Building a new home – more than any other endeavor tends to pit dreams against the hard reality of cost. And it’s pretty common for the homeowners’ vision to be out of sync with the budget and actual costs to build. That can be disappointing, but there can be creative solutions that reduce building costs while still delivering that vision.
The solution to the budget conundrum involves more than shrinking the size of the home and giving up favorite features and amenities. The method for finding the happy medium is called ‘value engineering.’ It’s a way of doing everything that optimizes the return on every dollar, and it’s not just a random cost-cutting exercise. Instead it’s a systematic and thoughtful approach to satisfying the homeowners’ most important needs while still honoring the budget.
We put on the “value-engineering glasses” when initial pricing is completed and it looks like the home design and materials will need to be modified to keep it in budget. An experienced builder knows of alternatives that lower costs while maintaining quality. The goal is to support the homeowners in making informed choices.
It’s not unusual to be able to shave tens of thousands of dollars off the budget for a custom home by making a lot of small adjustments that only minimally impact the home’s look and feel—if you know how to do it right.
How does a builder know where to make those adjustments?
By asking the right questions in the right way, identifying patterns in the answers, and reading between the lines. A builder who is good at this can often uncover priorities that the homeowners weren’t able to articulate. Solutions can then be tailored to those priorities.
For instance, if the conversation reveals that the homeowners aren’t likely to use the front porch very often, they may be receptive to making it smaller. If a priority is a large kitchen with high end appliances, having a simply designed family room can completely acceptable. Where substitutions must be made, the trick is in knowing which lower-cost materials and design features will deliver the needed performance, aesthetic, or warranty features, while not increasing maintenance costs or reducing the home’s longevity.
Value engineering can also include reducing exterior wall space by simplifying the facade. Exterior walls cost a lot more to build than interior walls, so a facade with fewer corners, nooks, and crannies will require less materials and labor. Changes could be as simple as moving windows or doors a few inches to eliminate framing members, or as complex as adjusting the home’s footprint to minimize waste in roofing and siding without sacrificing interior space.
It even means working with subcontractors to redesign pipe, wire and duct runs. In fact, good value engineering is a team effort, and a good team of subcontractors will be accustomed to helping make it work.
Budget is a very important factor in home building. During the design and the building process, fully understanding what the essentials are for the new home, and considering what are the “nice to include if budget allows”, helps you make informed decisions to create a home you’ll enjoy for a lifetime.