Finally, a building cost website that makes it easy to calculate how much it would cost to build your own home.
Each time I find a new little house plan website with creative plans to drool over, I can’t get my head around how much it would actually cost to build a particular design. Most home plan sites either estimate a ball park figure (regional prices vary greatly, so this is no help at all) or prompt you to call them once you’re ready to begin purchasing the blue prints. Neither method helps me make my initial decision; to choose a home within my price range.
However, after skimming the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company for their newest plans and sales, I noticed that they are now advising would-be builders to a website that helps determine building cost: Building-cost.net. This site is awesome and the first I’ve seen of its kind. Here’s how they estimate building cost:
- Select how many total exterior corners. Fewer corners may mean less expense.
- Enter the total living area square feet including porches.
- Select the quality of building materials. Tumbleweed has a sample step-by-step manual that meets their recommendations. Some building materials can be good or average instead of excellent to reduce cost.
- Add in extra square feet for porches, attics, basements, etc.
- Quickly answer a couple of questions about location such as is this a tract home and is it within or outside a metro area.
- Decide on cooling and heating; central air vs. wall units.
- Decide on fireplaces.
- Select your state and metro area.
The estimated cost includes a foundation on normal soil (I’m guessing this does not include initial soil samples or prepping the lot, ie. leveling it out for a flat foundation pad), excavation for the foundation (Question to readers: does anyone know if this means leveling out the lot?), plumbing, appliances, permits, supervision, design fees, electrical, and hook-ups, plus a few other items associated with building.
After choosing one of Tumbleweed’s larger “small” houses, the B-53, for a total of 940 square feet with a second story and using their cost guide as a reference, the total estimated cost ended up at $144,636 if I were to build this home somewhere near the central coast of California. That’s a heck of a lot more reasonable than what I would have expected.
Of course, quickly searching for similarly sized houses in the area, buying an existing house costs the same amount. And it already includes the land, so really it’s cheaper. However, many of these homes are older and would need some remodeling. So I guess it boils down to wants; Do I want to design my own floor plan? Do I want to spend the extra money and build something new? Or can I take an existing home and remodel it to meet my needs for less? Those are the questions that perplex me.
Have you looked into building your own home? Have you built your own home? Did you take an existing home and remodel it? What challenges did you face?
*Photo: Tumbleweed B-53, as of 2016 I couldn’t find this home on their site anymore. However, the floor plans and images are easily found online.