Design WiseShelagh Duncan

8 Ways To Stay Within Your Building Budget

By Shelagh Duncan 

Once you have purchased your piece of paradise, and decided that it is time to think about building a home you will ask your builder “How much will the project cost?” The answer isn’t always straightforward and easy. You see, a home construction budget, in both its creation and its maintenance, is more art than science. 

The best approach to identifying costs for your specific project and location is to talk with several architects, designers and builders. Each will probably give you a different “number,” so you’ll have to drill down into the detail of what that number means. Just remember that the devil is in the details. 

Royal Palm Interiors

1. Compare apples with apple

Getting a price per sq. meter from a builder is easy enough you would think, but the catch is that not all builders include the same things in their price. Be aware that there are different qualities of fixtures, tiles, paint, lighting – everything. 

2. Identify all the cost components

Unless you have built a new home before most of us do not realize all the additional costs entailed in new home building, and how quickly they add up. Naturally the largest piece of this pie will be the construction costs, but there will be many more, including legal and architect fees,  not to mention landscaping, permit costs, bank transfer fees,  and upgrades. At the outset, do your research and identify all of your potential costs and assign each a value. It would be a shame to finish the house but have no money left for landscaping, appliances or furniture. Many ready-to-go furniture packages come with great savings over purchasing piece by piece, so you can enjoy better quality and selection – and spend less! 

3. Be honest with yourself

We all want that fabulous house of our dreams but we usually have to settle for something less. However all is not lost! If you just have to have that beautiful restaurant range that costs as much as a new car, don’t budget for the generic appliance package from the local appliance supplier. Think about what is important to you, what you really want, and how you really want to use the home you are creating and then make sure there is a place in the budget for it. 

4. Allow for a WOW factor

In the budget allow for the few places where you will want to splurge. For example, the kitchen backsplash is a place you may want to do something truly special and remarkable. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the backsplash is something you will see several times a day for many years. Even if your exquisite, custom, hand-painted tiles for example, cost a significant amount, allow yourself to splurge on this one thing you’ll enjoy for a long time to come and you will wow your friends. 

5. Have a Plan & Keep to It

A sure way of busting the budget is to defer decisions. Construction has begun and you have not made nearly enough decisions about what tile or plumbing fixtures are to be used. Your builder starts pressuring you to make decisions, or worse just does something without your input. You may find yourself having to tear out work, or worse yet, live with it because you don’t have the money or time to change it.

The best way to avoid these nightmare scenarios is to have your architect and/or designer prepare a detailed set of drawings and check them over carefully to make sure that all the decisions have been made before starting construction. Then, don’t change your mind! It is easier said than done, but preparing a plan and sticking to it is the best way to stay on track. 

6. Allow for contingencies

Like other laws of nature, the law of construction project is that “stuff happens”. It could be a problem with the bearing capacity of the soil or the cut behind or beside you sliding onto your build. The best way to deal with the unknown is to allow for a contingency in the budget. The best approach is to allow for 15% to 20% and then gradually reduce the contingency as you go through the project phases. When you first start the design, you’ll have a line item in your budget for a, say, 20% contingency. After the drawings are done and the pieces of the project are identified you might reduce the contingency to 10%. As you go through construction, you’ll be able to reduce the contingency even more so that when construction is complete the contingency is zero. If it isn’t used, consider it found money – you can then buy more furniture!

 7. Beware of scope creeps

A sure way to bust your budget is the dreaded “While we’re it we might as well … ” You may justify it by saying “it’ll only be a few hundred dollars,” but once you do that a few times, you’ll have added a bunch of work and will definitely blow your budget. Remember that you made a plan and if staying on budget is still important, you must remain determined to stick to it. 

8. Consider trade-offs

Sometimes it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pass by that truly remarkable item that you find during the project that’s not in the budget. When this happens, take a look at your budget and what you have left to accomplish, with the goal of reducing the cost of something else to afford this new find. Is there a part of the work, such as painting interior rooms, that you can do yourself? Get what you want and stay on track by moving budgeted amounts from one pocket to another. 

This should be an exciting and fun time for you: do your homework well and enjoy the results! 

Until next time…  

Shelagh Duncan

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