An ‘Exact Approximation’

At a trade show, I overheard a prospective client at a contractors’ booth ask how much it cost per square foot to build a custom home. The builder navigated around the question for several minutes despite persistent efforts from the client to pin him down. It was clumsy back and forth dance. Recognizing that the client was not going to let it go, the builder began to crack. Sensing that victory was near the prospect went in for the kill: “I’m not leaving here until you give me an exact approximation”. The defeated builder replied, “$137 per square foot”. Client: “I knew it. I told my wife $140”. Beaming, the prospect moved on.

In Part 1 we looked at why it’s not possible to establish a blanket price per square foot on custom builds and renovations. In a nutshell, it’s too complex, with an unlimited number of choices that are driven by the homeowner. What you really want to know is what YOUR job will cost per square foot.


Understanding Your Renovation Options

Well, good news – you can find out for free with no strings attached… Invite a contractor to your home for a free, no obligation estimate. He or she will take notes and get an in depth understanding of the features, products, trim levels, and other details that are important to you. You want a contractor who listens. The builder will also catch some of the things that you hadn’t thought of (like needing new GFI’s or the cold air return that’s in the wall you want to move). After measuring and taking photos, your contractor will get back to you in a day or two with a ballpark quote as to what you should expect to budget for your project on a line-by-line basis. Divide by number of square feet and ‘voila’, an approximate price per square foot, greatly substantiated by the contractor’s expertise.

Respect is a two way street…

In providing you with a free consultation and estimate the contractor is going through a fair bit of effort in exchange for an opportunity to earn your business. Be straightforward and honest about your project, expectations, timelines, and budget. If the numbers or the personal fit aren’t there let them know so that everyone can move on. If you are feeling the vibe, ask what happens next on the path toward construction. If, by chance, you are at the grocery store or watching the kids play soccer when you overhear someone ask how much it costs to build, have a little fun and let them know it’s $137 per square foot. You learned it from a trade show.