What is the cost of my project going to be?
One of the most frequent questions we receive is, “How much will a home cost per square foot?” This is a question that can only be answered after an architectural plan is selected, finishes such as flooring, cabinetry and trim work are chosen, and the home site has been evaluated. All of these elements will impact the cost per square foot of the home.
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the home, the lower the cost per square foot. The reason: some homebuilding costs are the same, regardless of home size, such as landscaping and other exterior features, lot fees and garage space. When these basic costs are incorporated into a larger home, the expense is applied to the overall square footage, resulting in a lower cost per square foot. Consult with J.A. Long to find out how you can add more square feet without substantially impacting the cost of the home.
Since J.A. Long specializes in high-end custom homes, our calculated costs per square foot are based on upgraded finishes, rather than providing a lower figure that the customer will then have to adjust when the luxury amenities are added. Using this method gives you a more accurate picture of actual home cost. If you are comparison shopping and encounter a significantly lower cost per square foot than what we estimate, make sure that this lower price includes similar finishes, trim work and amenities.
How Do I Choose a Design?
Look at as many completed homes as possible to get a feel for what you want. J.A. Long has many different floor plans that you can view, offering you the flexibility to make changes to fit your needs and lifestyle.
You can also design the home from scratch. This process will be much easier if you prepare a “must have” want list of the items you would like in your dream home. By reviewing the J.A. Long portfolio and selecting the floor plans that appeal to you, we can then combine various elements of those homes such as baths, living areas, kitchens, etc. to fit your needs. The first meeting should be held at the home site so the home can be designed to maximize the site’s assets and minimize any liabilities the site may have.
You should choose your focal point, which may be the pool, a view such as a golf course, a lake or pond, or a special tree. The home should be built around this focal point with aim of giving as many rooms as possible a dramatic view.
If you do decide to design from scratch, choose your builder first – then work closely with the builder and his professional design team to be sure the home offers the latest in innovation, fits your needs and desires and can be built within the budget you have established.
You will view many different homes and floor plans offered by builders. When you agree to a specific home it is very important that the plans be modified to reflect the home as it will be built. You and the builder should initial those plans. If changes are made during construction the original plans should be changed. Also, make sure that all previous copies of your plans created before the changes were made are destroyed or discarded. This will help eliminate mistakes.
What are specifications and why are they important?
Specifications are probably the most important part of the agreement. Since it is so easy to forget things in today’s hectic world, the complete home should be described in writing. J.A. Long (or any other reputable builder, for that matter) should offer specifications detailing exactly the items to be included in the home.
The specifications should offer not only what is provided, but also what is not provided in the home. The specifications should also be signed and agreed to by all parties. Should you make changes, or any of the specifications seem vague or unclear, they should be amended so that you, the buyer, and the home builder both have a clear vision of the finished home. With clear concise plans and specifications, there are no gray areas and everyone knows what is expected and what the end result will be. Without this communication, errors are bound to result and create more stress for everyone involved in the process.
When the plans and specifications are complete you should receive a firm price for the home. This price should complete the home as specified on the chosen home site. Do not sign any agreement that leaves fill cost, foundation height, utility connections, governmental fees, etc. as an allowance item. This cost can be astounding and any knowledgeable builder should be able to estimate these items and offer a firm price. Most communities establish a minimum floor elevation height and the price of the home should include adequate fill, foundation height, etc. to accomplish this.
What about changes to the plans during construction?
If you make changes during construction, ask that those changes be put in writing. The cost should be established prior to the change being made. This will eliminate all surprises.
What type of price structure should I select?
Most builders, including J.A. Long, recommend the firm price method over any form of cost-plus agreement. A cost-plus agreement removes the incentive of cost control by the builder and leaves the buyer wide open to many unpleasant surprises. It’s just good business to know the final outcome at the beginning to eliminate the surprises.
What if I already have a lot or I’m looking to purchase a lot first?
The quality of home sites can vary greatly. It is important that you have your builder look at any home site you are interested in purchasing prior to agreeing to the purchase.
In addition, never purchase a home site without having a soil test performed on the lot to be sure the ground is suitable for building.
Your builder should alert you to this need and have this test performed for you at your expense. Many times, the purchase of a home site is conditioned upon satisfactory soil test. It is further conditioned upon satisfactory percolation test if a septic system is required.
This is very important. The costs of correcting soil problems can be expensive. We’ve seen costs upwards of $30,000 to correct such problems, so we strongly encourage our clients to spend a small amount for the soil test. It is the least expensive insurance that you can purchase.
Should I hire an architect first?
Over the years we have seen many people who consulted an architect first. Unfortunately, many architects design very few custom homes and the end result is not what the customer expects nor wants. Most spend tens of thousands of dollars on design plans and many frustrating months only to find that the home is hundreds of thousands of dollars over their budget or the design is really not that great.
Your best bet is to hire the builder first – then move into designing your home from there.
What about interior design?
Most builders, including J.A. Long, offer the services of an interior decorator to help choose the interior and exterior colors and materials for the home. An interior decorator or designer can make the experience of building your new home a pleasure. The decorator has many different samples and makes the decorating task easy.
If you select an independent decorator, make sure they work with the builder from the beginning of the project. The builder’s decorator knows the selection sequence and how to make the task easy on everyone.
What is a Florida Home?
If you are having a custom home built, the homes we build in Florida are probably quite different than the home you probably live in now. A Florida home typically has as many rooms as possible opening to the rear – where the pool or outdoor patio becomes the focal point of the home.
We try to design the main living areas of the home with either access or a view of this pool. Also, many people like to see the pool from the front door. Florida homes are both single-story and two-story.