Putting a price to a new Las Vegas custom home is a complex subject. Here’s how Merlin Contracting’s team answers this most common question.
A typical early question we get from a lot of potential homeowners is “What’s the per-square-foot cost of your homes?” Some homeowners arrive armed with numbers gleaned from Internet articles. Others quote realtors who appraise and advertise houses by the square foot.
It’s an understandable attempt to simplify a complex subject—but when it comes to custom homes, this approach is too simple.
Production builders do often price homes by the square foot. What the potential homeowner may not have considered, though, is that these companies are simply product manufacturers. They build the same plans over and over. Like car manufacturers, they offer relatively few models and limit the number of options available for each. This allows them to calculate the cost of each model and option to the dollar, leaving little to the imagination.
Merlin Contracting does have a simple solution for this complex question and that is complete and detailed budget transparency. Finding the cost for a custom home relies on proven, scientific management systems that address every aspect of the home. Merlin’s full time chief estimator, Robert Brown, has spent 12 years building an extensive library of historical pricing for every detail of our homes. In the early budgetary meetings, Robert’s expertise shows how creating an preliminary budget is as much craft as science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading our homeowner.
That’s because a custom home is not a product; instead, it’s the physical realization of a particular homeowner’s dream on a specific site. Because each homeowner’s dream is unique, the only way to accurately estimate the cost of its realization is to ask many follow-up questions.
These questions start with checking assumptions about what our homeowner means by square footage. Do their assumptions include the garage, or the unfinished basement or attic space? Also, do they understand that prices for excavation, utilities, permits, and engineering vary greatly, depending on the site and the jurisdiction in which they want to build?
Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified, we ask for a general overview of the home they’re envisioning. Is the floor plan complex or simple? Is it a traditional two-story stucco with a red tile roof or a modern structure with a flat roof, lots of glass, and minimal trim?
Finally, we need to define the level of interior finishes wanted. Some people give a nondescript answer like “medium.” While that’s too general and it is a good place to kick off a more detailed conversation about expectations. Merlin helps refine those expectations by starting with some easy questions, like the client’s preferences between two levels of plumbing fixtures, flooring, windows, or siding. The answers will tell us what to ask next.
After sorting through the topics above, we may be able to show our homeowner plans and photos for similar homes we have built in the past. And we can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to build that home with their finish specifications on their site. It is imperative and can’t be stressed enough that the homeowner needs to set an “all-in” budget and inform his team of professionals, i.e. architect, designer, and builder, to stay within the proposed budget as plans are developed and the home design is refined.
The key word in the above paragraph is “show.” We can’t do this over the phone. Our potential homeowners need to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely invested.
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