I see various estimates on the cost of building a home, it seems anywhere from 180 to 250 or even more. Can someone comment on the cost for Vancouver lower mainland market?
Also, I am confused as to how this cost is calculated as obviously a master bedroom and washroom will cost a lot more than building a garage so I suppose this is the average cost per square feet and includes all areas of the house, including garage?
Does this typical cost include everything, e.g. permits, architect design, kitchen furnishing, etc? But not appliances?
Thanks for all answers.
This will be a two-part answer with the first part being general background/context and the second part being more specific to your questions.
Determining the cost per square foot of a Vancouver 'new-build' home is a challenging question as there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution. I can however explain the driving factors of the 'dollars per square foot' scale.
The lower mainland cost of building is one of the highest in Canada due to the following:
1) Labour cost - Our higher cost of living flows through and impacts the cost of work.
2) Seismic - We live in a seismic zone that mandates additional structural strength.
3) Building Code - Vancouver plans to be the greenest city in the world by 2020 (and the municipalities around Vancouver generally follow the city's lead within a few years). With each revision of the Building Code we are being asked to build increasingly energy efficient homes.
You have control over the following choices that will impact cost:
1) Building code - The code, as written, is a minimum standard document. When you are building to a minimum standard it's like getting a C+ on an exam. You passed but could have done better. If you choose to build over code (because it makes sense) then costs will increase.
2) Building site - The excavation needs of the lot and the ease of access will be affected by the building site chosen. If you buy a relatively flat lot with easy access you'll save money.
3) Design -The shape and design of the house you choose will have a big cost impact.
a) A simple design has vertical walls which stack above each other and it also has simple plumbing and mechanical layouts that are easily interconnected.
b) An unusually shaped structure, while more architecturally interesting, does not offer simple structural or mechanical layouts, resulting in a higher cost per square foot.
c) Additionally, choosing a pre-designed home will prove to be more economical than a custom design.
4) Fixtures and finishes - While construction techniques and installation labour costs are relatively constant, it is the fixtures and finishes that you choose which have a budget impact. Some simple examples of this are countertops, kitchen cabinets, type of flooring, tub/showers, etc. It's a lengthy list but one over which you have a great deal of control.
5) Builder's business model - Broadly speaking, there are three types of builder to choose from: Pick-up truck / Virtual office / Bricks and mortar office. Each one of these has overhead costs which must be passed on to their clients. You should do your due diligence by comparing the builder's value received (in terms of their mark-up) and the foreseeable longevity of the company (for deficiency correction and warranty coverage).
You mentioned seeing estimates of $180 to $250 per square foot. I would say the bottom of the noted scale is likely the cost conscious end of the scale outside of Vancouver proper (possibly out into the valley), while the $250 is probably more realistic in Vancouver (and working up from there).
I think you're safe in assuming that any cost per square foot number should include all areas of the house (including the garage). That being said, the numbers that you are finding on-line are being put there by a wide variety of people and so there is no guarantee that they are calculating these numbers in the same fashion.
Any reputable builder will provide an estimate which contains all build and outfitting costs, including dollars for appliances. This should be broken down in a multi-lined, easy to read, manner that the builder can review with you. As well, a trustworthy builder will have a protocol to record all communications, a method for accurate real-time accounting of your home during construction and a checklist system. This will provide you with transparency and prevent surprises.
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