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 ¼ 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
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
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.