Many people ask the question, “What is the cost per square foot (CPSF) to build a custom home?” While this question may be relatively easy to answer when building a production or semi-custom home, there is just no easy answer when building a custom or luxury home. There are so many variables to consider. Luxury homes, in particular, include so many details and customized features that are specifically designed for each homeowner and their lifestyle. In this article, we provide a few examples and break down the reasons the cost per square foot can vary so widely.
Below is an example of two different homes we built in recent years with approximately the same square footage, but a big difference in cost per square footage. There is a vast difference between these two homes, based on the homeowner’s preferences and budget. Although this chart provides limited detail, you’ll notice the selections, specifications, and the level of quality and finish desired are vastly different. Please note that the homeowner dictates all of these areas, which affect the budget and overall value of the home. These are two extreme examples and there could be variations anywhere in between.
|Homeowner Smith||Homeowner Johnson|
(Excluding Lot costs)
(Excluding Lot costs)
(1-acre site, clearing, long driveway, utilities, fill dirt, septic, storm-water management)
(1/2-acre site, no clearing, short driveway, no fill dirt, no stormwater mgmt.)
(pool, entrance monuments, 2500 sf wet-laid stone for decking on structural concrete with frost-heave protection, landscape architect designed plantings)
(modest planting package with no exterior features)
Extensive custom handcrafted millwork and cabinetry throughout, specialty in-laid wood flooring, custom stair treads and railings, commissioned lighting and high-end plumbing fixtures, steam/body wash shower, highest quality design selections, smart home automation, complex architecture.
Simplistic moldings, millwork, stock cabinetry, standard hardwood and carpeted areas, standard lighting and plumbing fixtures, basic architectural style.
Here are some other examples that show how the cost per square foot is completely driven by the customer’s preferences and varies widely.
- Recently, we built a 14,000 square foot home on a wooded lot. It included a 1,100-gallon saltwater fish tank, an 800 square foot home theatre room, smart home automation, and a separate two-story piano room designed exclusively for the homeowner’s baby grand piano. The stair railings and flooring were one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork, made specifically for this homeowner’s unique tastes. The CPSF for this home was $325.00.
- Another home, we built a few years ago, was approximately 6,000 square feet. The homeowner desired a lot of open space for entertaining families. The open space and modern design required much less millwork, cabinetry, and detail than some other homes. While the home featured many personalized and custom features, there was nothing intricate or over the top. The CPSF for this home was $245.00.
- Another home, we recently completed, was approximately 5,000 square feet with every bell and whistle you can imagine. Custom built-ins were featured in almost every room, tray ceilings, a large chef kitchen and rare flooring materials were included throughout. In addition, the home included an extensive hardscaping, landscaping, and pool package. The CPSF for this home was $515.00.
Another variable that largely impacts a home’s cost is the site work and preparation of the land. There are large variations of cost based on topography, if the Lot is wooded or cleared, length of the driveway, stormwater management, sediment control, jurisdiction, building permit fees, impact fees, and more.
With these examples, you can easily see why a luxury custom home really can’t be given a standard cost per square foot price. The price of your home will be largely determined by:
Style & Complexity – What kind of architectural details are specified? How many levels is the home? Are there intricate elements of design?
Quality & Level of Finish – Do you want unique one-of-a-kind materials and selections? Do you want the top of the line, or moderate grade appliances and flooring?
Size & Scope – A 4,000 square foot home (conditioned area) may include a two-car unheated garage; whereas a 6,000 square foot home may include a three-car heated garage. With more size often come luxuries like multiple porches and decks, a larger outdoor area or pool, etc.
Your lifestyle, preferences, and expectations will largely impact the price per square foot. We recommend including a reputable builder early in the design phase. If you are budget-conscious, you’ll want to ensure that your design expectations are compatible with your budget. An experienced and reputable builder can offer suggestions, and work collaboratively with your architect, on ways to value-engineer your project to ensure your expectations and budget are aligned.
One important final note is that many homeowners enter the design phase with a budgeted cost per square foot. However, if the builder is not part of the design phase, they may find that the designs far exceed their initial budget. If you are budget-conscious, you’ll want to ensure that your design expectations are compatible with your budget. This is why, we believe, it’s important to include an experienced and reputable builder in the design phase. By working collaboratively with the architect, the builder can offer suggestions on ways to value-engineer your project to ensure your expectations and budget are aligned.
If you are thinking about building your once-in-a-lifetime custom luxury home, be sure to download our FREE ebook: “Designing & Building Your Custom Dream Home: How to Create an Experience You’ll Love to Remember.” Ready to get started? Contact Mueller Homes today, and let’s talk!