Cost to Build Mountain Houses 2019 is about how an Architect of custom mountain houses just completed a new house in the mountains for his own family and the costs involved with that.
Almost new every Client this Architect has believes (for no good reason) that they are going to be able to get their new house constructed for around $100 per square foot. And even worse: Per HSF (Heated Square Foot) which they think includes a large garage for multiple vehicles, generous rear and front porches, timber framing and plenty of goodies.
Reality check: That ain’t gonna happen.
Why: because the Architect knows, through personal experience, that even managing the construction directly and personally for his own house for 9 months, and value engineering every aspect to save on the cash invested, it is just about impossible to build a custom mountain house for less than around $225/HSF (within himself running the entire operation) and more realistically, closer to $275 to $300/HSF with a General Contractor.
Why: that’s what it costs in mountainous regions to build. Kind of like asking why the sky is blue and if you can change that. It really doesn’t matter what the reasons are, it just is.
And do you really think that because you are a graphic designer, or housewife, school teacher, or a high-powered executive, that you’re going to be able to change that reality? Or be able to make some genius drawings (that your Architect with over a half-century of experience can’t)? Don’t count on it. Many have tried, none have succeeded. There’s a lot more to architectural documents than just floor plans. And costs are costs. You don’t get stuff for free. Especially from busy builders in the mountains.
But you may want to learn something about these costs. This particular Architect knows every penny of the costs involved with his own house and many of those for his Clients.
See below for more information:
For instance: can’t you really get the cost for a mountain house down to under $275/HSF?
Yes you can. But, the question is: do you really want such a house?
Why? Because when you get under about $225/HSF (if you really are capable of managing your own construction with you being there every day for about a year or more) you start getting into:
— 30″ wide white plastic appliances
— No garage
— No porches
— 8′ tall ceilings
— No rock
— No wood finishes inside
— All drywall & paint
— Carpet floors
— Vinyl tile in bathrooms
— Little to no trimwork
— Electrical minimums: no outlets where you want them. Minimal power box amps.
— Cheap asphalt roof shingles with tar paper underlayment
— Not many, if any built in light fixtures. Mainly switched outlets for your lamps.
— Cheap windows that leak energy and not many windows and those that are provided are small.
— Cheap doors that warp and leak energy
— Minimum insulation levels that leak energy to code minimums.
— Cheap plumbing with no water purification filtering (code shorten your life).
— Little to no sitework: you may have a hard time moving your vehicles around and/or parking.
— The above item also means that your land better be almost dead level, because you’re not going to be able to afford the complicated foundations that go along with steep land.
— Plastic wall siding outside that screams “cheap”.
The point being: do you really want a cheap house like that for the mountains? Kind of ruins the whole idea, doesn’t it?
And oh: a really big item: when you get under the $275/HSF barrier, that means you probably will no longer have a Licensed General Contractor (or anyone else) there at your jobsite managing anything at all, which means: that becomes YOUR job. Every day for over a year. Can you really take the time to do that? Do you know how to build a house, including all of its systems? Do you have strong muscles and are you capable of lifting 100 pounds or more (a situation you will face), or will that kill you? Do you like to sweat and face grueling work every day? If you’re over 35 years old, you probably don’t want to even begin to think about doing this. And if you have a real job, where a company pays you big bucks to make money for them, you’re not going to have the time to devote to running your own project, so the approximately $50/HSF of a normal budget allocated to this becomes very important, and not something you can just cut out of your project. You need someone on your jobsite daily, pushing to get things done swiftly and properly or you’re going to have huge problems. And if you don’t have someone out at your job site every day, here’s what’s going to happen:
If you think you’re going to call up subcontractor and order them around from your office desk in Orlando, or Houston, or Miami, or New York, guess again. It is almost impossible to get local subcontractors to even appear at your job when you are there, demanding that they work. If you don’t believe this, do a little experiment: (see below):
Call 3 different Plumbers phone numbers in the Cashiers, NC area and leave messages for them to call you (because they’re not going to answer your phone call), and then wait for them to return your call. That’s probably not going to happen.
Why? Because they have too much work to do for rich people who pay them a lot of money and they really don’t care who you are or what you need. Sad, but true. Not enough skilled Plumbers, HVAC, Electricians, Carpenters, Concrete pros to go around in the mountains. That’s the reality. They don’t care who you are or how angry you get. They just ignore you. So if you think you’re going to get people like this working on your job while you’re somewhere else, forget it. Unless you’ve got a professional here managing your job every day, who know these local tradesmen. This ain’t Jacksonville or Cleveland. The subcontractors here don’t really want your work; they have too much to handle already. So threatening them to not give them your business makes them laugh.
Having said all this and popped your low-budget balloon, you really need to be planning on $300/HSF and up. Let’s be clear on what “HSF” means: as in per “Heated Square Foot.” HSF cost generally includes whatever GSF items there are (Gross Square Feet), like porches, garages, decks and the like. This means, for instance, if the interior, heated space = 2,000 HSF, the cost per HSF generally is understood to include the cost of the 3,000 GSF project. So when there are a lot of additional goodies in the GSF, like garage, porches, exterior stairs, etc., the cost/HSF skyrockets. So instead of paying $175/HSF for a bare bones house with no garage and no porches, when those items are added to the project, the cost could easily become over $300/HSF.
However, you must understand that when you get below the ranges of cost indicated in this article, there likely will not be any such additional items. Those aren’t free. And before you think it or say it: no: basements are NOT free and they’re not cheap. Forget that. And neither are bonus rooms over garages: those can easily add another $100,000 or more to the cost of just the garage.
You have to pay for those, and no, you won’t be able to finish them yourself, because that’s demanding, hard, heavy work that you probably can’t handle by yourself, and you’re going to need a licensed Plumber, Electrician and HVAC subcontractor.
And once again: garages aren’t free, and neither are porches or exterior steps and stairs, or paved areas or decks. They all add to the cost of your house. And no, there’s nothing you can do or say to get a builder to give you those things for nothing or next to nothing. Won’t happen. Because: they have too much work right now anyway. You might think you’re a savvy, clever person who can talk anyone into anything. Just try that with some mountain subcontractors or general contractors. They will sigh and say something like: “Yeah, we’ll be in touch.” In other words: “Goodbye Mr. or Mrs. Cheapskate, go away and don’t darken my door again, because I have well-to-do people paying me big bucks up the whazoo, and I don’t need your kind of trouble.”
This has been Tough Love 101 Mountain House Construction Costs.
Contact the Home Architects if you want to understand what to do. They can help.
Yeah, so with all this gloom and doom about costs, what do the Home Architects do? Well, for one, they program and design your house. And that’s huge. They are a licensed Architect firm. Wouldn’t you like to have your mountain house designed to comfortably accommodate your desired Lifestyle and your Land? For instance: taking advantage of those spectacular views?
And they can solicit Contractors they know and many of whom know and trust them, so perhaps you might have a better chance of getting people to work on your job, and they can help you during construction by administering the construction. They can go to the jobsite, if you pay them to do so, to check on the work in progress, and provide written PDF reports with digital photos, updating you on the progress of your new house construction. Something you are probably not qualified to do, or won’t be in a position to do, if you’re from out of town. They can also help you make a decision of what property to buy, before you pay for it, to help you save on your sitework costs. And they can help you value engineer your project to help control costs (which are already very high). And they can perform other services to help you get your mountain house project to become a reality. That’s a lot. Give them a call.