Attention builders, recent home builders

From a reader: 

My question is rather simple.  I am interested in the cost to build a new hi-quality (not over the top) home in the Darien/New Canaan/Stamford area. I have done a lot of research and am getting a variety of opinions/estimates along the way.
I understand that a per/square foot number can be difficult, but assuming nice finishes and quality work by a seasoned builder, it is possible. That said, it’s probably the best way to elicit a relevant response from you based on what you know and have experienced.  Also, on average, how much on a percentage basis do you think the cost to build has come down since 2007-08?
I look forward to your response as I continue to educate myself on  the process and appreciate any insight you wish to provide, right down to reasonable builder recommendations.


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20 responses to “Attention builders, recent home builders

  1. G'wich Transplant

    In my experience, nice, but not over the top, can be done for $180/ft., easy. I think cost to build has come down 30% from the peak. The sq. ft. used to compute costs includes garage, basement, etc. It includes all costs associated with building the house (including GC’s 15%) such as appliances, stone, fixtures, adding new septic, etc. It DOES NOT include costs for architect (the $180/ft. figure assumes using a “design and build” builder), landscaping or specialty lighting. You can build for less by using existing foundation (rather than pouring a new one).

  2. xyzzy

    Well I’ve been doing the same research, and it ranges from $200 to $400. It also depends on what you count in that cost. Do you count the work done on the property? Landscaping? etc. The $400 is all in for a very high quality home.

  3. Cos Cobber

    Good stuff G-tran. My observations in multi-family construction are similar, costs are certainly down 10-20% vs 2 years ago, perhaps as much as 30% in high cost areas.

    What’s the typical cost for a residential architect in these parts? I am sure it various tremendously, however what could be expected on a typical shore-nantucket gwich house of 4,000 sq ft? Any sense?

    To all, you really need to take the time to shop around. I have found projects around the house varying in costs by as much as 40%. I have also found that the right people here in Gwich and Stamford are sometimes cheaper than the people from up the line. Out of towners like to try to milk the gwich or lower fairfield premium as much as anyone.

  4. PInzgauer

    Every major ticket item has gone up. This applies to everything from the concrete for the foundation, lumber, windows, doors, roofing, mechanical systems as well as appliances. Everything.

    If anything has come down it would be the labor portion. So to find someone who is desperate for work is the ticket.

    ” $180 easy” only if you are not interested in details such as nice crown moldings, good windows and doors and other finishing touches.

    Just my 2 cents

  5. Off Lake

    Chris, can you comment on land values in town on a PSF of FAR? Might help to build-up an all in cost.

  6. duff

    I am curious transplant, what experience would your $180/sf be based on? Would that be a box modular with some basic customization? No, it couldn’t be because that runs $200 a ft.

  7. J

    If you want to keep costs down, hire builders and subs that are 15 miles outside the city limits of Greenwich

  8. duff

    Right on the money “xyzzy”. $415 cost for 7,500 sf all in……..landscape, painting, slate roof, brick facade, appliances, light fixtures high end millwork. Add 12/15% builder mark-up for profit and overhead.

    “J” gee you may be onto something there.

  9. Cos Cobber

    I have seen it both ways. Sometimes the guy from 15 miles out thinks they can slap an absurd price on something and make it stick. A hungry local is sometimes cheaper than they guy from 15 miles out. Especially today. A few years ago, who knows, but today I think you can find local at a fair price. You have to shop around.

  10. G'wich Transplant

    Look, if you use slate instead of asphalt for the roof, if you have millwork to the ceiling, if you use marble for all secondary baths instead of tile, if you get the $15K subzero Pro 48 fridge, if you use granite that costs $100/sq. ft. rather than a different color at $50 sq. ft., if you have 10 zone HVAC etc., etc., then you can easily spend $400/ft. For me, that’s not what I needed or expected. I got a nice house for my family that would have cost $3-3.5M to buy new in this market that I could build for significantly less. I am not talking about a house that, when done, would fetch $5-6M.

  11. J

    Duff: People in this town have skewed ideas of what it costs to build since they use local people that also like to live in Greenwich and charge accordingly.

  12. duff

    Thanks for clarifying “Transplant”

    As for you “J” well you are just away with the fairies and probably believe your own hype.

    There are scam artists everywhere. They can come from within Greenwich or 15 miles away. I happen to believe that local in town builders have a more vested interest in treating their clients fairly. Their kids go to the same schools, attend their kids sporting events together, eat at the same restaurants, etc. You get the picture, yes, ?

  13. ML

    I can tell you that from recently finishing a well done house that $180 is ridiculous. No way unless you use Home Depot like material then yes you can get there but good luck trying to sell that house in the future. Better to have quality construction and a smaller house then a big house with shoddy construction. Nobody wants a Home Depot special. Plan on at least $300-350 or more. Definitely shop around because people will qoute you ridiculous prices. For example I received a $28,000 quote to do “touch up” paint. I laughed and found a modern day Picasso that works for $130 a day plus material. Took him two weeks. you do the math! Helps that I speak fluent Spanish.

  14. Cos Cobber

    I’ve had some projects around my house in the 10-20k range each. I received estimates from locals and distant folk and there was little rhyme or reason (to me) for the pricing disparity. Some locals were ridiculous, but so was the pricing from those coming from afar. The trick is to find that hungry, yet competent fellow in a dry patch. That is when you see some fair pricing. I dont think its automatic that you will save by pulling in distant contractors unless you reach for someone about 1.5 to 2 hrs distant. Those within an hr of coastal Fairfield county seem to have heard too many stories of idiots playing double for contracting work and automatically think they will get the same $ too.

  15. G'wich Transplant

    ML, when did you redo your house?

  16. j

    Duff. I speak from my personal experience living in this town. I can also provide you many examples to back up my claim. Your experience may be different

  17. J

    Also, Duff, if you believe the local builders care about living in your neighbor or going to the same school as your kids then you truly live in a fantasy land. I think you are in fantasizing about a time long past.

  18. PInzgauer

    J – and you know that how? People who talk with such moral certitude always make me wonder.

    Anyway to get back to the original questions:
    1) $350 gets you into the game you describe.

    2) All materials have gone up, payroll, healthcare, insuranes, permitting have gone up drastically. Building codes and federal requirements have made it more costly to build. To exspect that it is less costly to build a house now than 5 years ago is not reasonable.
    Two items might be savings factors: purchase of land and the builder’s profit margin.

    For a prospective home builder with a lot ( a lot!) of time on their hands here is the way to do it with most savings: hire a GC (not builder) you trust for oversight and then bid out every single aspect of the process.

  19. G'wich Transplant

    No offense, but I think it’s crazy to think it’s more expensive to build now than in 2005-2008. You can get a nice home in Greenwich for under $200 sq. ft., easy (this does not include the purchase of land). Some materials are more expensive, but this is more than offset by lower labor costs and lower profit margins. Subs will work for food right now (just kidding, but you get my drift).

  20. PInzgauer

    None taken, Transplant.
    I dis not, however, say it was more expensive now. I made the point that it wouldn’t be a lot less expensive based on the facts I mentioned. It’s not some materials went up, it all of them and everything else as well. That is a lot to absorb via net profit reduction.
    I don’t know how much you speak from personal experience but I deal with subcontracters on a daily basis. I don’t know a single one who have reduced their rated. From foundation guys to electricians.

    Anyway, I hope the question poster will report back on his outcome.