have a substantial understanding of materials, construction, and costs, get help from someone who knows how to walk you through this process. This does not cost you anything. Let me say that again. Doing your due diligence does not cost you anything.
But not doing your due diligence could cost you a small fortune. When you meet your contractor, don’t ask, “How much do you charge per square foot?” Tell your builder exactly what you want in a home, answer his questions, get a detailed spec manual, and then start comparing bids. And take the lower bids back to the builder who was higher and who you perceived to be honest. Ask him to do a professional and specific apples v. apples comparison. Again, this will cost you nothing, but could save you a fortune.
And finally, let me share something that so many homeowners have learned from the school of hard knocks. “The lowest bidder may actually end up being the highest bidder by the time your home is completed.”
Last Updated on April 8, 2013 by Chuck Marunde