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What is the cost per square feet to build a home in Los Angeles?

Nov 19th, 2007 18:57
Construction Owl, http://www.constructionowl.com/additions_and_new_construction/new_construction_budget.php

One of the first steps in building a home is determining your budget. 
Contractors often try to avoid firm and exact prices, preferring 
to "leave the door open" - You should not allow this to happen.
Dilemmas with Pricing the House per Square Foot
After sorting through the issues of location, price, floor plan and 
features, do we go with Builder A or Builder B? For many new home 
buyers, the choice comes down to which one offers a lowest cost-per-
square foot price.
Unfortunately, It has been said that estimating a home on a per square 
foot bases is like estimating the cost of building a house by counting 
the number of electrical power points in the building plan.
There are several problems with this approach. First, no two builders 
work alike or use identical materials, so the calculation will not be 
an apples to apples comparison.
Observant buyers who know something about material costs may factor 
this in. For example, if Builder A's standard kitchen cabinets are 
white with vinyl wrapped raised panel doors and Builder B has oak 
cabinets with flat panel doors, Builder B's costs are higher.
Builder B's costs may also be higher in less obvious ways. For 
example, he may use a 90 percent efficient gas furnace instead of a 78 
per cent efficient one. Or he may use plastic pipes instead of copper 
ones, or he may use stronger concrete for your slabs so the cracks are 
hairline instead of  inch wide.
What no one is telling you...
Even when builders in the same market are consistent in their method 
for measurement, their notion of square feet and buyers' notions are 
likely to differ. Most buyers think this means "useable space." But 
most builders calculate it in terms of the total area occupied by the 
building, and this can make a substantial difference. For example, 
using the builder's approach, 150 to 200 square feet of a two story 
house billed as "1,800 square feet," can be solid wall.
The second problem with the cost-per-square foot calculation is that 
the two builders may not be calculating square feet in the same way 
when calculating your total home building price.
The conventions for calculating these figures still vary from one 
region of the country to another and within the same market from one 
builder to another.
Some builders include only what you can walk on, excluding regular-
sized closets but counting walk-ins. Others count two story spaces 
twice because the entire volume is finished space that must be heated 
and cooled.
To further complicate matters for consumers, realtors and appraisers 
often use methods for calculating square footage that differs from 
The major distinctions are "finished" or "unfinished" and "above 
grade" or "below grade".
A "finished" area is defined as "an enclosed area that is suitable for 
year round use". The finished area calculation also includes all 
walls, both interior and exterior. "Unfinished" areas most commonly 
include garages and unfinished basements.
Most of building plans have square foot calculation printed right on 
them - which means exactly nothing...
On most building plans, square footage is electronically generated by 
the computer program the plans are made in. Some programs take into 
consideration outside wall dimensions, some inside wall dimensions. 
Some include the garage while some don't. Some differ between above 
and below grade: "Above grade" includes all floor levels that are 
entirely above the ground. "Below grade" includes all floor levels 
which are partially or entirely below the ground. When a house is 
built into a hillside, the entire structure will receive the "below 
grade" designation.
Also, sometimes the usable area is measured at the floor level, so 
that two-story spaces such as entry foyers and family rooms can only 
be included in the calculation once.
Some of the standards will strike the layman as nit-picky--for example 
a fireplace and chimney can only be included when the hearth is at 
floor level--but seemingly minor differences of 25 to 50 square feet 
(at $150 per square foot), here and there can add up to a substantial 
Therefore, pricing a home per sq/ft bases is never a guarantee that 
you will end up in the home you expect. Quite the opposite - it is 
often a way for some builders to calculate only the cheapest materials 
allowed by the Building Code in order to get the job.
A much better solution for the homebuyer would be to be very clear on 
the usage and advantages and disadvantages of different materials used 
to build their home.  An experienced builder will be of enormous help 
in assiting you to make the right choices when choosing the materials 
for your new home.