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It’s often said that the easiest way to estimate a budget for a new build or a renovation is by “cost per square foot”. While, this can be a quick, and simple calculation, it’s not an exact science - and ballpark estimates are not what you want when you’re making such a large investment.

What does “cost per square foot” show you?

Typically, a breakdown using the cost per square foot method will include everything for a turnkey construction. That doesn’t take into account landscaping, wells, driveways, permits, demolition, septic systems, etc. We like to refer to this formula as a “starting point”, as it can often be useful for people to determine if a build or renovation is within reach financially. If the build or renovation is of average size with standard finishes, then cost per square foot could be used to prepare an estimated budget. It’s a bit like buying the floor model of a car vs a model with upgrades. Once you start adding options to any model, the base price is just the jumping off point.

What are some other methods that help determine budget?

The more detail, the better. A Design Questionnaire filled out by the client will dig deeper into the custom features, style and vision/scope for the project. GIving finer details early in the process will allow for a more accurate estimate of total cost. A questionnaire, or consult, will identify the “small” things that affect budget in ways you’d never think of. For example, you can pack a lot of expensive features into a small space, like a bathroom renovation with imported marble tile, new windows and completely custom fixtures. Cost per square footage doesn’t account for economy of scale, even though it’s technically a small square footage, the extras will greatly affect the total cost. Further, a more thorough analysis will include site conditions, square footage and customizations - giving the homeowner more than just one indicator of cost.

Talk to an expert about budgeting for a new home build or renovation. Get a detailed estimate of project scope and budget early, so that you are never surprised by overages.

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