A question we get a lot from potential clients is “What is the cost-per-square-foot of your homes? We understand the question is really, “How much will my house cost?”

And the answer is: “It depends.”

Professional custom home builders rely on proven management systems to finish a home on time and on budget. Creating an accurate budget is as much craft as a science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading the client. That is because a custom home is not a product. Instead it is the physical realization of a particular client’s dream home on a specific site. Each person’s dream home is unique; so the only way to estimate the cost is to ask some follow-up questions.

First we need to clarify what the client means by square foot cost of the home. Does it include the garage, unfinished lower level, or other unfinished space – such as a over the garage bonus room? Does it include costs for lot clearing, driveway, utilities, well and septic, and permits?

Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified – what kind of home are they dreaming of? Is the floor plan simple or complex? Is it a traditional style with intricate interior mouldings and built-ins, or a modern structure with lots of glass and minimal trim?

Then we need to define the level of desired finishes. A professional custom home builder can help refine the expectations, starting with questions about exterior materials, windows, plumbing, flooring, cabinetry preferences and special features of the home.

After sorting through all of the above, we may be able to reference plans and photos for similar homes built in the past. We can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to built that home with their specifications on their site.

However, it is not something you can do over the phone. The client needs to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely spent.