The Rolling Stones taught us that sometimes, if you can’t always get what you want, you’ll get what you need. The same often holds true when it comes to building a home, where your dreams might not match your reality due to the size of your budget or the suitability of potential land for building your dream home. To help you discover how to balance what you want with what you really need to start your home-building journey, we asked the owners of Atlantic Custom Homes, Hudson Valley and Connecticut’s independent dealers of Lindal Cedar Homes, to answer these five important questions.
1. What does a realistic home building budget look like?
According to Jennifer Smith Couti, who co-owns Atlantic Custom Homes with her husband, Pascal, “You should start by identifying a number that feels comfortable to you, given today’s costs.” The Smith Coutis are constantly monitoring the cost of labor and materials, which can fluctuate depending on factors like the weather, economy, and world events. But she cautions, “Don’t just pick a number out of the sky. Do some research and think about your current and future expenses. You should also consider what a bank will be willing to lend you, how much it really costs to borrow, as well as what other sources of money you can utilize, such as equity in your existing home. And you should think about the market value of the house in the event you will want or need to rent or sell it.”
2. What are you gaining by building a home vs buying?
When you’re building your own home you get to choose everything that goes into it, right down to the style of the doorknobs. According to Jennifer, “You’ll also have greater transparency into every part of its construction, including the materials used for framing, insulation, plumbing, and more. With an older home, you might not know the builder, the materials beneath the walls, or the condition of the mechanicals. You don’t know how much it will ultimately cost to open that Pandora’s box, and you just wouldn’t have the building technology of today on your side.”
3. What should you consider when it comes to square footage?
It might sound nice to have a home with thousands of square feet, but it’s important to ask yourself if you’ll actually use it. “If you spend all your time passing through a room, that’s wasted space and more importantly, wasted money spent on construction materials and labor,” says Jennifer. “Sometimes people think they need 2,500-3,000 square feet. But we can often provide a design that fits all a customer’s requirements in almost half of that, which is good for the wallet. A useful footprint is ultimately also good for the environment.”
4. Is adding a basement really worth it?
According to Pascal, “People think building a basement is a cheap way to get extra square footage. But they don’t think about the floor system or staircases required above it, both of which increase cost.” So before assuming you should build a basement, ask yourself why you want one. Are you looking to create a dedicated space like a studio or media room, or are you just looking for extra storage space? “A moderate amount of extra square footage can usually be efficiently added onto the floorplan rather than adding an additional floor,” Jennifer advises.
5. What’s the most cost-effective way to power a home?
Answering this question will help you determine how the house will be set up and what space you need for your mechanicals. To get the most bang out of your budget, the Smith Coutis often recommend their customers go all electric. According to Pascal, “Not only can you run all your utilities out of a single compact space on your main floor, but the building technologies Lindal uses, combined with closed cell foam insulation and today’s more efficient electric mechanicals, will pay off on your utility bills in the long term.”