top of page

DREAM HOME PROJECT COST: ANSWERING THE KEY QUESTIONS

At Archius Design, our passion is designing your dream home. Of course, the elephant in the room whenever we discuss a dream home is, what will it cost?? While every project is unique and we cannot provide exact pricing details for every part of a project, we can answer 4 common questions that come up in the design process. We firmly believe there is more than one way to achieve your dream home. Deciding the best road and whether to remodel, build, or move is easier when you have a full picture.


QUESTION 1: WHAT IS INCLUDED IN “PROJECT COST”?

Whatever type of project you may have in mind to create your dream home, it’s important to know exactly what expenses to plan for. Often people assume that the construction costs are the project costs. However, when you are planning to renovate or build there are several different costs that need to be factored into the project budget. Hiring an architect will ensure your space and layout is maximized and save you time and money finding the necessary project consultants and submitting permits. Most of the project budget will go towards construction, however, finishes like flooring, tile, plumbing, and light fixtures often are not included in the contractor estimate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what is included and not included at every step of your project, but here is a rough breakdown that we find is fairly accurate across most projects.

A pie chart showing what costs go into remodeling or building a home.

QUESTION 2: ARE THESE PRICES GOING TO COME DOWN?

The reality is, since the start of the pandemic the cost of materials and labor have increased dramatically for a variety of reasons and, barring a major recession, they will not be returning to pre-pandemic levels. Both housing costs and constructions costs in the Seattle area have outpaced the historic nation-wide increase in the last several years. According to Redfin data, median sale price of homes in the Seattle metro area has risen from $600K at the beginning of 2020 to $750K at the start of 2024, a 25% increase!


Two charts, one shows the median cost of a home in Seattle between 2019-2024. The second compares the construction cost index from 2001-2023.

According to some sources, the cost of residential construction has increased by as much as 50% in the last 5 years. These increases come at a time when more homeowners are working from home and recognize the value of improved home amenities considering the shutdowns experienced in 2020. As architects and designers, it is our goal to help our clients maximize their budgets while achieving their dream results amid rising costs. It is always our goal to help clients gain an accurate understanding of what to expect for project costs and make the best decisions for their family, while understanding that delaying projects will not save money in the long run as prices continue to rise.

 

QUESTION 3: WHEN WILL I KNOW THE COST FOR MY PROJECT?

 

The first step in any design project is Feasibility. This phase entails gathering as much information as possible about the goals and constraints of the project and then proposing some possible design options. Many clients are eager to know construction estimates at this point in the project. Contractors will provide what is known as an “ROM” or Rough Order of Magnitude estimate. This will be a ballpark number with no detailed breakdown. While it can help give some direction, they tend to vary widely because the project does not have enough information at this point to give a detailed estimate.

A chart showing the steps and time it takes to define a home remodel or addition project and get estimates from contractors.

 Phase two of the project is Design Development. At Archius, this is the phase of the project where the overall layout is set and we begin to define details such as finishes, exact cabinet layout, electrical layout, etc. Once this phase is completed, we have enough detail to get a true estimate from contractors. Our clients can expect 3-9 months from the start of a project to the end of the Design Development phase and obtaining construction estimates. There is a wide range in the timeline depending on the size of the project (interior remodel is much quicker than custom home, etc.), number of design iterations, and the speed of decision making. That may feel like a long time to obtain a construction estimate, however, it is a necessary process to acquire accurate numbers.

 

QUESTION 4: WOULD IT BE CHEAPER/EASIER TO…?

 

Once clients have an ROM or detailed estimate for their dream project, there is a natural tendency to compare other options and evaluate cost comparisons. To gain a greater understanding of the options surrounding remodeling, building, or moving, let’s look at the fictional Anderson family.

 

The Anderson’s are a family with two busy professional parents and two school-aged children. They purchased their 1970’s home on Seattle’s Eastside in the mid 2010’s for $500,000. Today it is worth roughly $1M and they owe about $350,000 on the home. It is about 2,000 square feet but dated, with dark, closed spaces and no longer meets the needs of the family. However, they love the neighborhood and the schools.

 

They’ve taken the time to outline their requirements for their “Dream Home” and made the following list:

  • Newer structure – new windows, roof, siding, heating system, etc.

  • New landscaping and hardscaping

  • 3,500-4,000 finished square feet

  • Tons of natural light throughout the home

  • Large modern kitchen for entertaining

  • Partially covered outdoor living space with seamless flow from the home

  • Larger primary suite including a walk-in closet and bathroom with double vanity, water closet, large shower and soaking tub

  • Bedrooms for each child with private ensuite bath

  • Guest bedroom with adjacent full bath

  • Laundry room close to the bedrooms

  • Large media room with wet bar

  • Home office(s)

  • Home gym

A graphic with a list of dream home features.

The Anderson’s are evaluating three options, each option with the end goal of meeting their dream home list. Option one is buying a newer home in the same neighborhood, option two is building a custom home, while option three is remodeling/adding on to their current home.

 

BUYING A NEW HOME

If the Anderson’s can sell their home for top dollar, they should have around $500,000 to put toward their new home. Assuming no other savings they could put 20% down on any house under $2.5M. To approach meeting 90% of the items on their list, the Anderson’s would need to be prepared to spend $1.5-4M on a home on the Eastside. Keeping in mind that finding one in the same neighborhood/with the same school zoning would take an indeterminate amount of time as inventory is low and may involve a bidding war. This option also allows for very little, if any, customization of features and finishes.

 

BUILDING A CUSTOM HOME

If they wanted, the Anderson family could stay on their current property, demolish the existing home, and build a fully custom home. This would allow them to meet every goal on their wish list! They would need to plan for 18 months to 3 years from design through preparation and construction to move in. At least 12-15 months of that time they would need to pay for other housing arrangements. If we factor $500/SF to build, a mid-range estimate for residential construction in the Seattle Area, they will spend around $2M on the construction alone. This does not include the design fees or auxiliary housing costs.

 

If they chose to, they could purchase a new lot to build on, saving themselves the headache of renting during construction and then sell their existing home when the new home is ready. They’ve discovered some lots in their neighborhood have recently sold in the range of $300,000-$1,000,000. With this option, if they could find an ideal lot for $750,000 or less and sell their current home for at least $1M, they may be able to achieve their custom home slightly under $2M, with the added convenience of living at home during construction.

 

REMODELING/ADDING ON TO AN EXISTING HOME

The Andersons know that remodeling their existing home may be the most inconvenient option but could be the most financially viable one. After getting a design put together and meeting with builders to get bids, they are confident that they can complete an addition and remodel to achieve their entire wish list for about $1M. They know it will mean moving out of their home for up to a year, which is less than ideal. However, in the end they will retain their optimum location, with their dream home, with the lowest financial investment.

A chart comparing the costs of buying a new house, building a custom home, and remodeling an existing home.

At Archius, our passion is empowering our clients to make informed decisions about the best path for them to create their dream home. That path will be unique to each family’s needs and goals. We hope this article is helpful and empowers you to make the best decision for your family. If you want to start exploring paths to your dream home, book your free consultation now.


40 views

Comments


bottom of page