Let's Build a House

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

or A CEO’s Taste on a Teacher’s Budget

Let’s build a House

I’m Starting to Blush       smiley_embarrassed

This is kind of an embarrassing post. So, why write it?   Truthfully, I’m writing this potentially embarrassing post because I believe others may find themselves in the same situation. Now. that I have your attention and you’re imaging all sorts of embarrassing things a former school librarian might have to share; I’ll confess. We can’t afford the house we want to build. I’ve excitedly shared with my friends and family our plans to build and now I need to confess that we have that age-old problem of champagne taste on a beer budget.

Can We Really Build a House on a Teacher’s Budget?  

The second home design plan was almost perfect except that the projected cost was much more than we expected. No big deal – except it is – maybe as much as $40,000 of a big deal. This is the projected cost without consideration to the any changes or problems we may encounter.   So now, we are looking at ways to reduce expenses without reducing the quality of our dream home.  You can read about the first design plan here.

We have a budget that we need to stick with. We know that. It’s just the process of getting there that is the problem. We aren’t planning on a large home (at least by Texas standards). We’re looking at a typical 3 bedroom, 2 bath home (the beer budget kind).  The second plan is only about 250 square feet more than what we have in our home now. We immediately thought to reduce the size of the design plan. Of course, I also began researching ways to reduce building costs (The librarian in me can’t help it.). I soon learned that just reducing the size of a home doesn’t reduce the building cost as much as you might think? An article on the Zillow website by Robert Taylor explains that not all rooms cost the same to build.   “It’s obvious that a kitchen, with appliances, cabinets, countertops, plumbing, fixtures, tile flooring and other expensive finishes will cost more “per square foot” to build than a bedroom, which doesn’t have much more finish than carpeting and paint.” That makes sense if you think about it. I also learned that in some cases reducing the size of the home you are building may actually increase the per square foot cost.  Evidently, it takes a considerable reduction in size to really make a difference. He goes on to point out that “Finishes and fixtures (flooring, cabinets, countertops, trim, etc.) represent about 30 to 40 percent of the cost of a house”. You should check out his blog “Sense of Place”. You’ll find lots of good information about building and remodeling available.

Square Foot Cost is an Illusion

I’m a little overwhelmed now that I realize that the square foot cost of a house is relative. I realize that I am sharing my total building ignorance with you; but as I’ve stated before I never dreamed I’d really be building a new house. If I had given it much thought before now, I might have realized that building a home is a personal journey just like going to college. Sure a 3-hour college class may cost around $1000; but the final cost will depend on the subject, books, fees and the actual college you attend. You can’t compare costs equally of one student to another. It’s the same with building a home.   The final cost will be personal to you and your family. The final cost depends not just on the size and the finishes; but also how you personalize your home.

Reducing Expenses While Building a Custom Home   normal_stretch_a_dollar_color                                                                                                                                                     

Several websites mentioned practicing patience and planning as much as possible before construction begins. Changes after construction starts can cost large amounts of additional money.  Getting in a hurry and not planning can cost money in unexpected ways.   Many builders now let you choose you finishes and fixtures before you begin building. That allows you to keep a tighter budget.   Glenda Taylor, a residential contractor, indicates building a one story with a simple design and breaking ground during good weather will keep expenses down. There are an abundance of DIY websites and blogs that offer great advice about taking on some of the tasks of a new home yourself (painting, tiling back splashes, landscaping.) I’ve listed a few sites I found interesting at the end of this post.

Is That Really on Your Must Have List?   paper2                                                                                                                                                                   

For now we are going to look at several methods to reduce our costs. The first will be to reduce the size. Even though the square foot we eliminate will be from the less expensive middle of the house — there will be some savings. Next, we are going to look at finishes such as trim, lighting and countertops. We are meeting with our builder next week to set up a plan. I envision the meeting to be something like an HGTV show similar to the Property Brothers or Love It or List It. You know the scenes where the homeowner must make decisions about bringing the wiring in the basement up to code even though it means that the master bathroom can’t be remodeled. Except our decisions will be that lots of windows means we can’t have a stone fireplace. Or a large walk-in pantry equals fewer cabinets in the laundry room. I can already hear the announcer’s voice (in my head of course).  Someone at HGTV should take notice – this could be your next big hit. In the meantime, I guess it’s time for us to revisit our must have and wish lists.

Find A Builder You Can Trust        

We are lucky because we have a builder who is willing to work with us. He’s been very patient and continues to answer my multitude of questions. He’s working on a plan to help us reduce the building cost. He wants to help us build our dream home and he understands that we have to stay within our budget. His company mostly builds large, wonderful homes that are way out of our price range. Luckily, for us he also builds homes for families with beer budgets like us.

We Aren’t Alone (Are We?)        

I share this post with you because I believe that we aren’t the only ones to find ourselves in this spot. Through my research, I found lots of information about reducing expenses; so I believe that it’s a normal part of building for most people. I wonder how many people may actually give up and decide that it’s just not possible to build what they want in their budget. We’ve bought our lot with the gorgeous trees and we aren’t going to give up.  I plan to share our story for those others who find themselves in the Champagne taste meets budget cut mode.   I actually imagine that even those lucky individuals building million dollar homes have to make some compromises.

My husband and I have planned for this time in our lives (at least that’s what we thought). We retired early so that we could enjoy life without the stress of the workplace. I think of this time in life as our third stage together.  The plan was to enjoy ourselves with our grandchildren and to live in the mountains and to travel a little. Except we aren’t going to live in the mountains — we’re going to live close to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.   That’s where our grandsons, son and daughter live and we want to be close to them. That was the first change in our plans — instead of living in the mountains we are going to live close to a lake surrounded by lots of trees. (There aren’t many lakes or trees in the part of Texas where we spent stages 1 & 2; so it’s a good compromise.) The second change in plans was deciding to build instead of purchasing an already lived in home.  But we still want to travel and play at our hobbies, which means that we must stick to our budget.

Some of the gorgeous trees we are trying to incorporate  into our house design.

Some of the gorgeous trees we are trying to incorporate into our house design.

Hopefully, we can find some good ways to reduce the expense of building. Look for part 2 of Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget to be posted soon. Please share any suggestions or ways that you reduced the expense of building your home.

Click on these links to read my other Let’s Build a House posts.

Living in a Dream

And the Waiting Begins

The Dream Continues: Researching, Planning and Waiting


Useful Blogs and Websites


Home guides

The Money ways

Sense of Place



Public Domain Clipart 


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