The very nature of custom design is such that it is impossible to predict costs exactly until you have a completed plan. Lacking this, the traditional method is to simply figure a price-per-square-foot. Say you want to build a 2000 square foot home. You run this calculation:

2000 square feet X the $ per square foot = the total cost of your new home

Presto! You have an cost estimate, right? Well, not necessarily. This figure could be way off the mark. This standard price-per-square-foot method, unfortunately, is often so inaccurate that it has set initial conditions for custom home projects that appear to go ridiculously out of budget. You’ve heard the stories! In many cases, they haven’t “gone out of budget”. The estimates were simply inaccurate from the beginning.

How It Works

The Cost Estimate Worksheet identifies several design elements and land conditions, independent of the heated square footage size, that increases the cost of the home. Calculating an estimate without taking these hidden costs into account results in inaccurate numbers and grief later on.

For Example:

  • A home built on flat land will cost less than the same home built on a slope because of the extra excavation and foundation work needed on a sloped lot.
  • A home with a small cover over the entry will cost less than the same home with a wrap around porch, because of the extra labor and materials needed for the porch.
  • A home with a flat roof will cost less than the same home with a pitched roof because of the additional materials and complexity of a pitched roof. A home with dormers will be more expensive than the same home without.

Our worksheet pinpoints items in your design ideas and building site that cost more and gives a “factor” to those items. We then calculate an “adjusted square footage” that, when multiplied times a basic custom home dollar amount, will result in a much more accurate estimate.

Ultimately, the final cost of your home depends on the cost of all labor, materials and fees that you pay to get it built. These costs will depend on the location of your home, the time of year you are building, who builds it, how busy the building climate is, the specifics of your building site, the complexity of your design and more. It’s a complex problem, but the cost worksheet goes a long way to getting a more accurate estimate.

My Estimated Cost Is Out of My Budget!

If we run a cost worksheet for you and the number is more than your budget, now is the time to find this out! There are many ways to reduce costs, if necessary. We will discuss your options until we either get the cost of your new home to fit your budget or determine that you need to go a different route. All this happens early in the process, before you have signed a contract.

We have been working with our Cost Estimate Worksheet for many years, refining and updating it along the way. We base our contract amount on the number that comes from this worksheet, and we guarantee that your Component Package will not exceed that number, based on a written set of criteria about your design.

We regularly rework the Cost Worksheet for our clients during the design process when we do our budget checks so there is a current cost estimate as a design develops. We have found this to be the best strategy for keeping budgets in line.

The Extra Cost of Passive Solar Homes

Passive solar homes will cost a little more at the beginning because of the extra cost of a specialized design and better quality insulation and better insulated windows. We take this a little further by recommending higher quality components which will require less maintenance in the future. When long term energy costs and maintenance is calculated over the life cycle of the home, passive solar homes end up being a much better long term value and have a higher resale than conventional homes.

Would You Like To Complete a Cost Estimate Worksheet?

We offer our Cost Estimate Worksheet as a free service to people seriously considering a Sunlight home. The worksheets take some time and gathering of numbers on your end and some human analysis and calculation on our end. The result, however, is priceless! You will actually have a realistic estimate for the type of home you'd like to build that considers more than just cost per square foot. This is the kind of information that will help you make an informed decision about building a custom home. The challenge is to be realistic about your budget from the beginning and then to stay committed to the budget throughout the design process. If you're successful here, your project's budget will stay on track.

Fill out the Cost Estimate Design Worksheet