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The Build Up Blog

Home Renovation Budgets: Reality vs. Fantasy

A builder of apartment homes can come up with consistent costs from one project to the next, and here's why: the costs are the same from apartment to apartment. Sure, it will cost more to construct a two-bedroom than it will to build a studio, but the costs across all the two-bedrooms will be the same, the costs across all the studios will be the same, etc. 

But that's not how it works for custom renovations, like a kitchen, for example. The key word here is "custom." All the things that you want to go into the renovation (e.g. a kitchen island, a breakfast nook, a fireplace, wood flooring, etc.) will affect the overall cost (not to mention technical issues, such as spacing, electric, and plumbing). Budgeting - Three Arrows Hit in Red Target on a Hanging Sack on Green Bokeh Background.-1.jpeg

In other words, in the land of custom renovations, every house is different. As such, the cost of a particular project is the sum of the components and level of craftsmanship included. 
 
Developers who build homes with basically the same components, even if the size and layout of the home varies, can break the cost down by the square foot because they are keeping to a precise set of specifications. Designing  a truly "custom" home or renovation requires the designer and homeowner to make many more choices on what will go into that project. 
 
Unfortunately, and especially if this is a homeowner's first time doing a major renovation, the reality of costs can often produce sticker shock. See, most people have a preconceived notion of the cost of building and renovation, and it's usually wrong. Remember, your favorite home improvement TV show is not dealing with YOUR home. And the DIY aspect often undermines the value you'd receive from a professional (a pro who can get the job done right and safely the first time around). 
 
And, of course, there's the advice people hear from well-meaning folks, like the handyman down the street who insists all projects should cost roughly $100 per square foot. From what we've already mentioned above, we've debunked the cost-per-square-foot myth, since that doesn't apply to custom homes or renovations.  
 
So what are some things you can do to get a more realistic view of costs and the budget you need? Here are some tips.
  • Understand what your home is worth now, and how a renovation will affect your home's value. This isn't something you can necessarily figure out on your own. A good real estate appraiser can help.
  • Be realistic with your research. Browsing Houzz is a great way to gather ideas, but be wary of cost ranges posted with pictures. Ranges are just that: ranges. Plus, you don't have all the information regarding what went into that particular renovation or how (or even if) it's relevant to your space.
  • Turn to more objective tools. Check out Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report, which includes a good source of national averages for renovation building costs. Because these costs are based on averages, they may or may not pertain to any individual project, but it's a good place to start.
  • Figure out what you're willing to spend. Seriously, it all comes down to what you can afford at this moment. 
Which brings us to how we work at Hebert Design/Build. Through the design/build process, we start the conversation by discussing what details, features, and finishes the homeowner wants in their project. We look at what the space requirements might be and so forth. From there, we can then establish a preliminary budget range to determine if moving ahead with design is feasible.
 
Note: this is often where reality sets in, since the fantasy often gets a rude awakening. That's why knowing what you're willing to spend is incredibly important. Armed with your budget, a good builder can help make the return to reality a little less jarring. The conversation might go like, "Well, what you're telling us you want will weigh in at $100K. Let's discuss what we can and can't do for $50K." 
 
Here's what happens with your budget if the design moves forward. As it progresses and more detail is known, an estimate is started which will be refined as the design moves ahead. This process allows us to customize the design to correspond with the budget (which helps avoid surprises down the road). 
 
Read more about our design/build philosophy and process here. And, of course, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out.

Tags: home renovation tips, custom home construction